Allen Porter Mendenhall

Interview with Hubert Crouch

In Arts & Letters, Books, Creative Writing, Fiction, Humanities, Justice, Law, Literature, News and Current Events, Novels, Southern Literary Review, Southern Literature, The South on July 29, 2015 at 8:45 am

This interview originally appeared in Southern Literary Review.

Hubert Crouch

Hubert Crouch

AM: Thanks for taking the time to talk to Southern Literary Review about The Word, your second novel. Jace Forman, the protagonist of your first novel, Cried For No One, is back in this novel. How has your experience as a trial lawyer shaped Jace’s character, if at all? Is it even possible to identify where your legal background has shaped your character development?

HC: I leaned heavily on my experiences as a trial lawyer while creating Jace Forman. I actually know how it feels to try “high-stakes” lawsuits – the intense pressure, the sleepless nights, the perpetual gnawing in your stomach – because I have lived through them. What a trial lawyer goes through in his professional life has a profound impact on his personal life – again, I felt I was able to portray that realistically with Jace because personal experience was a good teacher. I am not saying Jace is autobiographical – he’s not. That being said, my ability to create his character was, in large part, the result of having been a trial lawyer myself.

AM: I’m not out­-of­-bounds in supposing that readers of Cried For No One will, like me, associate Ezekiel Shaw and the Brimstone Bible Church with Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, which is featured in the book. Is there a deliberate connection?

HC: I taught Free Speech and the First Amendment to SMU undergraduates. One of the cases we discussed in class was Snyder v. Phelps. There were some lively exchanges between students over whether the Supreme Court got it right when they threw out the multi-million dollar judgment awarded to the Snyders. Had the Court gone too far in protecting free speech? Had the Court allowed a zealous sect to trample upon the rights of a family to bury their loved one in peace? Our classroom debate inspired me to change the factual scenario, inject a different religious issue and pit the conflicting positions against one another in a fictitious lawsuit.

AM: What made you decide to incorporate Leah Rosen and Cal Connors into the plot? Did you envision them at the outset, or did they come later, after you had already begun writing?

HC: Cal and Leah were characters from my first novel, Cried for No One. Leah continues her investigation into Cal’s legal misdeeds in the stand-alone sequel.

AM: As someone who has never attempted to write a thriller, I’m curious about how the intricate thriller plot falls into place. How much mapping or outlining do you do before beginning the writing process, and how often is the writing process interrupted by the need to adjust or revise?

HC: Before I wrote a word of the manuscript, I drafted a detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline, which went through a number of revisions. Once the outline was finished, I began writing the novel. Some might argue that having an outline is too confining. I get that. But for me, it is important to know where I’m ultimately going to end up before I start the journey. I find there is plenty of opportunity for creativity along the way.

AM: Texas. It’s big on the map and big in your book. You’ve been practicing law there for some time. How far back does your connection go?

HC: A long way. I graduated from Vanderbilt in 1973 and then attended SMU Law School. After receiving my law degree from SMU, I began practicing trial law in Dallas and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. Although I grew up in Tennessee, I felt right at home in Texas. As the old adage goes, when you prick a Texan, he bleeds Tennessee blood.

AM: Why did you dedicate this book to your female law school classmates?

HC: One of my close friends and study partners in law school was female. She was brilliant, graduating number one in our class. And yet she received few offers from the top law firms in Dallas. There could be only one explanation – she was a woman. She, along with several other of my female classmates who had encountered a similar fate, took bold action and sued some of the major firms in Dallas. A settlement was reached which opened the door to countless female law school graduates afterwards.

AM: When did you start writing fiction?

HC: Over twenty-five years ago. I wrote a manuscript that has still not been published, although I consider pulling it out of the banker’s box it’s been in for years and giving it a read to see if it’s salvageable. After I shelved it, I was inspired to write my first novel, Cried for No One, by an actual lawsuit I handled involving a macabre grave robbery. I got up early each morning and wrote before going to work. The process took me years before I had a finished manuscript.

AM: Do you know what the future holds for Jace Forman? Can readers expect to see him again?

HC: I have enjoyed creating and getting to know Jace. Based upon the reviews, readers seem to like him and, if that sentiment continues, I will likely keep him around for a while.

AM: Last question, but two parts. How much research into the First Amendment went into this book? And how interested were you in First Amendment issues before you started into this book?

HC: I have studied the First Amendment, and the cases interpreting it, extensively. As mentioned above, I actually taught a course about it to SMU undergraduates. The drafters were so brilliant and far-sighted to come up with such an important enactment. We will forever be in their debt.

AM: Thank you again.

