Just a reminder, we’re doing a screening of Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss tomorrow in Washington, DC. Details on how to RSVP are here. And we’ll head over to the second-floor bar at the Gallery Place Clyde’s to discuss the movie after the screening is over. Next week, we begin our conversation about women and the death penalty, and we’ll be watching and discussing Patty Jenkins’ Monster.
One of the things I’ve found interesting about John Grisham’s work is the extent to which he’s shifted from telling stories in which his main characters, who tend to be straight, white men, do the right thing when faced with criminality, to stories in which those same straight, white men end up joining social justice movements. Rev. Keith Schroeder’s journey in The Confession is identical to that taken by Michael Brock in The Street Lawyer: two men who believe they’re not directly influenced or threatened by injustice find themselves in the path of its unintended consequences, and come to believe that their sense of remove is unsustainable. There’s no question that these kinds of stories risk becoming The Help redux, tales about white saviors who rescue disadvantaged people from problems they’re unable to work their way out of. But in Grisham’s stories, his white boys tend to fail: an execution takes place, a homeless family freezes to death. The work these men end up doing is within movements, not at the head of them.
But it’s the things that bring them to consciousness that matter. Because while The Confession is far from Grisham’s best novel, it’s about a critically important problem: the profound need many people have to believe the criminal justice system works, and how it makes them violently resistant to the prospect that it errs, and that people can die as a result of those mistakes.