Posts Tagged ‘books’
I read this book in less than 24 hours. For someone who’s spent MONTHS reading just one particular book, that is indeed a little unusual.
But I had quite the impetus to get though this quickly: for me, it was an A Christmas Carol-ish story of my life past and what could possibly await me in the future. (But also it was written in a very conversational manner that made it super easy to read)
A few weeks ago, M forwarded me an article from the Melbourne Age’s ‘Sunday’ magazine. It was an excerpt from a forthcoming non-fiction title by Lisa Prior about how the best and brightest university students in Australia (who had mostly gotten into Law at uni by being freakishly over-achieving high school students) get sucked into corporate firms.
Sounded kinda familiar. I had to know more.
I picked the book up on Friday and devoured it the next day. But sometimes I had to stop and breathe. It’s a surprise when you find that the book you are reading actually seems like your biography.
At one stage I had to shut the book after I mentally ticked nearly all the boxes of the mini-quiz entitled “Could You be A Neurotic, Status-Conscious, Overachieving, Workaholic Control Freak?”
The book’s chapters outlines each aspect of Pryor’s argument about the way over-achieving wunderkinds get shipped into law school and then seduced by the Big Firms into dreary, horrible jobs they end up hating. Each chapter ends with amusing quizes or points of information that help you figure out if you’re at high risk of turning into a pinstripped inmate.
Pryor became my Ghost of High school Past when outlining the way private school darlings who do way more than anyone really needs to lock themselves away
amid swimming carnival ribbons and inter-house debating pennants, highlighting and cross-referencing, juggling sticky-notes and flash cards, recording the number of hours study this day and this week devoted to each subject in hand-drawn rosters, carefully calculating the minimum mark they will need to get in their Othello essay to maintain the number one rank in the top English class, before running off to senior school choir practice, hockey, flute lessons, dance eisteddfods or rugby training.
If that paragraph had had Medea instead of Othello, school production instead of choir, netball instead of hockey (and no dance or rugby or any mention of winning ribbons of any sort) I would worry that Lisa Pryor spied on me as a teenager.
But. Oh fuck. I really was that much of a tool, wasn’t I? Yeesh.
Anyway. Back to the book.
Pryor continues from that breathless list with the following observation: “In every activity they will be scored, marked and ranked, ranked, ranked against their peers.”
And, you see, it is this trait of constantly competing and ranking and fighting for top spot that makes kids like us (who get into Law — the course that only allows students with the top-top marks — and then graduate with prizes and honours and what have you) the perfect fodder for the law firm recruitment rigmarole my friends and I only know too well.
The chapter entitled “Recruitment Brochure Bingo”, which outlines how Every. Single. Firm describes themselves as “unique, dynamic and diverse”, would be gut-splittingly hilarious if it didn’t gut-wretchingly make me realise that I got so totally sucked in by it all:
“The recruitment brochure is a weapon in the propaganda assault that big firms unleash on graduating students. The genre is as manipulative as military recruitment material, only with a whole lot more stock photography of skyscrapers.”
The brochures are, of course, supplemented with the “information evenings” aka canapés and champers nights, coffee outings and all the fancy breakfasts, lunches, dinners you get while on vacation clerkships. There is a thought-provoking question related to all of this:
Big firms are terribly eager to make the jobs they offer seem fabulous and desirable. They go to expensive lengths to bribe students with free food, twilight drinks and sponsorship money. For all the questions overachieving braniacs ask during the recruitment process, they seem to miss the most important one: if these firms are really so brilliant and do offer a life beyond compare, why do they have to work so hard to convince people to join?
Dun dun dun! Sounds foreboding, doesn’t it?
Pryor also makes the connection between the way the firms use corporate sponsorship of law school competitions and events to get themselves known to the kiddies and the lack of money available to student guilds and associations in general. I won’t get into the voluntary student unionism thing here, but let me just say this one thing: the Law Student Society at uni always had more money, and did the best events and services, which benefited a small proportion of the uni’s students, while the Student Association that was supposed to cater for the whole campus had to scrimp and beg and forgo. She’s not making any of this up.