Review of Adam Zamoyski’s Phantom Terror

In Arts & Letters, Books, Historicism, History, Humanities, Law, Libertarianism, Literary Theory & Criticism, Philosophy, Western Civilization, Western Philosophy on July 22, 2015 at 8:45 am

Allen 2

This review first appeared here in Taki’s Magazine.

Born in America and raised in Britain, Adam Zamoyski is not a tenured university professor devoted to obscure subjects that appeal only to audiences of academic guilds. Nor does he write for a small readership. That’s why his books sell and his prose excites; he can narrate a compelling account while carrying an insightful thesis. His latest book, Phantom Terror, bears a subtitle that will cause libertarian ears to perk up: “Political Paranoia and the Creation of the Modern State, 1789-1848.”

Challenging the validity of modern states and their various arms and agencies is the daily diet of committed libertarians, but Zamoyski is not, to my knowledge, a libertarian of any stripe. Yet he challenges the modern State and its various arms and agencies, whatever his intentions or beliefs, and he refuses to shut his eyes to the predatory behavior of government. To appreciate the goals of his book, one must first understand how he came to his subject.

The story is simple: While researching, Zamoyski uncovered data suggesting that governments in the decades following the French Revolution deliberately incited panic among their citizens to validate increasingly restrictive policies. The more governments regulated and circumscribed individual freedoms, the more they took on the shape of nation states: geopolitical entities that had their roots in 16th- and 17th- century Europe but had not fully centralized.

If there’s a main character here, it’s Napoleon Bonaparte. Zamoyski has written about Napoleon in previous books, including 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow (2005) and Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna (2008). Having escaped from exile in Elba in February 1815 and suffered defeat at the Battle of Waterloo later that year, Napoleon, once the Emperor of the French, had been reduced to the status of a prisoner, stripped of his dignity and rendered militarily ineffective, his health quickly declining.

Tsar Alexander of Russia, seeing the great Napoleon neutralized, called for a holy covenant with Emperor Francis I of Austria and King Frederick William III of Prussia. For Alexander, who envisioned the State as the realization of a divine idea, the three united rulers reflected the trinitarian Christian God from whom their autocratic, quasi-sacred powers derived. Alexander believed that the unsettling of tradition and order during the French Revolution could be counteracted or cured by the systematic institutionalization of despotic government. First, though, the masses needed to be instructed in the manifest nature of revolutionary threats lurking behind every corner, in every neighborhood, among friends and family, in unexpected places.

And then came the police, a new body of official agents vested with administrative powers and decorated with the symbols and insignias of authority.  Until then the term “police,” or its rough equivalent in other European languages, designated minor officials with localized duties over small public spaces. European states lacked the administrative machinery of a centralized enforcement network besides the military, whose function was to conquer foreign territory or defend the homeland, not to guard the comfort, health, and morals of communities in disparate towns and villages. The latter task was for parochial institutions, custom, churches, nobility, and other configurations of local leadership.

In the wake of the French Revolution, with its ritualistic brutality, mass hysteria, and spectacular regicide, sovereigns and subjects began to accept and support the power of centralized governments to deploy political agents, including spies and informers.  According to Zamoyski, the growing police force—secret agents and all—was less interested in basic hygiene, sanitation, and safety and more interested in subverting the political clout and conspiratorial tendencies of local nobility.

To maximize their power, emperors and government ministers gave color to grand falsehoods about their weakness. Only in their exaggerated vulnerability, catalyzed by true and imagined Jacobins, Freemasons, Illuminati, and other such bugaboos, could they exercise their strength.  Seizing upon anxieties about civil unrest, rulers cultivated in their subjects a desire for police protection, supervision, and surveillance. Conspiracy theories worked in their favor. Francis ordered his police to be vigilant about the spread of Enlightenment ideas; he enacted censorship measures by which people disciplined themselves into obedience, leaving the police to serve, often, as mere symbols of control.

Zamoyski does not focus on any one state but moves from city to city, leader to leader, depicting how European governments staged rebellion for their own benefit.  Several individuals figure prominently for their different roles during this turbulent time: Edmund Burke; Empress Catharine II of Russia; William Pitt; Klemens von Metternich; King Ferdinand VII of Spain; King Louis Philippe; Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington; Charles Maurice de Talleyrand; Robert Steward, Viscount Castlereagh; Joseph Fouché, and marginal characters both stupid and intelligent, of high and low station.

Eventually repression and tyranny backfired. The State apparatus and its leaders across Europe adopted the very tactics and practices they feared in their opposition; they became the kind of terrorists they had attempted to crush. By transforming into their own worst nightmare, they brought about the revolutions (e.g., the Revolutions of 1848) they meant to avoid and inspired the movements they intended to eradicate.

