The Street Lawyer
By John Grisham
Doubleday; 348 pages; $27.95
It is hard to understand how Grisham pulls this off. His books aren't being sold exclusively to residents of Manhattan's Upper West Side. He is preaching to the kinds of middle Americans that liberal activists long ago gave up for dead. But he manages to present politically unpalatable ideas with grace and understatement. The Street Lawyer avoids the kind of self-righteousness that usually accompanies homeless activism. Grisham is content with the simple and compelling observation that as a society we fail to treat the homeless with the dignity they deserve.
At one point, early in the book, an entire family of five whom Brock had befriended dies on a bitter winter night, after being turfed out of their apartment. He visits their bodies in the morgue, pulling back the sheet: "I closed my eyes," Brock says, "and said a short prayer, one of mercy and forgiveness. Don't let it happen again, the Lord said to me." That moment--that prayer--sounds like a cliché. But a cliché is something said over and over again. And these are things that, in this day and age, are rarely said at all.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Ebola Story
How our minds build narratives out of disaster.
The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola
PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer
The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics
A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers
Welcome to 13th Grade!
Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.
The Actual World
“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.