Anathem Arrives

Neal Stephenson’s newest novel, Anathem, was published the other day.  I’m a huge Stephenson fan.  I made it all the way through The Baroque Cycle; Cryptonomicon is one of my favorite reads of the last 10 years; Snow Crash and The Diamond Age have long had honored places on my bookshelf; I even cited In the Beginning … was the Command Line in an early piece.

I relish Stephenson precisely because it offers something that legal literature rarely affords:  the opportunity to be surrounded by and absorbed into a complex world of ideas, without having to deny its complexity.  Stephenson’s dense writing makes for tough slogging sometimes, but on balance that density is Stephenson’s strength.  Stephenson challenges me to think, and I like that.  There are times when I wish that legal scholarship were more willing to embrace density, complexity and variety, both in its forms and in its arguments. 

Of course, there are times when I value elegance (for non-fiction, there is the incomparable John McPhee, and in fiction I always think of Fitzgerald).  Elegance is challenging and engaging in its own different way.  And it, too, is too rare in law journals.