Law in Popular Culture

Grisham’s Latest: ‘Hardcore Law Porn’


A Time magazine review of John Grisham’s latest legal thriller manages to praise and pan at the same time, marveling at how the author is able to deftly ensnare the reader in a book about a blackmailed associate where nothing much is at stake. Even more puzzling to the reviewer is why we like it so much.

The Associate is high-calorie comfort food, a thriller that doesn’t actually thrill,” the Time review by Lev Grossman declares.

“It’s funny what an appetite we have for this kind of hardcore law-porn,” the review says. “Sure, Michael Clayton did it better, but you still get a buzz off of John Grisham’s new book The Associate. The late hours, the fluorescent lights, the vicious competition, the fancy perks, the brilliant minds drowning in gallons of coffee and endless reams of paper.”

That’s not to say The Associate is a bad book, the review continues. “It’s just that it’s not about anything. In fact it’s amazing that anybody could put together a book that is this compulsively readable while at the same time being almost entirely devoid of substance of any kind. When you read Michael Crichton or Scott Turow, their books wrestle with actual issues—the dangers of technology, the agonizing ambiguities of legal decision-making, what to do with underwater alien spheres, etc. The Associate is as close to being about nothing as a book can be—it’s a masterpiece of almost ghostly narrative minimalism, a book of names without characters, a book with plot points but no plot.”

Other reviews have focused on the book’s “devastating portrait of the big-time, big-bucks legal world” and its focus on “the hellish demands of corporate law.”

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