What a weird situation…. [But Justice Scalia] is an incredible game player, using intellectual honesty as a trope, and that is the kind of thing that David Wallace would just love.

Elizabeth Wurtzel, the successful writer turned lawyer and legal commentator, on the surprising friendship between her close friend, David Foster Wallace, and Justice Antonin Scalia.

(The background behind Justice Scalia’s interest in Wallace, after the jump.)

How did Liz Wurtzel and Justice Scalia come to have a prominent writer as a friend in common? From the WSJ’s Speakeasy:

“He was a very personable fellow,” Justice Scalia says of Mr. Wallace in an interview. “As co-Snoots, we got along very well,” he adds, using a term Mr. Wallace popularized for those whose taste in diction runs to the persnickety. According to a 2001 Wallace essay, it could stand for “Syntax Nudniks of Our Time.”

Justice Scalia made a point of meeting Mr. Wallace during a 2007 visit to Claremont, Calif., where the shaggy-haired writer, sometimes seen in a do-rag, taught at Pomona College. The two had lunch, says Bryan A. Garner, a lexicographer and legal-writing consultant from Texas who arranged the encounter.

Mr. Wallace found it eye-opening, he says.

“He said, ‘Politically, we’re not alike at all, but that was really a fascinating lunch,’” says Mr. Garner, co-author of “Reading Law” and one earlier book with Justice Scalia.

Justice Antonin Scalia

As you may recall, Reading Law (affiliate link) is the newest book by Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner, an extended analysis of the principles of constitutional and statutory interpretation.

What is it like having Justice Scalia as a co-author? One would think it would be an amazing experience, given his status as one of the best writers ever to sit on the Supreme Court (and certainly the most talented writer currently on the SCOTUS).

But working with Justice Scalia has its challenges, as Bryan Garner explains to the WSJ Law Blog:

[Justice Scalia is] a procrastinator.

“I have found what can also be difficult with him is just getting him started,” says Mr. Garner, adding over time, “I have found ways to cajole him to get started on a section that he might want to procrastinate on.”

One way to get him going — not surprisingly, given Justice Scalia’s passionate nature — is to bait him with wrongheaded notions:

“I would come armed with different passages on statutory interpretation,” Mr. Garner says, “things that would irk him, to get the juices flowing.”

Garner and Justice Scalia worked closely on the book for three years. To read more about their collaboration, including where they’d go out to eat after a hard day’s work, check out the WSJ Law Blog. And to read about how David Foster Wallace played a role in bringing Garner and Justice Scalia together as writing partners — the story involves the justice’s son, Professor Christopher Scalia (who has a coveted hot pepper on Rate My Professors, by the way) — check out Speakeasy.

Disclosure: Last month, on my birthday, Justice Scalia sent me a signed copy of Reading Law.

Infinite Justice: The David Foster Wallace Connection to Scalia’s New Book [Speakeasy]
Writers Bloc: Justice Scalia’s Literary Collaborator Tells All [WSJ Law Blog]
Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts [Amazon (affiliate link)]

Earlier: Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner on the Interpretation of Legal Texts


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