The Ghost of Law Career Future scared me a heck of a lot more. I am standing at the precipice of starting as a law grad at one of the very firms Pryor paints as hell (there is a rather funny fable about vacation clerkships at the start of Chapter 7).
Just to dilute my panic a little, I am making a fellow Over-Achieving Nutjob (whom I love dearly) who went to high school with me and will be starting there with me next year read this book so that we can pow-wow about it. Because there is a lot to take in, and many, many, many variables that I need to consider, and I will leave them all for another post.
It is sufficient here to say that Pryor has stories from several people who have been sucked into the corporate black hole. Some came out alive, some are still there. But we all know about the dramatically high rates of depression and anxiety (and often, self medication) among lawyers, and that is something all law students need to think really hard about.
But one thing needs to be noted at this point: Law is NOT for everyone. For the ones who don’t drop out of law school and end up in the Big Firms, there will be some who love it, want to be there, have always wanted to be there, and are meant to be there.
(M, my sweet darling boyfriend, is one of those people. That kinda absolutely freaks me out, but fact that thoughts of being A Partner’s Partner makes me want to throw up, is, also, another story.)
And then there will be others who do not feel the same way. They get in and realise much too late that they hate it, and come out with the stories of woe and misery. They will hate looking up archaic points of law or figuring out if that conjunction in that contract should be an “and” or an “or”, and will go home every night and cry themselves to sleep, before they jump off a building or write the next Hell Has Harbour Views.
I got a feeling from the book that one of the biggest problems here is the nature of the education system. The way tertiary entrance is merely a process aimed at ranking everyone to compete for a few select spots in a few select courses that, somehow, are deemed to be more worthy and respectable than others means that kids who aren’t supposed to be lawyers end up studying law, and then end up in jobs they hate.
Again, though, the despicablility of the way tertiary education is heading is another story for another post. But I hear the Uni of Melbs is making law post-grad only and I think that’s totally the right idea.
There is another thesis in the book which impacts everyone, not just the Over-Achieving Law Nutjobs. And this is essentially that the cream of the clever country’s clever cookies were being stashed away in private cookie jars to only be chewed up by partners and clients of law, banking or business consulting firms. The public didn’t get the benefit of what these kids have to offer, and Pryor asks:
What does it mean for us as a nation when so many of our cleverest people are being siphoned from careers in which they could be doing something useful?
As I consider myself quite the Tim Tam, and, at that, one who went into law school thinking it was the first step in my journey to save the world (because we all know, Tim Tams fix everything), this is quite the conundrum. But, again, enough about me.
Generally speaking, on one hand, I reckon the fact that we have to pay for our own bloody degrees now means that if we can work in A Firm and love it and rake in the cash, no-one should tell us otherwise. If, however, we didn’t have to pay back HECS or HELP or whatever acronym the next government comes up with for the privilege of a tertiary education, then there might be some more merit in an argument that the firms are sucking up the brains of the clever country. (I wonder how busy Jenny Macklin’s office is at the moment? I think I have some submissions on The Future Of Higher Education to write.)
There is also a chapter on the massive problems about getting women up the ranks in these firms. Disheartening stuff. I’ve spoken and written on this issue before and, again, I have suggestions for proposed solutions which I’ll put in another post. This is a book review, people, focus.
After outlining who gets sucked in and how, Pryor provides a few ideas for how to break out of jail, along with the stories of others who’ve done it before. (Did y’all know that cool “Flipside” burger bar in North Freo is run by a Firm Escapee?). It wasn’t too preachy or anything, but this is the closest thing to a self-help book I’ve actually read (cf bought. Which I do. A lot. Because I’m neurotic).
While there are times when the author seems rather bitter and spiteful about private school kids and law firm princess, I have to admit there is still truth in the stereotypes, and Pryor’s cautionary tale is of the sort that tells you to learn from other people’s mistakes before you make them yourself.