Entrapment, espionage, propaganda, tyranny, sedition, secrecy, conspiracy, treachery, reaction, regime—it’s all here, and it reveals that the operations of power are counterintuitive and complex, even if they’re logical. Hesitant to draw parallels with our present managerial nation states and their version of authoritarian rule, Zamoyski nevertheless marshals enough evidence and insinuation to make speculation about the current order inevitable.

There’s the shadow of Foucault in the background: Zamoyski portrays power as dependent on its lack, exploring how those with authority allow certain freedoms to then suppress them. There’s no power that’s not power over something. Permitting only such personal autonomy and agency as could be subdued enabled European governments to put their authority on display. States manufacture resistance to exercise—indeed show off—their muscle.

With their sprightliness these chapters win for themselves a certain charm. Zamoyski has not just recounted the sequence of events during a fascinating era but exposited an exciting theory about them and the forces driving them. It’s too soon to understand the logic behind the rumors, and the disinformation, we know world powers spread today. Zamoyski provides no direction to this end. He does, however, use history to awaken our imagination to the workings of global power structures, forcing us to ask questions and seek answers about the phantoms of terror that continue to haunt us.

Um Pedido Oficial

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Fiction, Humanities, Literature on July 15, 2015 at 8:45 am

Hugo Santos

Hugo Santos é professor de Literatura no Brasil e possui os cursos de Graduação e Mestrado em Literatura Brasileira, ambos conseguidos pela Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, no estado de Pernambuco, cuja capital é Recife – sua cidade natal (e de acordo com ele mesmo, uma das mais belas cidades do país). Atualmente, ele está frequentando o Programa de Doutorado em Educação de Adultos, na Universidade de Auburn, onde também é professor de Língua Portuguesa e Cultura Brasileira. Além disso, ele está representando o Governo de Pernambuco na iniciativa de se estabelecer uma parceria entre a UA e a Universidade do Estado de Pernambuco, através do estabelecimento, troca e ampliação de pesquisas que permitirão a alunos e professores das duas instituições explorarem o que cada uma tem para oferecer. É autor de “Um Céu Imenso.”

Hugo Santos is a Professor of Literature in Brazil and received both his undergraduate and master’s degree in Brazilian Literature from the Federal University of Pernambuco, in the state of Pernambuco, located in the Northeast of Brazil, whose capital is Recife—his hometown (according to himself, one of the most beautiful cities in the country). Currently, he is enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in Adult Education at Auburn University and teaches classes in Portuguese and Brazilian Culture. He is linked to the Auburn University Office of the International Programs as a representative of the Government of Pernambuco and is establishing a partnership between Auburn University and the Pernambuco State University, where he worked in Brazil. The research exchange and extension program enables the students and teachers of both institutions to explore what each university has to offer. He is the author of Um Céu Imenso (“An Immense Sky”).

 

O que tornava aquela cena ainda mais inesperada era o fato dele não imaginar do que se tratava aquela notificação que estava sendo entregue pelo Oficial de Justiça. Seus cartões estavam em dia, dívidas não existiam, tampouco nenhum deslize financeiro que justificasse aquele procedimento.

– Eu entendo, senhor. Entendo que o senhor não faça idéia do motivo, mas a minha obrigação é apenas entregar o documento pessoalmente. O senhor tem alguma dúvida a respeito do dia, horário e local da audiência?

– Dúvida nenhuma. Terça, dezoito de abril, às quinze horas. Vou estar lá, claro.

E assim, sem fazer idéia do que o aguardava, lá estava Rodrigo diante do juiz togado da quinta vara da família, ansioso por saber o que o levara até ali, divagando entre a possibilidade de um filho que não conhecera; uma herança repentina deixada por um tio distante, ou um grande equívoco que logo seria esclarecido.

Foi nessa intercalação de projeções que surgiu na sala Madalena, ex-namorada, com um olhar bem tranqüilo, uma leve maquiagem que ressaltava o brilho dos olhos e as maçãs do rosto, cuja expressão meio que se artificializava com o sorriso forçado. Um colar dourado, bem em sintonia com aqueles cabelos loiros, deixava-a ainda mais exuberante, especialmente porque combinava com os brincos compridos que balançavam sincronicamente a cada meneio de cabeça. Para surpresa dele, ela ainda usava o pingente com a letra R, o mesmo de todo o tempo em que estiveram juntos, e que também estava presente no dia do rompimento.

– Se é o que você acha, tudo bem. Não vou ficar insistindo nessa idéia.

