Jury Duty

So there’s another hurtle in the way of finishing 1Q84; I’ve been called for Jury Duty, which I’ve come to think of as a rather expensive payment for the right to vote.

Here’s a list of observations:

  • I had to call to find out when to come in after 5PM on Black Friday. The message told me I had to be at the courthouse in Jamaica, Queens, by 9AM on Monday, November 28th; I was able to get a hold of work because they don’t have regular business hours, but giving people so little warning is just plain cold.
  • You show up at nine and make your way in by 10 thanks to the metal detectors. At least the weather was warm.
  • It did make me think of the justice-system-as-mindless-machine-for-which-citizens-are-fuel/grist, at least for an hour or so.
  • They called my first two hours or so there “orientation,” which brought up childhood memories of days spent learning procedure rather than doing schoolwork. The court officer who ran it was a winning, NY type: brusque, for sure, but good at communicating vital info even when people didn’t necessarily speak English or understand jury selection.

I didn’t know whether I could bring a laptop (I can) or if they’d have any access (they do). So they do make some accommodation for getting work done while they show Jurassic Park1 and Sweet Home Alabama. For the day I brought A.S. Byatt’s Possession, whose style and vocabulary are truly impressive,2 but which may be too demanding to read alongside 1Q84.3 Anyways, for posterity: my first impression of Possession is that it is a well-told-tale written by someone with experience in academia, a burnt out scholar perhaps. In this it reminds me of the Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and works, perhaps, as anecdotal evidence academia is attracting more graduate students than it needs, and that these people are filling the role of writer/novelist; what, then of those who’d have previously been writer/novelists? Also, if Roland and Maud do  get together, then is she some sort of graduate student equivalent of a manic pixie dream girl?


[1] And David Foster Wallace is right: JP really doesn’t have a plot other than Dennis Nedry trying to steal the embryos.

[2] The jacket says that it is on the level of Stendhal or Joyce. I can’t speak on the former head, but as for the latter there are some truly Joycean words and sentences, some of which rival Nabokov’s eideticism; e.g. glaucous, and “He moved gingerly inside the bathroom, which was not a place to sit and read or to lie and soak, but a chill green glassy place, glittering with cleanness, huge dark green stoppered jars on water-green thick glass shelves, a floor tiled win glass tiles into whose brief and illusory depths one might peer, a shimmering shower curtain like a glass waterfall, a blind to match, over the window, full of watery lights.”

[3] Just for the record, Rules of Civility and The Screwtape Letters posed no such threat, the first because of it paucity, the second for its brevity.

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2 Responses to Jury Duty

  1. Ian Graye says:

    I had been wondering where you were.

    • absitnomen says:

      Really I was out of town for the American holiday Thanksgiving; it took me away from 1Q84 but gave me a chance to finish the Screwtape Letters, which I had been trying to do for a long time.

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