Just a final note: I have not yet made any decisions about the next few years of my life. I have to survive the next few months, first. Damn you to hell, Alan Bond. But first, may you die a pauper, you smarmy git.
Ahem. That is all.
The Pinstriped Prison
Lisa Pryor (Picador, Sydney: 2008), 272pp.
For another another nice, easy filler-post, let’s have a look at how I’m going on the list:
- The Lottery (and Other Stories), Shirley Jackson
- To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
- The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
- White Teeth, Zadie Smith
- The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende ✔
- Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
- Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
- The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath ✔
- Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
- The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
- Beloved, Toni Morrison
- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
- Like Life, Lorrie Moore
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen ✔
- Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë ✔
- The Delta of Venus, Anais Nin
- A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
- A Good Man Is Hard To Find (and Other Stories), Flannery O’Connor
- The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
- You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down, Alice Walker
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee ✔
- Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
- Earthly Paradise, Colette
- Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
- Property, Valerie Martin
- Middlemarch, George Eliot
- Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
- The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
- Runaway, Alice Munro
- The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
- The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
- Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
- You Must Remember This, Joyce Carol Oates
- Little Women, Louisa May Alcott ✔
- Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
- The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith
- And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
- Bastard out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison
- The Secret History, Donna Tartt
- The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley
- The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
- The Group, Mary McCarthy
- Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
- The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
- The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank
- Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
- Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag
- In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
- The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
- Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
- Three Junes, Julia Glass
- A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
- Sophie’s Choice, William Styron
- Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
- Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford
- Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell ✔
- The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
- The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
- The Face of War, Martha Gellhorn
- My Antonia, Willa Cather
- Love In The Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- The Harsh Voice, Rebecca West
- Spending, Mary Gordon
- The Lover, Marguerite Duras
- The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy ✔
- Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen
- Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
- Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
- Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
- I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
- Possession, A.S. Byatt ✔ (well. reading.)
I would also add A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini to this list (not just to let me have one more tick to that lonely group).
Right. Looks like I *won’t* be back to blogging as soon as I thought.
Off to the library!
One of my fave blogs to read when I am procrastinating is called Put Things Off. It’s written by a funny Pommy chap called Nick (but all people from England are funny, aren’t they?) and it’s fabulous because it’s called “Put Things Off” but it’s really about productivity — and I enjoy the irony and also that I can justify not doing work because I’m actually learning something. Plus the blog’s mascot is a fricking cute kitten with a ball of wool, and I fricking love kittens.
As previously mentioned, I am totally struggling with the book-reading thing at the moment, but even though I joined Goodreads and stuff a while ago (there’s a link on the right there if you care to have a look), I have just not been able to get on track with plowing though my Books To Read Pile. Actually, now I have two piles, neatly separated in to Fiction and Non-Fiction (although I’m sure you will all be glad to know that unlike the Fiction and Non-Fiction shevles in my book case, the piles are not alphabetized. Sheesh, I’m not THAT much of a geek). But now that I’m looking at my To Read list on Goodreads, I see that none of these books are even in my To Read Pile, so this is troubling.
However, PTO Nick has set up a reading challenge, and while I’m not game enough to take up the City to Surf challenge with Jules and everyone, because hello, I don’t do exercise, unless it involves shopping, this challenge looks like it will suit my not-so-active lifestyle much better.
I would really like to be able to get though my To Read Pile(s) because I have actually set myself a little rule that I am not allowed to buy any more books until I read the ones I already have. Granted, I won’t (and have not) let that rule get in the way of exercising ye olde Marstercard Debit, as demonstrated by my excursion to Borders at lunch today which resulted in the purchase of two shiny new magazines. But still. There are some books I wanted to buy, too. So I was good.
There are no pressing commitments this week so I plan to actually get right on top of this challenge by at least finishing Princess Diaries #9, which I have STILL not read even though I bought it two days after we got back from holidays.
