Grisham, John: The Street Lawyer
(researched by Sarah Rockburn)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

John Grisham. The Street Lawyer. New York, New York: Doubleday, 1998. Copyright 1998 Belfry Holdings, Inc. The first edition was published in the United States in March 1998. A parallel first edition was published in London by Century in 1998. (ISBN:0712678212)

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The First American Edition published in trade cloth binding.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

176 leaves. pp. [8] 9-348 [4].

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

This edition is neither edited nor introduced. The second unnumbered page lists other books by John Grisham.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

Jacket photograph by Lynn Saville. Jacket design by Mario J. Pulice. No illustrations within the book.

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The book is extremely presentable and attractive. The jacket catches the reader's eye. There is a modern photograph of a man running in black shadows against a blue sky at night. The title of the book and the author's name are written across the photograph in large (about 1 1/4") white and gold letters. The print of the book itself is dark black and clear. The size is large and very readable. Size of the page: 9.25" x 6" Top and bottom margins: about 3/4" Side margins: 1" Type size: 97R Type: Jannon Antiqua The first letter of each chapter is three times the size of the regular font. Also, the first one to five words of each chapter are written in capital letters.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is a light greyish yellowish brown (beige). The material itself is a little rough and thick. It is unwatermarked and there are no tears or stains. The book is relatively new (published in 1998) so the corners are still crisp and unbended.

11 Description of binding(s)

The binding is greyish black cloth with a dotted line grain. The spine's black binding overlaps onto about two inches of the front and back of the book. The end papers are blue. There is no stamping. Transcription of the spine: The | Street | Lawyer | [column illustration] | JOHN | GRISHAM | [Doubleday illustration] | DOUBLEDAY

12 Transcription of title page

The title page covers two unnumbered pages. The first part (recto) is on the backside of the listing of John Grisham's other books. The transcription is: John Grisham It continues onto the right page: The Street Lawyer | DOUBLEDAY | New York London Toronto Sydney Auckland The back (verso) of this page contains: ISBN 0-385-49099-2 (Hardcover) | ISBN 0-385-49100-x (Large Print) | ISBN 0-385-49101-8 (Limited Edition) | Copyright @ 1998 Belfry Holdings, Inc. | All Rights Reserved | Printed in the United States of America | March 1998 | First Edition | 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

The original manuscript has not been located, although Mississippi State Library has a collection of John Grisham's works in the "John Grisham Room" and is expecting a new shipment of John Grisham's manuscriptsin October 2002. The Street Lawyer may very well be one of them.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Pages 347-48 contain the Author's Note, in which, John Grisham thanks individuals who help the homeless and the individuals who helped him research and gather facts at various homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The last unnumbered page has a black asterisk (*) printed at the top of it.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

The publisher issued more than one edition. 1. Direct Large Print Edition 1998 574 p., 22 cm. ISBN: 1568656718 2. Book Club Edition 1998 312 p, 22 cm. ISBN: 0385490992 3. Large print edition. 1998 454 p. ; 25 cm. ISBN: 038549100X (lg. print)

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

There were 2.8 million printings of the first edition released on February 4, 1998.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

New York : Dell, 1998. New York : Island Books, 1998. Bath : Paragon, 1999. London : Arrow, 1998. London : Cresset Editions, 1999.

6 Last date in print?

As of October 2002, the book is in print.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

The book sold 2, 550, 000 copies in 1998. Source: Bowker Annual. Date: 1999.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

According to Bowker Annual, the book sold 2, 550, 000 copies in 1998 at the cost of $27. 95 a copy.

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

The book's publisher, Doubleday, ran ads in the New York times, USA Today and the Wall Street journal. The ads contained part of the first chapter and a website where fans could get the full chapter. (

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

To encourage promotion, John Grisham toured Southern bookstores and signed copies of the book. These bookstores helped Grisham when he himself was a struggling author. They include Reeds Gumtree Bookstore in Tupelo, Mississippi, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson, Mississippi, Burke's in Memphis, Tenneesee and That Bookstore in Blytheville, Arkansas.

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

The book was recorded on tape and CD: 1. Michael Beck New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio 1998, Abridged edition. English 4 cassettes (6 hours) ISBN: 0553479180 2. Frank Muller New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio 1998 English 12 cassettes (11 hours) ISBN: 055350213 3. Michael Beck New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio 1998 English 5 sound discs, (360 minutes) ISBN: 0553455710 Before the release of the novel in February 1998, John Grisham decided not to sell movie rights to the book in the hopes that more people would buy it if they knew that there would be no movie version.

