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Chambermaid: The Summer Must (Not?) Read

Chambermaid When a former law clerk to 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Dolores Sloviter writes a novel that her publisher promises "breaks the code of silence surrounding the clerkship ... and boldly takes us into the mysterious world of the third branch of the U.S. government," lawyers' ears perk up. The novel, Chambermaid, by Saira Rao, is now shipping, and James Grimmelmann at PrawfsBlawg says, I'm Sorry I Read It:

"The book is an abomination, one of the worst novels I have ever read, both artistically and morally. The affected style, which runs the gamut from 'cutesy' to 'bench memo,' would be forgivable if the substance weren’t so dreadful."

Grimmelmann calls the narrator "a raving narcissist" and offers examples of her shallowness drawn from her own words, such as this: "I was suddenly intrigued. A real-life lesbian! And she was my coclerk. I would actually have a lesbian friend! [My sister] had recently convinced me that lesbians were more fabulous than gay men."

Others had kinder words for the book. At Above the Law, David Lat says he "thoroughly enjoyed" it. Legal Antics writes: "It really is hysterical! I highly recommend it." And in the New York Law Journal, reporter Thomas Adcock describes the book as "witty" and "suffused with humor." (Adcock is himself the award-winning author of several novels.)

Rao, meanwhile, is doing the Q&A circuit. Earlier this month, she spoke with Peter Lattman at Law Blog, who asked her how much of the novel was based on personal experience. Her reply:

"While informed by personal observations, this is a novel, this is fiction. If I wrote a memoir it would be pretty damn boring. I clerked in the Third Circuit, the novel is based in the Third Circuit. People can draw their own conclusions."

Brett McKay also interviews Rao at his blog, The Frugal Law Student. He asks her that all-important law student question, "How much debt did you incur while in law school?" Her answer:

"I did take out loans to pay for half of law school. But I was also deeply lucky to have parents who paid for the other half."

She has yet to pay off that debt, she confides, but the second novel she is already at work on may help.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 26, 2007 at 06:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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