This week Superstition Mountain Press published Richard Grayson's First Fall in Gainesville. It is available in a 420-page trade paperback edition for $19.99, as well as an e-book published by Art Pants Company available at the Amazon Kindle store for 99 cents.
The promo stuff says in part,
Richard Grayson has been keeping a daily diary compulsively since the summer of 1969, when he was an 18-year-old agoraphobic about to venture out into the world -- or at least the world around him in Brooklyn.
In the fall of 1991, Grayson is 40 years old. He's published some well-reviewed books of short stories and has worked as a college English teacher for 16 years, but he also has recently gone bankrupt and feels that his career as a fiction writer is over.
So he enters law school at the University of Florida, moving alone to Gainesville, a town he'd never been in before and where he knows no one.
FIRST FALL IN GAINESVILLE is Grayson's diary from his first semester of law school. Like Scott Turow's memoir ONE L or John J. Osborne Jr.'s novel THE PAPER CHASE, it gives the reader a sense of the process fledgling law students go through as they learn to "think like like a lawyer" -- except that it's from the day-by-day perspective of a 40-year-old who knows that he will never practice law and who is cynical about the process from the start.
Grayson has published the first six volumes of the diaries of his late teens and twenties as THE BROOKLYN DIARIES, featuring SUMMER IN BROOKLYN: 1969-1975; WINTER IN BROOKLYN: 1972-73; SPRING IN BROOKLYN, 1975; AUTUMN IN BROOKLYN, 1978; MORE SUMMERS IN BROOKLYN: 1976-1979; and A YEAR IN ROCKAWAY, 1980.
The second six volumes of his diaries have been published as THE EIGHTIES DIARIES, which include SOUTH FLORIDA WINTERS, 1981-84; LATE SPRING IN SUNRISE, 1982; WEST SIDE SUMMERS, 1984-87; INDIAN SUMMER: PARK SLOPE, 1985; SPRINGTIME IN LAUDERHILL, 1986; and EIGHTIES’ END: AUTUMN, 1987-89.
FIRST FALL IN GAINESVILLE is the second volume of THE NINETIES DIARIES, following LAST SUMMER IN ROCKAWAY.
Thursday, October 10, 1991
7 PM. By Thursday night I usually feel giddy with relief and weariness.
I can see the strain the first year of law school is putting on my classmates. Greg said he just couldn’t face looking at textbooks last evening. Karin isn’t eating right and she nearly made herself sick by waiting till 3 PM to eat something yesterday.
Doug G fell asleep at least seven times in Criminal Law today, and since we sit right in front of Prof. Nunn, I was afraid he’d notice, so I kept tapping my foot against Doug’s and he’d open his eyes, but soon his head would be falling forward again.
In Crim, nobody volunteered to give the facts of a case because people were either tired or hadn’t read it. Embarrassed by the silence, I raised my hand even though I talk a lot in class.
In Civ Pro, Mashburn called on a student who said she “passed,” which she should have known would not be “acceptable” in that class.
From Legal Research and Writing at 9:10 AM to the end of Jurisprudence at 4 PM, everyone seemed to be in a mid-semester slump. Our study group didn’t even want to go over our Crim notes, though we did try some hypos.
And I forgot when I returned to school from lunch that I’d parked on the street. After the last class, I scoured the parking lot for fifteen minutes, wondering where my car was.
Graffiti in a men’s room stall:
“Fuck me? I’m a first-semester law student and don’t have time.”
I left a message with Cheryl saying I was too tired to accept her invitation to see L.A. Law at her house tonight. I didn’t lie when I said it’s past my bedtime. (Besides, I’ve never watched L.A. Law.) Greg, Kenny, Karin and Larry probably aren’t going, either. Well, at least I can sleep later than 6 AM tomorrow, even if I haven’t briefed my cases.
I did a terribly half-assed job on the outline last night and early this morning, but at least I handed in something – this assignment was optional – so I can discuss it with Pat Thomson next week. And I don’t have to think about it now.
Things are getting tough, and I guess this is a real test for all of us.
Friday, November 8, 1991
Noon. I think I just made myself unpopular with my fellow law students by my comment at the end of Criminal Law. We were discussing Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional a law that allowed a Memphis cop to shoot and kill and unarmed 15-year-old boy feeling a robbery.
Doug G, sitting next to me, expressed his astonishment that police were being limited so much, and others chimed in, agreeing that cops should be able to shoot criminals escaping from robberies.