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Spanish: Causa Justa. Barcelona : Ediciones B,Edition: 1a ed, 1998. (414 pages). Menini, MarÌa Antonia,Causa Justa. Spain : Punto de Lectura, 2000. (473 pages) Polish: Leszczynski, Andrzej, Obronca ulicy . Warszawa : Wydawn. Amber,Edition: Wyd. 1, 1998. (270 pages). Chinese: Jie tou l¸ shi. Taibei shi : Zhi ku gu fen you xian gong si,Edition: Di 1 ban, 1999. (445 pages). Hebrew: Gintsburg, ëAdi, Praklit rehov. Tel-Aviv : Modan, 1998. (334 pages). Portugeuse: Rodrigues, Aulyde Soares, O advogado. Rio de Janeiro : Rocco, 1998. (352 pages). Korean: Chong, Yong-mok, Kori ui pyonhosa . Soul-si : Sigongsa,Edition: Chëopëan. 1998. German: Der Verrat. M¸nchen : Wilhelm Heyne, 2000. (430 pages). French: Berthon, Patrick, La loi du plus faible . Paris : Robert Laffont,1999. (333 pages). Italian: Dobner, Tullio, L'avvocato di strada . Milano : A. Mondadori,Edition: 1. ed. 1998. (369 pages).

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A

The New York Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal printed part of the first chapter in ads run by Doubleday. The remainder of the chapter was posted on the web. (

15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

After The Street Lawyer's release, Publisher's Weekly interviewed John Grisham about his latest book and asked him about the initial, action-packed scene in which a homeless man takes nine attorneys hostage at a Washington DC law firm. Grisham said, "I could be in that scene. I could be in that room, as a hostage. I mean they are a bunch of rich white guys." Indeed, John Grisham is a "rich white guy." His worldwide gross of novels and movies exceeds one billion dollars and his 1996 income was estimated at thirty million. Yet, Grisham's novel presents the profound economic differences between the homeless and upper class lawyers. Grisham himself is extremely sensitive to the economic needs of the poor and lower classes. As a devoted Baptist, he spends time doing charity work and even travels to Brazil with his church to build new chapels for existing churches there. In addition, in preparation for the book Grisham visited many homeless shelters and soup kitchens. In fact, at the end of the novel he thanks the selfless individuals who have devoted their lives to caring for the homeless. Grisham says that he wrote this book in hopes that it would have the "power to raise the level of consciousness about a particular issue." Since the book remained number one on the bestsellers list for weeks at a time, its message reached millions across the globe. In addition to raising social consciousness about the homeless, the arrival of Grisham's book gave him the opportunity to support small bookstores that often struggled economically. Immediately after the release of The Street Lawyer, he went on a tour of all the Southern bookstores that helped him as a young author and signed books for all who came. Grisham remarked, "When I'm in one of those real small bookstores, some of the stores I've gone to for years to sign books?I confess I've had the thought, ?What if I skipped a year?' It would have a significant impact on the store." Indeed Grisham is devoted to helping the bookstores that helped him begin his career. He is a man who gives back not only to charity, but also to businesses, specifically the bookselling industry. He and his wife annually fund a writers' program at Ole Miss in addition to publishing a literary magazine, The Oxford American. Grisham understands the power of print media and uses his power as a national celebrity to support it in any way he can. Although Grisham decided not to release a movie version of the book in order to "take a break from Hollywood," two days after the book came out in stores, a screenplay of Grisham's, "The Gingerbread Man", opened as a movie to viewers nationwide. He wrote the screenplay in the 1980s about a Southern lawyer defending a woman stalked by her very own father. The movie contributed even more to the publicity frenzy and media focus on Grisham after the release of The Street Lawyer. However, Grisham told Publisher's Weekly that he feared overexposure by publishing too many books in such a short time span and by making those books into movies. However, presently Grisham's books still top the bestsellers list and his movies remain big hits. Best-selling author John Grisham has nothing to worry about. *Quotations taken from: Zaleski, Jeff. "The Grisham Business." Publisher's Weekly Online, January 19, 1998.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Critics received John Grisham's The Street Lawyer with a great deal of praise for tackling such a serious and important subject as homelessness. The Chicago Tribune called it the "most crusading and appealing story since The Rainmaker." Although reviewers found the book as entertaining as Grisham's multitude of bestsellers and much more dramatic in terms of serious plot content, they noted his consistently poor character development as well as his ability to create completely unrealistic twists in plot. The Street Lawyer unlike many of Grisham's other works attempted to focus readers on an important social issue. Publisher's Weekly called it a "moving exploration of the world of the homeless. Dickens would be well pleased." Like Dickens, Grisham fought for social justice through his plot. Indeed most of the reviews supported Grisham's plea, such as Entertainment Weekly who noted that, "Grisham seems more determined than ever to try to use his clout to effect social change." Although critics believed that Grisham effectively advocated social change, the majority attacked his poor characterization, noting that this is a continual weakness shown in his other novels. The New York Times review by Michiko Kakutani pointed out that Grisham never gave "insight into Michael's emotional makeup" and instead primarily focused on Michael's external appearance and actions. Entertainment Weekly writer Tom DeHaven concurred, "Grisham's strong suit has never been character development." As a result of Grisham's poor characterization, critics felt that Michael's transformation from a high-powered attorney to a "street lawyer" occurred much too quickly to be realistic. For instance DeHaven goes on to say that Michael's change "happens improbably, with the thunderclap swiftness of Saint Paul's conversion." In the novel Michael's striking transformation happened over a period of only thirty days. Moreover Kakutani also asserted that, "Mr. Grisham is too busy charging ahead to bother fleshing out any of these developments with the sort of emotional or physical detail that might make them feel plausible or real." Thus, critics charged Grisham with unrealistic plot and character development. Although critics pointed out Grisham's weaknesses, they noted the book's strong entertainment value. January Magazine called it an "engaging story" and Entertainment Weekly claimed that "it's as compelling a read as anything Grisham has produced in the past." Although according to critics Grisham continued to lack depth in his character development, his twisting plots were enough to keep readers hooked on The Street Lawyer. Sources: Review of The Street Lawyer. Quote from The Chicago Tribune. DeHaven, Tom. Entertainment Weekly. February 13, 1998. p.64. Kakutani, Michael. The New York Times. February 13, 1998. Publisher's Weekly magazine. V245. January 19, 1998. p. 371. Richards, Linda. "Grisham's Social Statement?" November 18, 2002.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

