The moral climate of Animal Farm pervades a dark satire of $625-an-hour lawyers and the associates they torment
Anonymous Lawyer: A Novel. By Jeremy Blachman. Holt, 276 pp., $25.
Anonymous Lawyer is a kind of extended riff on an old joke: Why don’t associates like to have sex with partners? Because the associates have to do all the work. Jeremy Blachman’s first novel is a dark satire of law firm life, inspired by his popular blog www.anonymouslawyer.blogspot.com. But it can also be read as an allegory, with characters who represent types that are entertaining if not believable.
Anonymous Lawyer is what you might get if somebody decided to set to Animal Farm set in a half-billion-dollar law firm in which each new regime comes to look like the old. Its associates have little time for sex, except for masturbation in their offices, because they’re too busy meeting the irrational demands of partners who know them only by merciless nicknames: The Short One, The Dumb One, The One Who Missed Her Kid’s Funeral. They’re serfs who dine on miso-glazed salmon in exchange for tolerating the brutality of the title character, who risks his obsessive quest for the chairmanship of the firm in a tell-all blog, slanted in his favor.
Blachman’s Anonymous Lawyer is a spiritual descendant of Michael Douglas in Wall Street and Faye Dunaway in Network, a man who bills $625 to clients such as a fertilizer company that once gave him a crystal corncob. So his story is less about whether he will find redemption than about how much damage he will do before somebody stops him. And although this novel has many funny moments, Blachman’s talents are more cinematic than literary, and he resembles Scott Turow and John Grisham less than his fellow Princetonian-turned-screenwriter David E. Kelley.
Best line (tie): Winner No. 1: “There is no part of a pig called a riblet.” Winner No. 2: At the funeral of a chairman of the firm: “The Woman Who Hugs Everybody gave a speech about how he reached out to embrace people of all genders.” Everything about that second sentence works – the mockery of what passes, in the business world, for senstivity (“reached out”), the double entendre (“to embrace”), and especially that “all genders.”
Worst line (tie): Winner No. 1: “He doesn’t work for me. Thankfully.” Winner No. 2: “And then he left. Thankfully.” Be thankful that Blachman didn’t write more lines like these.
Recommended if … you’re still mourning for Ally McBeal or The Practice, or Gordon (“Greed is good”) Gekko is your favorite movie character.
Editor: John Sterling
Published: July 2006
Posted by Janice Harayda
© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.