I was astounded and wondered why these people are in the class: what do we need with a criminal justice system when we can have a police state? That’s not what I said, however.
I started getting hisses when I said, “Let’s look at reality. This law is used against poor minority kids…” and I went on to say it wouldn’t be used against stockbrokers being arrested for the felony of insider trading and trying to leave down their back stairway.
Doug and I argued good-naturedly, but as class broke up, I could feel people were looking at me funny. My desire to be well-liked sometimes conflicts with the rising gorge of injustice I feel.
I wish I didn’t get so excited. Maybe I was wrong to bring race into it – did people think I was trying to score some points with Nunn? – but I remember Clifford Glover, Eleanor Bumpers, Michael Stewart, Arthur McDuffie, Rodney King, and then I know I’m right.
Before class, I was in the library reading the text when the guy across the table from me, reading the Alligator, hissed out, “Fuckin’ bastard.” I pretended not to hear, but then I noticed he was reading an article about David Duke. The head of UF Students for Duke (can you believe it’s someone with a Vietnamese name?) was quoted in the article. So at least somebody at the law school besides me has the propensity to get outraged.
Well, relax, Richie – after Civ Pro and Jurisprudence this afternoon, the long weekend is starting.
Yesterday’s Civ Pro and Jurisprudence classes were fine, though now that I think about it, I probably again blabbed too much when I criticized Judge Bork’s decision in the Cyanamid case and said that allowing the policy of hiring only women who’d been sterilized (to avoid high lead levels from damaging a fetus) was sexual discrimination. People laughed when I said that lead probably affects men’s sperm production, too. Oh well.
Friday, November 22, 1991
3 PM. The last full week of law school just ended. I was amused yesterday when after the Civ Pro practice exam, I went into a stall in the men’s room and heard two voices talking:
“Did you grant summary judgment on that question?”
“Obviously. Sure. That was the only way to go.”
“Uh, I didn’t grant it.”
It made me feel better even though I knew I screwed up the answer – because these guys thought there was a “right” answer. Actually, I think my answer would get a C+, and I’m pleased with that.
Once classes end, I’ll study and prepare, but I’ll also be away from my fellow students, some of whom appear wild-eyed at this point. To me, Nunn’s and Mashburn’s common-sense advice about taking exams makes perfect sense, and a lot of people seem to be looking for the one “answer” on how to take exams, too.
The point is, you’ve got your own way of looking at the law and your own style, and first-semester exams are a way of testing you and letting you learn how to make the most of what you’ve got.
Maybe Steve H has “gotta get an A in Civ Pro,” but I’ve got a life. I’ll just be happy if my sore gums/tooth doesn’t turn out to be anything major.
I guess when you’re 22, you don’t have much else going for you but grades as the passport to that future you want, and the same competitive jerks will be the ones who see their salaries as their report cards and their BMWs and Rolexes as their GPA’s.
Last night I did study a little, but I also watched Beverly Hills 90210 and spoke to Mom, who actually thinks I sit her and worry all day because my apartment is messy. She’s fucked-up enough so that it bothers her to think that this place is dirty – which it is – and I refuse to placate her by lying.
I slept okay, except for my teeth (was I grinding them or this a more serious problem like an abscess?), and this morning I read the Wall Street Journal and then did aerobics before going to school.
Today started off at 67° but got cooler, so I changed into long pants and added a jacket when I returned home for lunch.
Gena said she’s going to talk to Dean Savage about getting her course load reduced for next semester. Her three-year-old son has had a miserable time with Mommy working all the time, and she’s got to spend more time with him.
One of the most anxious students, in spite of Marty Peters’ workshop, is Lorraine. She asked Nunn a question about grades and he started to say how he’d rather not give grades, just pass-fail with a written evaluation when she curtly interrupted him and said, “That’s all well and good for you, but I need to know…”
What a jerk. I think she told me that she HAD to make law review. Karin says that all the C-10 workshops don’t seem to be helping Lorraine, but I’m sure she knows the material a lot better than I do. She’s just so tense about it.
I’m sure that even my second-rate efforts will improve if I can see the exams’ fact patterns as intriguing intellectual puzzles – which they are.
Tomorrow morning I have jury duty, which I’m not looking forward to. But I’ll have the rest of the weekend to work, and I’m not going to torture myself.
The book will also be available on Scribd and Lulu for free online reading.