A class action

September 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m always a sucker for news concerning William Gaddis, so it was with great joy that I today came across the delightfully titled legal opinion–“Carl Marks & Co. v. the USSR” [1987]–that actually cites him. From the footnote:

William Gaddis, author of the novels Carpenter’s Gothic (1985), JR (1975), and The Recognitions (1955), is considered by many familiar with his work to be an American novelist in the tradition of Herman Melville. The quotation gives some flavor of Mr. Gaddis’s remarkable technical achievement in JR, a novel of some 725 pages written almost entirely in dialogue. The plot of JR defies brief description, but revolves largely around the exploits of the eponymous JR, a sixth-grader from Long Island who, inspired by a field trip to the offices of the allusively named Typhon International Corp. in which his sixth-grade class purchases one share of Typhon stock as an exercise in corporate democracy, builds his own business empire. In the passage quoted, Edward Bast, a young composer who formerly taught music appreciation at JR’s school and has become entangled despite himself in JR’s business schemes, is reviewing JR’s portfolio, which at this early point in the novel consists entirely of penny stocks and Imperial Russian bonds.

[. . .]

Mr. Gaddis, who supported himself for many years through freelance writing for corporations, shows a remarkable knowledge of the law in JR, even to the point of allusions to then-current events. See, e.g., JR at 702 (specific reference to effect of Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 94 S.Ct. 2140, 40 L.Ed.2d 732 (1974), on class actions in comment by Typhon executive about “this Eisen ruling first decent decision the damn Court’s handed down since FDR packed his [Supreme Court]”).

Gaddis was at this time no doubt already deeply into & toiling over his legal satire, A Frolic of His Own, mercilessly but also affectionately skewering the language & style of the legal brief, so I can only imagine how pleased he was to learn of this citation.

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