The book was published in February 1998. The book is not yet five years old. Therefore there is no subsequent reception.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

"You don't do it for the money. You do it for your soul," says Michael Brock, John Grisham's latest protagonist in The Street Lawyer (106). Michael asserts that he becomes a lawyer for the homeless, rejecting a high income, for his soul. Indeed this Grisham novel stands out from the rest by touching such a serious issue as homelessness and by trying to give a struggling American minority a voice. The novel also, like one of Grisham's after it, The Testament, depicts a successful lawyer who turns away from his money making and the so-called "American dream" in order to give to the needy. In the process, he finds his calling and feels completely gratified by his transformation from a rich corporate lawyer to a poor street lawyer. By comparing this novel to Grisham's other successes and by examining his use of Christian imagery, specifically the conversion theme, we can understand Grisham's tendency to produce works of not only social but also spiritual consciousness. Although the success of Grisham's book was largely determined by his notable reputation from his previous bestsellers, the popularity of The Street Lawyer revolves around its heartbreaking portrayal of the homeless and goes against the grain by critiquing the "American dream;" thus it touches the hearts of American readers through its spiritual message and, much like the sad stories on the evening news, may cause them to feel that they have somehow done their part in helping the homeless simply by reading the book. The Street Lawyer is only one of Grisham's many bestsellers that tackles and dramatizes serious social issues, proving that Grisham's social agenda strikes a chord with not only Americans, but also people worldwide because the issue is brought to the level of their understanding. Firstly Grisham presents such serious issues as racial prejudice, corporate corruption, rape and domestic violence in a manner that is not only dramatic but also accessible to the general public. Grisham does not write in wordy, elevated prose. It is simple and accessible to anyone who has a high school education. He writes in a straightforward manner, even when writing about the most serious of issues. For example, in The Street Lawyer, Grisham describes the condition of homelessness in a clear, concise manner by saying, "There were different levels of homelessness, distinct rungs on the socioeconomic ladder. At one table, six men ate?they were reasonably well dressed" (209). Grisham explains the different "classes" that comprise homeless status, in simple prose with vivid illustrations. He goes on to describe their clothes, thus providing a visual image for the readers to grasp. Furthermore Grisham's past novels also dramatize issues in a manner that makes them interesting to readers and clearly conveys the risks and emotions of the people at stake. For instance in A Time to Kill, Grisham's writing paints in vivid color, the feelings and emotions connected with racism in the South, as well as giving readers a glimpse into the workings of a courtroom trial. Grisham revolves the story around a white lawyer, who in many ways serves as the character for the readers to identify with. He is aware of the racial prejudice in the South, yet he has never experienced it firsthand. The same may be said of Michael in The Street Lawyer. Before being taken hostage by a homeless man in his law firm, Michael knows nothing about homelessness. The reader learns about the issue at the same time as Michael. Thus Grisham presents accessible characters and prose to the readers in order for them to fully capture the essence of the serious issues that he dramatizes. In addition, Grisham presents spiritual and moral connotations throughout his novels, but particularly in The Street Lawyer, which touches the spiritual side of readers and may reach a Christian audience. This display of Christian religion may attract those who are Christians or who are interested in Christian themes. Grisham writes to a very much Westernized, Christianized audience by focusing on a white, upper-middle class protagonist who for the first time is confronted with the issues of the lower classes. Furthermore Michael often sees the issues in light of Christian ideas and he himself undergoes a dramatic conversion in the course of the novel. Grisham transforms Michael from a money-laden sinner to a Christian saint in the course of only thirty days through the use of DeVon Hardy as the figure of the Holy Spirit and child Ontario Burton as a Christ-figure. Firstly, at the outset of the novel, Michael's firm is taken hostage by a threatening homeless man who makes all of the lawyers aware of their "sins." Grisham shows Providence already at work by providing a circumstance in Michael's life in which he must evaluate himself in relation to God and others. The homeless man acts as the