Sunday, September 10, 2006

Putting the "Random" in "Random House." Or the "Effing Stupid," Depending On How You Look At It.

Apparently I'm the only person who watches the commercials on TV promising to get you money for anything that's happened to you at any time that you exited your home and thinks "Eeeee, that Barry Feinstein really has the pig eyes working. I hope he doesn't try and eat my soul," instead of mentally reviewing every foray beyond the front door for potential lawsuit fodder. When did that happen? I always watch those commercials and laugh, and I have special love for the ones that scroll their specialties behind the Aggressively Arm-Folding Lawyer (and/or actor...yeah, you, Captain Kirk.) where they start out strong with personal injury, wrongful termination, and libel and then by the end of the 30 second commercial, they've lost steam and are listing things like dog bites and "the icy patch from the Muppet Christmas Special You Watched When You Were A Kid." Oh, lawyers.

Maybe I'm an elitist snot (...okay, fair point) but if I went through the living hell that law school so often is, and someone came to me telling me that they slipped on ice in a New England WalMart parking lot and wanted to sue WalMart for all they were worth, I would be inclined to tell them to go screw and stop wasting my time. It's the suing over accidents, over things like ICE, over things that are just so insignificant and so firmly in the "shit happens" category that really gets to me. No one has accidents anymore. Let me tell you a story about a winter at my house. We live in New England, and we have bluestone stairs (this is at my parents'), which means that the second you see snow, you get out there, you shovel, and you encrust the steps with salt, because the bluestone ices up really fast. My mom and I were going somewhere one day, and even though the steps were cleared, she managed to step on an ice patch and went down like a sack of lead. Scariest. Moment. Ever. We got her inside and a few days later were enjoying the amazing Circus Side Show Freak Quality bruise she'd earned. It sucked REALLY hard, but Mom didn't immediately file suit against the people who put the bluestone down. She sucked it up and dropped trou for everyone who wanted to experience the amazing sight of a full-butt-cheek-AND-most-of-a-thigh bruise. But some people WOULD sue, and that really...concerns me. Don't they have something better to do? I mean, ANYTHING? Start a stamp collection, for chrissakes.

When I heard that people were actually SUING James Frey and Random House for being a lying liar who lies and a publisher who aided and abetted a lying liar who lies, I laughed and listened to the story and then sort of packed it away into the "small talk" file, assuming that a judge would tell them to screw.

Oh, what a fool am I.

Apparently, if you rip the cover off of your paperback, and a certain page out of your hardcover copy of A Million Little Pieces and mail it to Random House, they will pay you a little over twenty bucks. Are you KIDDING with this? I guess I'm glad I don't have to read about this stupid lawsuit eating taxpayer dollars, but I wish Random House would tell the people to go screw.

Look, I read A Million Pieces and I didn't take it at face value. I figured it was a life embellished. But more than that, when I heard that he'd made large sections of it up, I didn't freak out. My life didn't crumble. But most importantly, the message of the book - "haul your ass up already and make your life better" - didn't diminish for me. The Harry Potter books don't teach kids any less about loyalty, friendship, etc., because they are fictional. I thought it was a cool story by a decent writer who was very evocative, and that he used a funky but effective presentation style. I don't understand what the hell is worth suing over, but I AM sure that if you are this emotionally wounded by some dude WHO YOU DON'T KNOW making up some stuff in a book, you really need to find some kind of alternative meaning for your life.

The fact that people would sue over this crap irritates the bejesus out of me. While I think its dumb and sucky for Random House to cave like that, I can see how they didn't really have the option. Since judges and juries don't seem to demand personal responsibility any more, much less have the sack to tell people that sometimes bad things happen and it isn't anyone's fault, I guess that settling like this is really just the least taxpayer-dollar-sucking of two crappy options.

Doesn't this just make you feel gross?

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