Oh you guys! It’s been so long since I posted here! Sorry! I’ve been busy posting reviews to Goodreads and Amazon, working full-time, writing, going to writers’ conferences, and the like. I’ll do a round-up post of recommendations soon. Today, however, I want to tell you about The Nonsense Factory.
I’m actually going to go out on a limb here and say that most of you are not going to read this book. Crazy, right? I mean, I consider my purpose to help you guys find books you’ll like at great prices, so why would I assume off-the-bat that you won’t read The Nonsense Factory: The Making and Breaking of the American Legal System by Bruce Cannon Gibney? It’s not because I thought it was particularly bad or any of you particularly ignorant about the American legal system. It is because I expect that most of you are like me: nominally acquainted with that system and/or affected by it, but not interested enough in it to digress from your usual goal of reading for pleasure or escape.
Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Read The Nonsense Factory
Even those of you who read to educate or inform yourself in some way might find this a ponderous read. As you can probably guess from its title, it is nonfiction, and it’s quite information-packed. But that’s still not the reason I think most of you won’t read the book. Well, then, what is that reason, you ask?
It’s because this book is quite depressing, in my opinion. It is an exploration of everything that’s wrong with the American legal system and all its parts, everything from police departments, judges, law schools, prosecutors, and defenders, all the way up to state and federal legislatures and our country’s constitution. It’s very articulate, sometimes even eloquent. It isn’t a rant about the end of days or how our country is going to hell in a handbasket, but it is a severe criticism of many aspects of a system that is supposed to protect us.
Were it any less eloquent than it is, it might have been a rant. Even then, though, the author often inspects our legal system’s failings in the contexts of each aspect’s or subsystem’s history, showing how many of the problems are endemic to their subsystem’s origins. Thus, they’re hard to controvert, if I was so inclined, which I’m not because I’m no legal scholar.
Indeed, it is Gibney’s thoroughness that makes this book so depressing: not only are each of these parts of our legal system failing us, but the likelihood of them being able to fix or improve themselves given their natures seems quite low. These problems are entrenched and systematic. That is depressing, sad, and frankly, quite scary to me.
But…Reasons Why You Probably Should Still Read It Anyway
In books like these, I look for constructive, well-researched suggestions for improvement to balance out the enumeration of ills. It’s one thing to be able to point out the faults of anyone or anything (one could, in fact, argue that there is, in fact, a bit too much of that going around these days), even if those faults really do exist. It’s another thing to be part of the solution.
While the author does suggest some solutions–like re-balancing representation in Congress and returning power to competent committee chairs–he often does it in a “it’d-be-great-if-they-tried-this-but-it-probably-won’t-work” way. His fatalism is pronounced, something he even somewhat acknowledges near the end, saying: “It’s best not to close fearfully.”
He does also add, though: “The law is bad, but not that bad, not yet. We can take steps, and when we do, it’s useful not to obsess on the consequences of failure. Better to cultivate an informed, civilized outrage.” He then lists some of the “empowering” ways usually suggested to citizens who feel impotent–voting, jury duty,etc.–and even a few slightly unusual ways.
But these suggestions are too little, too few, and too late, and too little space is devoted to them in proportion to their corresponding problems.
Thus, this book is, as you see, depressing. But it is educational and, so long as you do something with the “informed, civilized outrage” it will probably inspire, help. As I said, don’t read it if all you want is entertainment. But who knows? If you go into it knowing what to expect, you may, in fact, quite enjoy it.
By the way, of all the places I looked (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ebooks.com, Thriftbooks.com, BetterWorldBooks.com, etc.), the cheapest I could find it was on Amazon: $14.99 for the Kindle version (btw, not an affiliate link).