illumination of the Holy Spirit. He points out to each of the men how they have greedily hoarded their high incomes, without giving anything away to the ones who need it most, namely the homeless. However, none of the men except for Michael feel any sort of conviction. Michael says, "I suddenly realized the weight of my sin" (16). In the face of his sins, Michael begins to feel remorse. He is called out from the rest of the men. Thus presenting the Scriptural ideal from Matthew 20:16 that "Many are called but few are chosen." Hardy begins Michael's transformation to a sanctified street lawyer. However, it is not until he begins working with the homeless and meets the Burtons that his transformation is completed. While at a shelter, Michael meets a homeless family, a single mother who has four small children and lives with them in a car. One of her sons, Ontario, serves as the Christ-figure of the novel and ultimately leads Michael to complete conversion. At the shelter Michael falls in love with Ontario, but soon after the whole family dies due to asphyxiation from the tailpipe of the car that they live in. They die as innocents in a harsh world. In addition, Ontario, a child of four, represents to Michael all things that are pure and cause him to desire to devote his life to the homeless. For example, Michael sees Ontario's body in the mortuary, "When Bill yanked the sheets back and I saw my little pal Ontario finally at peace. It was then and there, at that moment, in the city morgue that I became someone else" (126). Michael is completely transformed by the sacrifice of an innocent child in a corrupt, greedy world. Thus Michael's conversion to a street lawyer represents an individual's conversion to Christianity. Grisham's next novel is The Testament, a novel that also presents spiritual overtones and challenges the "American dream," thus proving Grisham's acknowledged success with the first attempt and his understanding that the Christian public may welcome a similar novel. For example, the novel is a story of a washed up corporate litigator, Nate O'Riley, who gives up any hope of returning to a thriving law profession to live as a missionary in South America. The lawyer converts to devout Christianity and to a life of Christian service in a matter of days. O'Reilly's conversion occurs after he meets Rachel Lane, a missionary doctor, who challenges his faith in God. Through her character Grisham presents the idea of human beings as instruments in God's conversion process. Furthermore O'Reily contracts a severe case of Dengue fever, which leaves him immobile and hospitalized for days. It is in this state that O'Reily ponders over the condition of his soul and his life's mission, showing how suffering often touches the core of the human will, drawing them closer to God. Thus Grisham dramatizes the Christian conversion. Furthermore in The Street Lawyer Michael not only undergoes a Christian-like conversion he converts from a participant in the "American dream" to a man who despises and rejects it, adding weight to Grisham's moralistic story and thus attracting those who have strong inclinations against the idea of American wealth. For example, before Michael becomes a street lawyer, as a successful corporate lawyer, he is on his way to achieving the American dream of status and wealth. When Mordecai meets Michael he comments on the status that he and his wife hold saying, "You'll be a partner in a big firm, she'll be a surgeon. Another American dream" (74). However, Michael rejects this American dream of a powerful, moneymaking marriage and lifestyle. Furthermore he rejects this dream despite constant pressure from those around him who are caught up in the capitalist society. For instance, his brother says to him, "You're a dumb-ass?you were on the fast track for a partnership. You'd be making a million bucks a year at the age of thirty-five" (276). Grisham portrays the other characters in middle-class or upper class positions as obsessed with making more and more money. But in the face of homelessness, Michael sees the absurdity and wastefulness of excessive wealth. He says, "I've lost my love for money" (276). And in fact, Michael has. He sees the hardships of those who live on the street, especially the homeless children, and feels that he has no right to live with an abundance of material goods. In fact, soon after becoming a street lawyer, Michael starts sleeping on the floor of a DC apartment because he cannot afford a bed. Although Michael is not homeless, he experiences a slight part of poverty for himself. Thus Grisham appeals to readers who are unconvinced by our capitalist society and who advocate a simple lifestyle. These readers may also be the Christians that he appeals to through his theme of conversion because one of the basic precepts of Christianity said by Jesus Christ is "Take up your cross and carry me" (Mark 10:21). Devoted Christians believe in a life of service and goodwill. Furthermore, they believe that their treasures are