I have written one book, which isn’t really a book. It’s my doctoral dissertation. It’s called American Agora:  Pruneyard v. Robins and the Shopping Mall in the United States. It’s about the shopping mall in the United States.     

Writing a dissertation is a generally miserable experience, punctuated by periods of extreme misery. When you finish, you don’t feel relieved so much as exhausted and confused. I suspect it’s similar to being released from jail. The light is too bright. Your eyes hurt. Your skin and teeth have suffered greatly. You have no cash. The world around you has changed, but it’s hard to say exactly how. You just notice things are off. You hear the name of the President of Mexico and it sounds totally unfamiliar. Wasn’t there some other guy? Miguel something or other? Yes, but that was before you went away. There are movies you haven’t seen. New buildings have gone up. Neighborhoods transformed. Children born. You are wearing clothes nobody has worn in a generation. The earth has warmed. All you really know now is that you made a terrible mistake, and you suffered for it, and some part of your life is gone. But nobody is there to help you adjust to the real world and so, desperate, you either end up just going right back in, to become a professor, or you make another mistake, and go to law school. Recidivism is high. 

My dissertation took years to write, most of which was spent on the first chapter. The other chapters, which were actually germane to my subject, were written over the course of a furious ten weeks. Reading it all recently – which I did, clutching an absorbent towel in case I started vomiting – I concluded the following:  a) the first chapter seems like it was written by a madman – which it was – and is valuable only as an artifact of temporary insanity; b) the rest is kind of interesting, and in some places quite compelling, if you’re interested in the history of the shopping mall; c) this will probably be the last dissertation I write on the history of the shopping mall. 

I was in discussions years ago to publish this, but I never did what I had to do to get it ready, and that was that. Maybe someday. Until then, this is my “book.” Hopefully there will be others. 

American Agora:  Pruneyard v. Robins and the Shopping Mall in the United States

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