Lots of lawyers have hobbies to escape from the high pressures of their legal careers. Jackson Lewis partner Michael Kun’s hobby got him nominated for a Pulitzer.
You Poor Monster, Kun’s newly published book, is about a lawyer’s interactions with a charming and possibly pathological liar of a client. Much of the critical hype around the book stems from its somewhat unusual structure, complete with endnotes that tell a story parallel to the rest of the novel.
“A lot of the structure of the book came from being a lawyer,” says Kun. “I never met a lawyer who didn’t like footnotes.” The structure seems to work, as the book has been nominated for several awards and has been on many “Best of 2005” lists.
Kun wrote his first book, A Thousand Benjamins, during his third year of law school — when most students don’t have time to eat, let alone publish a novel. The book inspired such adulation among his fans that his 13-year writing hiatus caused some readers to start rumors he was dead, either from a drug overdose (he rarely even drinks), mountain climbing (he’s afraid of heights) or an automobile accident (he drives more slowly than your grandmother).
Despite his rumored death, Kun has managed to spend 17 years in employment law, which caught his interest in a summer clerkship after his first year of law school.“I enjoy labor and employment law because the people it involves have personal and emotional stakes in it,” says Kun. “Whether they’ve been discriminated against or accused of discrimination, the cases are all important to them in a very real way. It’s more than dollars and cents.”
In the end, whether it is law or literature, Kun is always after the story. “The only skill that really overlaps is the ability to tell a good story,” he says. “You have to get both juries and readers to understand the characters. You have to reveal the story in the right manner and pacing. If you do anything in the wrong fashion or order, you leave the jury or reader confused and unhappy.”