stored in heaven, not in material possessions on earth so many of them would indeed be opposed to the "American dream." In return for sacrificing the "American dream" for a life of service to others, Michael experiences great emotional satisfaction, perhaps portraying Grisham's satisfaction in writing this novel and his desire for readers to be entranced by his message. For example, Grisham clearly sets up the "good guys" and the "bad guys" in this novel. The corporate lawyers, the rich people, are the bad guys. They are greedy and corrupt and show no desire to help the homeless. However, people like Mordecai, another street lawyer, and Megan, a counselor at a shelter for women, are the good guys. They give up material possessions to help those in need. By becoming a street lawyer, Michael gives up his role as a "bad guy" to become a "good guy." This may also strongly influence readers who feel that the corporate world is corrupt and that they want to be a part of the "good guys" who fight against corruption. Furthermore by reading the novel they may themselves feel like they are good. They are reading the novel in the shoes of Michael. Michael experiences extreme satisfaction in his role as a street lawyer and says, "You don't do it for the money. You do it for your soul" (106). He finds deeper emotional and spiritual meaning in the service of others. In addition Grisham may be able to make the same statement about the book. As a best-selling author who possesses a vast amount of wealth, perhaps he writes this book for his soul, hoping that he will be a voice for the homeless. The book serves as his mode of altruism and may also serve as a feel-good read that touches the souls of readers. This book's portrayal of the homeless is influenced by poverty rates in America during the twentieth century, and furthermore Grisham's story may touch the souls of readers because of its stark reality. According to the US Bureau of the Census 35, 574 people lived in poverty in America in 1997, the year before the publication of this book. In 1998, the year of its publication, 34, 476 people lived in poverty. The subject of this story is real in America. Thousands of people live in absolute poverty everyday. Thus Grisham is portraying the opposite side of the "American dream," a goal that is unattainable to many Americans. Thus people identify with the inability to arrive at this dream. Even if they are not poor, working class and middle class people identify with the reality of the economic struggle in America. The "American dream" seems to many an unattainable fantasy. Thus Grisham's novel is appealing because it reinforces the reality that in America few people are able to live up to this dream. The final possibility for the success of The Street Lawyer is that the book may cause individuals to feel that they have somehow helped with the issue of homelessness simply by reading the book. For instance, individuals may feel like they know all about African wildlife just because they watched a documentary on it. In addition, a sad story on the evening news about children who live in an Indian orphanage may cause viewers to feel that they have been to that orphanage, that they have helped the children. Works of the media or of art often transport us to various locales and make us feel the reality of them. Grisham's stories of the homeless within the novel are much like the stories on the evening news that people watch from a distance, but then feel that they have somehow bettered the situation by being informed of it. For instance, the heartbreaking story of the Burton family dying in their car could come across the news on any given day because of its great sadness and tragedy. The readers are able to follow and live through Michael as he transforms to a street lawyer and tends to the problems of the homeless. The readers are with Michael as the sheets are pulled back on Ontario's dead body in the morgue and as he drives Ruby, a drug addict, to motels in order to isolate her from the drugs. In many ways readers may feel that they are part of these altruistic adventures. They may feel like Michael, a greedy American, transformed by a desire to help others. One may hope that their desire to help the homeless will extend beyond just reading the novel. Thus the popularity of this novel may be attributed to many factors, including Grishsam's accessible prose and his dramatization of contemporary social issues, its spiritual appeal to moral Christians, its real portrayal of the often unattainable "American dream" and its ability to cause readers to feel that they have helped with the homeless. The Street Lawyer does build off of Grisham's success as an author, but it is unlike his previous novels in that it mainly strives to raise social consciousness about homelessness. Grisham gives the homeless a powerful voice through his best-selling status that many Americans take the time to listen to as they read this book.

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