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on 11 February 1999
Janet Malcolm insures us that Ms. McGough was a victim of a wild-eyed, run-amuck federal judicial process combining with a naive,inexperienced attorney with few (or no) interpersonal skills. According to Malcolm, everyone was against McGough, and wanted her in jail, because of her lack of people-skills. However, this book contains no footnotes, no index, very little logical analysis, and no foundations or explanations to permit the readers to judge for themselves if what Ms. McGough did on behalf of her client was, or was not, deserving of a three year Count of Monte Cristo bit. Clearly, Ms. McGough is not stupid, and the sole defense presented that she is stupid does not work well. A few paragraphs should have been dedicated to a random sampling of her law-school classmates, who saw and witnessed McGough over three years in law school (coincidentally her felony sentence--which was worse time served, anyone?, anyone?) to see if anyone could predict (or at least not surprised by) her ultimate fate. If as much research was done by the author as suggested, why wasn't it included to make a reasonable case for the felon in question. Page limits by the publisher? The best(and most reasonable) statement of the book is that the author finally walked away from Ms. McGough and her tiresome victim defense. The prologue should have been a quote from the Viginia Bar Ethics Code, setting out the required integrity of client trust accounts. The Coda (somehow this 161 page essay has been turned into the author's opus) should have been the published McGough disbarrment decision, to permit the reader a clear explanation of her crimes, instead of self-absorbed walks in the woods by the author, which is meaningless except to those who wish to remember how beautiful the Viginia countryside is.
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on 23 June 1999
At first the author's fanciful and speculative way of writing seemed interesting. That soon changed. For some reason the author chose an unlikely person as a "heroine", a woman who the author came to view with affection and admiration. This view does not appear to have been shared by other people with whom Ms. McGough comes in contact. Ms. McGough's actions, which seem to be pretty significant are downplayed by the author. Through much of the book it is implied the "crime" was a single event. Late in the book, other significant acts by the "heroine' are revealed although they are dismisssed by the author as being how lawyers play the game, with nothing to back this up. While the author may quarrel with the sentence, surely some punishment,at least disbarment is appropriate. It seemed as if the author had decided on the "heroine's" innocence and wrote a book to confirm her belief. It did not seem to be at all detached and objective. Those who did not support the heroine's version were generally portrayed as disloyal or worse. For a good book about the law I prefer A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr.
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on 23 July 1999
I read this book in one evening. I couldn't put it down. I believe that Sheila McGough was innocent. What I can't believe is that Janet Malcolm never uses the word autism in the book. Does she not realize that Sheila was a very high functioning person with autism? Read Oliver Sacks's An Anthropologist on Mars for a better understanding of Shelia. I was also truly fascinated by the "bad guy", Bob Bailes. Geoffrey Wolfe has written a wonderful memoir of his father who was very like Mr. Bailes. I enjoyed getting to know all the people in this book. Ms. Malcolm does a wonderful job of introducing them to the reader. My only complaint is that I wish I knew how to pronounce Sheila's last name. Is it McGoo? McGo? McGuff?
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on 28 March 1999
This book was very much a disappointment both in its attempt to exonerate attorney Sheila McGough and in its weak attempt to make some larger points about the law and lawyers in general. Janet Malcolm is an excellent writer and there are some nice pithy aphorisms in the book. Unfortunately, this short book does not go into enough depth to resolve Ms. McGough's guilt or innocence. In essence, the reader is asked to trust Ms. Malcolm's instincts as to who the con artists were in the story she describes. I would pass on this book as it resolves and illuminates nothing.
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on 22 March 1999
Remarkable observations on the role of truth and narrative in our legal system, framed in the odd story of an unremarkable law-and-order Republican attorney who ends up disbarred and in prison for a crime she may not have committed. Malcolm makes no grand indictments, and is reluctant to create villians or victims from the story. A wonderfully written book of observations.
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on 15 June 1999
This is my first Malcom experience and was impressed enough to want to look her up. I will read more only because the subject matter of her other titles look more substantial. She is a great writer, although as a lawyer I found some of here comments on the justice system a bit to obvious.
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on 24 April 1999
Honestly, I did not even waste time finishing this book (short as it is). I enjoy true crime, social commentary through true crime etc. Certainly, the book was well written, but there just wasn't much to it! An unremarkable story and an unremarkable book. Don't waste your time.
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on 7 February 1999
Janet Malcolm is such a superb writer, that it is impossible to truly dislike any of her work. This book, though, lacked for me, the humanity that most of her books are full off, and it might be only due to the subject matter. Her observations are magnificent, though....
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