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The Paper Chase Paperback – January 24, 2012
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About the Author
John Osborn grew up in San Francisco, attended local schools and then went to Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He worked at a large Wall Street law firm, leaving to become a law professor, most recently at the University of San Francisco School of Law. He worked on the movie and television show made from his novel THE PAPER CHASE and on the television show made from his novel The Associates, as well as numerous other entertainment projects. He is the author of many articles on legal education. Robert Clark, former Dean of The Harvard Law School, has said, "THE PAPER CHASE is one of the most important books ever written about legal education in the United States."
Top customer reviews
Osborn started writing “The Paper Chase” in his first year at the Harvard Law School. The novel is formatted like a series of vignettes of law school linked together by Hart’s romance with Kingsfield’s daughter Susan, a relationship he finds every bit as challenging and frustrating as his relationship with her father.
I’ve probably come to Osborn’s novel backwards. I was first a fan of “The Paper Chase” TV series, later I saw the 1973 movie version of “The Paper Chase” and now, finally Osborn’s novel. The main characters focus around the study group formed by Ford, and includes Hart, Anderson, Bell, and Brooks (if you’ve seen either the movie or the TV series you understand the lack of the characters first names). In the novel the characters aren’t as well defined as in either the movie or the TV series, both of which Osborn had a large input in; for instance nowhere is Ford’s background mentioned, not even a physical description. There are a few tantalizing peeks at some of the personalities behind the characters, Bell is obsessed with his property outline, which he believes will supersede the casebook, and he turns out to be a selfish creep.
“The Paper Chase” was created right at the end of the 60’s, 1970 but the counterculture mindset was still fully engaged, and the movie and the TV series always reflected those values (although Kingsfield and the college itself were conservative counter-balances). None of that exists in the novel, maybe Osborn employed a Hemingwayesque philosophy in the novel of it’s not only what you put in the book but that which is left out. The adversarial relationship between Hart and Kingsfield isn’t as well defined as in later iterations, although the characters comment upon it. Perhaps “The Paper Chase” is meant to be seen so much through Hart’s point of view that it focuses only on aspects that present themselves in the immediacy of the moment.
“The Paper Chase” is a compelling read and like the law school itself stands intact over the years as students pass through it and time passes around it.
As probably everyone knows, this is the fictitious story of one James Hart, and his various study-buddies at Harvard Law School, sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. In my opinion the novel, in common with the film, exaggerates and over-dramatizes the stress of law school. Having said that, there is enough truth in the novel (and the film) to have made this one an instant classic.
The writing style, while imperfect, is impressive for a first novel, and this one is a quick and easy read. Highly recommended. RJB.