This story is directly in the purview of my profession(s) — oh, how I’d love to be the attorney here (representing the publisher). In a class action suit filed in California, readers of Lance Armstrong’s autobiographies are suing Armstrong and Random House, his publisher, claiming that he tricked readers into buying his books based on a false advertising campaign. While arguably the books are protected by the First Amendment and Armstrong thus had a constitutional right to lie in them (“People don’t always tell the truth in their books,” said his lawyer*), false commercial speech is not protected by the First Amendment. So the issue is: in publicizing his books, did Armstrong engage in unprotected commercial speech?
To which I say to the plaintiffs (who are asking for $5 million in refunds and damages): come on. Are you really that upset that you want your $25.99 back? Arguably it is pretty reprehensible that Armstrong became so wealthy because of his deceit, but to take it to court?
*See, e.g., the “5 Most Ridiculous Lies Ever Published as Non-Fiction.”
One of my dear friends, Lacy Crawford, has a book being published tomorrow: Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy (William Morrow). The story is about a “college whisperer”, Anne, who is hired by elite families to help their children with college essays and the application process. The topic resonates in this age of helicopter parenting, and Lacy is getting a lot of great press. As she should, because she has not only hit upon a goldmine of a plot, but her writing is flawless.
And always has been for the past 20 years. So it irked me a bit, then, when the headline of a Daily Beast piece read, “College Application Guru Turned Author.” Turned author? Lacy is a Writer. A WRITER. She has always been an author. She came to Princeton knowing she wanted to major in creative writing; she studied with the best (Toni Morrison, Russell Banks). After college she wrote and wrote: novels that were never published, stories, essays, and continued to study and hone her craft. Her writing is laced with literary references and exquisite prose. And Lacy writes about Anne:
“…quite simply, she loved words most of all.”
In a way, this is what I want my blog to be about. Words. My love of them, most of all. And, thus, a consideration of words and writing through my own lens of experience. Whether struggling through the same creative writing classes as Lacy in college (Joyce Carol Oates terrified me and it was clear that I had not the talent for fiction as Lace!), going to journalism school and literally writing for a living, teaching writing both to high school students and as a teaching assistant in law school to 1Ls, to now working as a publishing lawyer and literary agent: I write, and I work to promote writing. Without really meaning to, I’ve ended up making career choices that have allowed me to examine it from different perspectives – from deadline-driven news articles to legal briefs to book proposals to copyright protection.
So welcome to Literary & Legal. I hope that some aspect of my musings on writing – whether about books or legal topics or the publishing world – will inspire and interest you.