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Literary Glance: The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

November 13, 2017

Going to law school is a big deal for a lot of people.  When you ask ambitious high school kids what they’re going to be, they usually answer doctor, engineer, or lawyer.  Out of those three professions, lawyer is the career that seems to make the most interesting fiction.  You don’t see too many bestselling novels about doctors or engineers.

Maybe you can make the case for doctors, but I think there are more lawyer novels out there.  I haven’t done the research, though.  I’m just making this up.

Anyway, I was once planning to go to law school and I didn’t, so whenever I feel bad about it, I read a John Grisham novel.  Grisham has built a successful writing career out of depicting shady lawyers, unethical, law-breaking (and any negative adjective that can make me proud not to be a lawyer) ambulance-chasers.

But that’s not what makes me glad I didn’t go to law school.  Sometimes Grisham shows that law school can be really difficult with lots of debt and no hope of getting a good job unless you’re from a prestigious school.  I don’t mind hard work (but I avoid it unless it’s necessary), and I don’t like debt, and I really don’t like a shaky job situation.

Reading the first couple chapters of The Rooster Bar by John Grisham makes me glad I didn’t go to law school.  At the beginning, a couple guys (Mark and Todd) are finishing their final year at a cookie-cutter law university and have little hope of well-paying jobs and no hope of getting out of debt.  I’m not sure what their plan is going to be because it’s taking a long time to set up the novel.  And that’s the problem so far with The Rooster Bar.

Lots of exposition and little characterization.

It’s not a good sign when even the dialogue is exposition.  Here is part of the conversation at a bar between Mark and Todd about Gordy and Zola (two characters who hadn’t been introduced yet):

Mark took a long drink of beer and shook his head.  He asked, “Zola’s back already?”

“Yes, evidently she and Gordy hurried back for a few days of fun and games, though I’m not sure they’re having much fun.  She thinks he quit his meds about a month ago when we were studying for finals.  One day he’s manic and bouncing off the walls; then he’s in a stupor after sipping tequila and smoking weed.  He’s talking crazy, says he wants to quit school and run off to Jamaica, with Zola of course.  She thinks he might do something stupid and hurt himself.”

“Gordy is stupid.  He’s engaged to his high school sweetheart, a real cutie who happens to have money, and now he’s shacking up with an African girl whose parents and brothers are in this country without the benefit of those immigration papers everyone is talking about.  Yes, the boy is stupid.”

“Gordy’s in trouble, Mark.  He’s been sliding for several weeks and he needs our help.”

Mark pushed his beer away, but only a few inches, and clasped his hands behind his head.  “As if we don’t have enough to worry about.  How, exactly, are we supposed to help?”

They keep talking, but they don’t really think of a way to help their friend.  I’m guessing that whatever they come up with, it’s going to make the situation worse.

John Grisham can write very tight action scenes and can set up much more interesting situations than this with his exposition.  The opening of a recent novel of his had some clear descriptions where several characters were working together in different locations to commit a crime.  Grisham is good at stuff like that.

But so far this dialogue sounds really unnatural.  It’s tough for me to read a novel with bad dialogue.

Maybe the rest of the book picks up, but it’s okay if it doesn’t.  Even if I don’t finish reading The Rooster Bar, I’ll always be glad that I didn’t go to law school.  That’s something nobody can take away from me.  Thank you, John Grisham, for helping me maintain my self-esteem.

One Comment
  1. Just finished this book. I read every Grisham and say a few swear words at the end of every book. This one I thought was particularly poorly written. Did your book have words in BOLD and 24 point font like mine did. Oh wait, maybe the words themselves were just so glaringly obviously telling, not showing. I know the theme of every one of his books is the crooked lawyers stick it to the man and get away with millions to live happily ever after on a beach, but the implications here were completely glossed over. All the cases the fake lawyers worked on would have had to be re-tried. Poor kid whose huge speeding penalty was knocked down to a misdemeanor so he didn’t lose his job. Maybe next time I’ll be able to pass up the newest Grisham. I don’t know why I keep reading them.

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