– É o melhor mesmo, Rodrigo, porque eu não quero me precipitar numa decisão que vai afetar diretamente toda a minha vida.

– Então quer dizer que estando você apaixonada. Apaixonada, não… me amando; estando nós dois juntos há um ano, projetando nossas vidas, casa, sonhos e tudo, isso não seria razão suficiente pra morarmos juntos? Isso não seria suficiente pra “afetar” sua vida?

– Nossa. Como você está sendo maniqueísta.

– Maniqueísta. Engraçado. Eu sempre odiei essa palavra. Mas, se for o caso, eu estou sendo sim. E se maniqueísmo corresponde a querer o que nos faça feliz, eu serei, sempre, o porta-bandeira do Maniqueístas Futebol Clube.

Foi uma separação difícil. Eles realmente se gostavam muito. Porém, quando se é jovem há fatores que ultrapassam e muito o sentido da razão, ainda que eles se apresentem como os mais razoáveis do momento.

Mas o que ainda não era compreensível era o que tudo aquilo ali representava. O que poderia ter havido e provocado aquela audiência, até então rodeada de tanto mistério, silêncio e confidencialidade? A resposta teve início com o questionamento do juiz:

– Senhor Rodrigo, o senhor faz idéia do que o traz aqui?

– Nenhuma idéia, excelência.

– Muito bem. Esta é uma audiência preliminar, gerada a partir de uma ação movida pela senhora Madalena, aqui presente, e que tem um só objetivo: falar com o senhor.

– Como é que é?

– Isso mesmo que o senhor ouviu. Ela quer tão somente falar com o senhor. Ao que parece, nos últimos dias o senhor se negou a manter qualquer tipo de contato ou conversa com a sua ex-namorada. Não atende nem retorna as ligações; não responde e-mails; o senhor sequer tem dado atenção às súplicas da mãe dela em recebê-la em sua casa.

– Bem, excelência, embora isso tudo me pareça bem estranho, eu posso, sim, dar todas essas respostas a ela…

– Não, não senhor. Estamos numa audiência e o senhor tem que se reportar ao juiz, neste caso eu, para que eu repasse os dados à autora da petição.

– Cumpramos a regra, então, não é seu doutor? Pois bem. Nessas três semanas de separação, muitos foram os momentos em que eu tive vontade de manter contato, ligar, correr atrás. Fazer tudo o que meu cansado coração mandava, excelência. Só que, depois de um certo tempo, você descobre que ninguém pode ser mais amado do que uma única pessoa na sua vida.

– E quem seria?

– Nós não podemos amar ninguém mais do que a nós mesmos, excelência. E quando isso ocorre, deixamos de lado o que nos faria feliz e passamos a nos contentar com migalhas. E convenhamos, doutor, ninguém vive de migalhas.

– Mas não era assim que eu agia. Eu não te dava migalhas. Eu só não estava bem certa do que eu queria. – Àquela altura, Madalena chorava. Mas não um choro estridente, que ecoasse em soluços pela sala, e sim um choro cândido e discreto, que redimensionava sua beleza e marejava também os olhos de Rodrigo.

– Senhora Madalena… a senhora não pode se dirigir diretamente ao depoente. Em todo caso, o senhor entendeu a colocação da moça?

– Entendi. Claro. E eu poderia saber, excelência, o que ela pensa agora?

– A senhora pode responder.

– Eu não penso em outra coisa que não seja em você, desculpe… que não seja nele, excelência. Foram três semanas tortuosas, em que eu trabalhei mal, vivi mal, comi e dormi mal, tão somente por um fator – a falta que sinto. E se eu pudesse fazer qualquer coisa pra reparar, eu faria.

– É, seu Rodrigo, o que o senhor tem a dizer?

– Algo bem simples, e que dito aqui, diante de todos vocês, pode ganhar um ar solene, sabe? Porém, enfim. Eu poderia, sem medo de errar, dizer que me envaidece essa redenção de quem por tanto tempo foi meu foco, meu ar e meu norte. E também me envaidece saber que o que eu desejava era algo possível, plenamente natural e, antes de qualquer coisa, algo bom. Porém, e aí creio que todos concordem, há um momento a partir do qual os vitrais de nossas convicções se partem, e tornam-se difíceis de ser novamente reparados. Confesso que não posso, e nem jamais poderia, tentar juntá-los novamente.

Naquela hora nada mais precisaria ser dito. Um atordoamento momentâneo acometeu a todos. Um silêncio inesperado ressoou sinais inaudíveis. Até batimentos eram possíveis de se sentir. Rodrigo ergueu-se, desejou a todos um bom dia e, antes de sair, beijou a testa de Madalena.

 

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