Chris's Reviews > The Seven Minutes

The Seven Minutes by Irving Wallace
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's review
Apr 26, 2008

really liked it
Read in April, 2008

This is a true story: I first saw The Seven Minutes at a resale shop, immediately bought the weathered copy for 50 cents and about 120 pages into it, the spine cracked something fierce, and no matter how delicately I tried flipping the following pages, preservation was fruitless; I really liked where it was going but I also wasn’t about to page through it and simply discard every page as I finished it, which is where that exercise would have headed. Oh well, I just read something else.

About a year later, I came across the same book, in the same store, and figured ‘what the hell’, and bought yet another 50 cent copy. Now, I am not an authority on the subject ('resale shop inventory and its reflection of public acceptance'), but I think this unlikely circumstance is a pretty good indication that the book pretty much sucks; finding two copies averaging about 35 years-old apiece within a year of each other, donated (of all things) to the same store located in a crappy little town about 30 miles from Chicago. Let’s face it, the book pretty much has to suck.

Well, here I am spitting out the feathers after another serving of crow. I actually enjoyed this book somehow! Not only were the origins of my obtaining this book enough to make me wary, but let’s just take a look at the elements involved; none of which I am particularly fond of:
Courtroom Drama: Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a bitch-slap from the farcical entity known as the American Justice System doesn’t need to immerse themselves in a novel concerning ‘courtroom drama’. Once involved in such an unfortunate chain of events, reading about a bunch of high-falutin’ windbags and morons plying their trade under the auspices of serving the public is just f*cking ridiculous, and can only serve to reopen deep & jagged wounds which the tender touch of time has slowly started to heal.
Censorship: Some people will carry on in regards to this issue with a zealousness bordering on the imbecilic; either defending the need for censorship with such preposterous evidence as to make one wonder how they manage to survive with a turnip for a brain ("Oh look, Mr. Pivotal Character is screwing a squid, heaven forbid the children should read this... they'll all be compelled to screw squids!"), or boneheadedly acknowledging utter garbage as reputable fare worthy of literary praise for reasons unbeknownst to me ("Oh look, Mr. Pivotal Character is screwing a squid, we can now certify this work justifies humanity’s introduction into the grand chain of existence").
Pornography: I find it distasteful; a pitiful excuse for art or entertainment, shameless exploitation of men and women for unsavory ends, the culmination of the distilled dregs of degradation. “Style, structure, imagery should never distract the reader from his tepid lust….the passages in between must be reduced to sutures of sense, logical bridges of the simplest design, brief expositions and explanations, which the reader will probably skip”: thus Nabokov on smut. You can disagree with me, but are you really going to lock horns with the lauded sensibilities of Nabokov?

Actually, scratch that. I had an epiphany recently which brought upon the uncomfortable revelation that I can probably be classified as a fan of porn, if not an outright addict. Upon alphabetizing my media after moving a week ago, it appeared that there was a shelf of movies without a single pornographic film……but at the 11th hour, while opening a box labeled ‘Chris – Misc.’ what should appear but my g/f’s copy of ‘Jail Whores’, finally giving some porn representation to the “H” through “L” rank and restoring balance to my life. Granted, this isn’t technically my DVD, but only those reading this review will ever be any the wiser.

Anyway, The Seven Minutes didn’t appear to have anything remotely adhering to my own narrow scope of reading preferences, not only for the reasons above, but also because it didn’t meet my two basic criteria; it was not a Harlequin romance nor was it written by Dr. Seuss. Despite the glaring fact this was probably way above my own stunted reading level, I gave it a shot.

Well-meaning attorney Michael Barret has paid his dues slumming it as a defense attorney for the unfortunate in the gritty 1960’s; for years he’s stayed true to his youthful idealism that doing the right thing trumps getting paid (his stoner clientele has paid him with everything from incense to patchouli-reeking seashell necklaces) but things have finally turned around. While he has a standing offer to join forces with his old chum, Abe Zelkin (another defense attorney with his same basic tenets on justice), his splendid work for his current firm has brought his skills to the attention of the Los Angeles county elite, where he is quickly endeared by mogul Willard Osborn, which leads to his courtship of Osborn’s daughter, society woman Faye. To Michael, there is no quandary as to which path to follow, he can partner with his old pal Abe and probably clip coupons for his remaining time in this mortal coil, or he can hop on the gravy train with Osborn Enterprises and continue laying the wood to Faye: all he has to do is pack up his fading idealism, cram that crap into a shoebox and toss it in the attic, never to see the light of day again.

As Michael prepares to ascend into a superior social caste, a seemingly benign incident takes place; his old college friend, Phil Sanford, has inherited his father’s esteemed publishing house, and has recently delivered “The Seven Minutes” by expatriate J J Jadway to the yearning American public. A sting operation has arrested a bookseller in Barret’s back yard, and since Sanford has helped him out of some tough binds in their youth, he promises that he’ll clear up the matter of the bookseller’s arrest on charges of distributing pornography, as The Seven Minutes is a slender volume in which every single page hinges entirely on the act of sex and/or a woman’s thoughts during the seven minutes leading to her climax. In these thoughts she doesn’t just get stuffed by the dude currently playing hide the salami, but from other lovers, historic figures, and religious men of import. Barrett assures Sanford that he’ll have this wrapped up in no time, but he’s about to find himself in the eye of a shitstorm in no time.

Behind the scenes in LA County, tycoon Luther Yerkes is looking to replace an incumbent senator who’s pissed him off a few too many times, and believes that popular D.A. Elmo Duncan is the man he can jockey into this position, should he run for office on the heels of a successful trial which appeals to the public at large. Yerkes and his scheming staff initially think that the banning of The Seven Minutes would be a promising case, but when it isn’t panning out, divine intervention delivers them a rare gift in the form of a rape perpetrated by the son of another high-society douche: a rape which has occurred after the kid’s reading of The Seven Minutes. Yerkes and Duncan’s course is set; they have to somehow get the kid-off scot-free (shit, all he did was rape someone, after all, and his Daddy has all the good tee-times at the local country club) and use his actions to prove The Seven Minutes is detrimental to all who read it and score a huge victory for morality.

Things don’t look promising for Barrett, who happens to be quite the literary scholar and a voracious reader with an appreciation for The Seven Minutes, and determines that he has to defend the book. Will he risk the promising offer that the Osborn clan has extended to defend this trash? Can he possibly hope to battle the social elite and their insurmountable resources, which have been galvanized under Yerke’s banner? Can anyone possibly locate any remnant of the deceased J J Jadway that might allude to proof that he didn’t write it just to make a quick buck off smut? Does he have any reason to trust Zelkin’s research assistant on the case, with the shady name of Kimura?

The book is definitely a compelling look at why the American justice system is the best that money can buy, with the plans-within-plans of the upper echelons covering their own asses while sucking the sweet nectar of life from the ordinary peons out there. Most of the central characters are reasonably interesting, although others are one-dimensional archetypes; there’s the well-intentioned librarian, the failed drunken poet, the nefarious and plotting pollsters in Yerkes employ, the overbearing affluent fathers, the uncouth and sleazy producer of stag films.

The one thing that does bother me is the climax of the novel, in which everything is wrapped up nicely and placed in a gift box, with a cute little bow tossed on top for good effect. Had the last 50-75 pages maintained the course of the rest of the novel, I would see why Pocket Books called it ‘sensational’. As a last little FYI, this book is a pretty good source of recommendations for previously-banned works and other literary gems.

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