Oh no wait. Get Smart comes out tomorrow and there’s that End Of Financial Year do on Friday. Gah, that means I need to finish PD9 tonight. Better snap to it!!!!!!!!
One of the many traits (most pretty much all of them bad) I have inherited from my Father is a love of books. I adore them, and the ability to lose myself in a story that an incredibly talented author has created. One of the bestest things I love about reading is that, unlike movies or TV, I have a bit of leeway to imagine stuff on my own too. I like imagining things.
I have been trying to read for pleasure since I graduated last year, but I have been struggling.
Despite the fact I now have the money to buy books and the time to read them, I have been unable to read properly. I try to read, but I don’t get very far. It weirds me out or something, so I stop.
As a result, the Pile of Books I Want to Read on my bed-side table has been getting higher and higher and it makes me sad, because I really want to read these books (I also have a compulsive book-buying habit, also inherited from Father, but that’s beside the point).
I just read a blog post that made me understand why this is happening. It was totally a *light bulb* moment.
Turns out that I picked up a horrible aversion reading in university.
I went to law school. In law school, law students are subjected to the horrible torture of reading law stuff. Which, as I am sure all law students know, is evil.
We did a unit that involved “Plain English Writing”, sure, but everything else we read was not plain. Or English. It was Evilese.
Evilese, aka Legalese (but that term is just way too nice for what is a horrible curse upon humanity), is rife with the use of NOMINALISATION, which Roguish Tei describes as
the removal of a subject from a sentence. Instead of ’she took’, the nominalization is ‘the taking’. Instead of ‘he broke’, the nominalization is ‘the breaking’. Nominalization is the horror that is verbs masquerading as subjects.
My *light bulb* moment was when I went “OMFG! That’s what law stuff is!!!”
Only I didn’t realise that’s what law stuff is because our education system is effed and I only learned about the existence of verbs and subjects and all that jazz when I was learning French, which was about three years ago. Only they didn’t go so far as to explain Nominalization, plus I gave up after learning how to order 4 slices of ham anyway.
So I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the evil law stuff I was reading.
After 6 years (we have a different higher-education structure in Australia, I have two degrees, it’s ok, I’m not a total dummy who spent 6 years in law school) of reading NOTHING MUCH ELSE BUT NOMINALIZATION I started to hate reading.
Reading gave me headaches. It gave me fine-lines and wrinkles that I totally should not have yet. Because I wasn’t just reading — I was trying really hard to figure out what this strange text in a language that is really hard to figure out was trying to say. Because I had to figure it out or else I would fail. And I’m a Type-A Perfectionist Nutjob, and I don’t like failing. So I kept trying harder and harder until I blew up and melted like the Wicked Witch of the West (well, at least, something very similar).
So now I hate reading.
And I’m still working in a job where I have to read legal shite for 8-10 hours a day. So I need to find another profession.
Because I like books more. Way more than law shite.
pleased that tomorrow is Buss JA Day.
I had taken the fact that the first batch of cupcake-icing looked kinda dodgy as indication that it needs to be fixed, rather than slathered on cupcakes only to end up going all gross overnight.
another long weekend.
on going to bed early tonight.
SATC movie talk, because the hype is for all the wrong reasons (i.e. none of the reasons for which I enjoyed watching the show — on DVD, after it went off air and stopped being “trenday”).
Underbelly [Uncut] (and secretly — well, not so secretly — wanting to tell Roberta Williams that she’s a bloodyfucking legend who is now officially on my Kick Arse Women Heros list).
wonderful, wonderful, wonderful M.
excited to get to use the awesome goodness that is wordpress to write my blog with. Blogger is boring and useless.
Possession: A Romance by A S Byatt. It has been a while since I read “literature” and this is rich with book-geek goodness.
five games of Scrabulous on le Facebook.
about going home to do some yoga. But that means I also have to cook dinner.
Orgran gluten-free tomato soup. Ok, drinking.
all those lost souls from Burma and s.e. China to be well and happy in the next part of their journey.