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Good old-fashioned snickering sexism generally hides behind closed doors these days, so it's with a sense of growing wonder that one slogs one's way through the veteran Denker's Dial-A-Diatribe, starring Judge Harry Spencer, Great Brontosaurus of the Federal bench. "Young woman, this Court takes judicial notice that all women have breasts. Even female attorneys. There is no need to flaunt them in my courtroom. So this Court can concentrate on your argument, you go home and put on a bra. With my limited experience in these matters, I would say a thirty-six C cup should do nicely." That's our hero, Federal District Court Judge Spencer, a cranky, cantankerous, gruff, but fair-minded--such is the author's painful misapprehension--old jurist who has just admonished a woman lawyer he believes is dressed for a "TV jiggle show" (a word to the wise in chambers is not Harry's style). The Women's Bar Association (naturally led by "an Amazon of a spinster in her mid-forties, tall, robust, attired in a quite masculine grey flannel suit") wants him to apologize, but there stands Spencer like a stone wall, so his old enemy, Chief Justice August Cartwright, takes advantage of the ensuing brouhaha to try to force him into retirement. Unabashed, Harry goes on about the business of trying Stockwell v. The State, a class-action suit claiming wage discrimination against female employees. Spencer finds the doctrine of Comparable Worth absurd and threatening (and Denker's stacked-deck version of it certainly is), so he writes a sarcastic opinion, and yet finds for the plaintiff, feeling certain higher courts will overrule him. But those crazed libbers at NOW (represented by actress/feminist/ exercise tycoon "Joan Esty") are too dumb to understand his deceptive plans, and Spencer coyly doesn't enlighten them when he flies out to L.A. to receive their Man of the Year Award. In fact, the gals find him such a charming old coot that they inundate August Cartwright and his buddies with letters, and Harry's job is saved. Back in the office, in an expansive mood, Harry reminisces with his secretary: "God, Betsy, remember this case? Esther Freihofer v. Acme Tool and Die. Clear case of reverse discrimination. Claimed she was held up to ridicule because she was the only girl in the office her boss never made a pass at." Shallow and tendentious. Strictly for cracker-barrel cacklers.
Pub Date: April 1st, 1986
ISBN: 0688063861
Page count: 332pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1986


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