By Pierre Schlag *
March 31, 2016
Keywords: law review article, absurd, cass sunstein
Abstract: This short piece [does not] describe the form, structure and vexations of the law review article qua scholarly artifact. It also [does not] contain Professor Max Stein’s latest thoughts as articulated in Schlag’s recently published novel, “American Absurd.”
This is not a law review article. In an earlier version, it was a law review article. Here specifically—in the last post. But now, it is no longer a law review article. It is not a law review article because a “processor” at SSRN determined that it was not “sufficiently scholarly.” Accordingly, it was not sent out to the e-journal editors, but merely posted on SSRN as a kind of stand-alone text. And so it exists in a kind of cyber-version of what used to be called, “the limbo of the infants.” Or to put it in a more wizened idiom: “Forget it Jake—it’s not listed.”
In my youth (i.e. last year) I would have railed against the machinations of bureaucracy, the insidious enforcement of categorial matrices that screen out the deviant and the interesting (in my case, hopefully a combination of the two).
But now I am tired. I have dwelled too long in the leisures of laudanum to muster the energy for it. The most I can do, at this point, is take a quiet resigned pleasure that it has come down to this: My work has been rejected by a “processor.”
Actually, this quiet resignation thing is not entirely true. More accurately, it is false—in fact a concatenation of lies, a veritable feast of falsehood. In fact, the real truth of the matter is that I am nearly bursting with joy.
Think of it: My work has been screened out by an SSRN “processor”! Now, I ask you: What more fitting end can there possibly be for the moniker “pierre schlag,” than to be screened out—“approved” but “not distributed” (this is SSRN lingo)—by a “processor”? A processor no doubt following protocols—protocols that you and I both know must exist (and that we both recognize as necessary to an endeavor like SSRN).
Still, never in my wildest dreams had I anticipated that the end could come like this–Indeed, how could I possibly ever (ever) write anything again after this? I mean, it doesn’t get–it couldn’t possibly get–any better than this. This is “Spam Jurisprudence” confirmed. “The Faculty Workshop” operationalized. “Dinner at Langdell’s” served. I mean this is the sort of performative confirmation of all that stuff I’ve been saying for years about pre-figuration, screens, indicators, proxies, standardization, automaticity. To me this is manna from heaven.
Now I must say that I do not actually know (I did not ask SSRN) why my article was deemed “insufficiently scholarly.” And it’s not as if the SSRN processor—Is this a person? A program? A hybrid? —could not have had reasons. It could have been the mock advertisement for fictional tenure services in the middle of the article. It could have been that I quoted a fictional academic character from my recently published novel “American Absurd” (now available on Amazon here). Or maybe it’s the bizarre but tenacious either/or notion that if something is funny, it couldn’t possibly be serious. Or maybe–just maybe–the processor made a substantive determination that there wasn’t sufficient scholarly content.
That could well be. It is a very (very) short piece after all. And deep or sustained—it surely is not. So it’s arguable that it’s not sufficiently scholarly. It is not a crazy idea by any means.
Still, think about the relevant baseline here.
O.K. Moving on.
So this is where things stood a few days ago. And then I blew it. I totally (totally) tear-my-hair-out bite-my-fingers blew it. The chance of a lifetime and I—you will not frigging believe this—appealed to SSRN. Yes. I did. And the SSRN staff has been nothing but courteous, helpful, and professional. And timely too. The result—now you see where this is going—is that SSRN has agreed that “The Law Review Article” should after all go out of to the e-journal classifiers. The determination of the processor has been vacated. Yep. And it is all my doing. I did this to myself. (If you need a visual, simply picture here the Chris Farley SNL skit where he is tearing his hair out and yelling, “So stupid. I’m so stupid.”)
Anyway, as a result of all this, the determination of the processor has been vacated. So in all likelihood, there is no real future for “This is Not a Law Review Article,” In all likelihood, that is a version that I will never write. Or if it is to be written, it would have to be done very quickly—before the classifiers decide to distribute the earlier article. Even then, we know that there wouldn’t be a much of a future for the piece.
So it goes. I am reconciled. Anyone seen my boulder?
Update 4/3/2016 (The article is being distributed. “This is not a Law Review Article” is being considered for limbo.)