cover image Blue Streak:: Swearing, Free Speech, and Sexual Harrassment

Blue Streak:: Swearing, Free Speech, and Sexual Harrassment

Richard Dooling. Random House (NY), $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44471-8

In his novel White Man's Grave, Dooling showed he could write hilariously about the absurdities of law. Here, unfortunately, his armchair musings on law and folkways meander between entertaining and dyspeptic. ""[I]n response to gender politics, the government now intrudes into almost every important aspect of our occupational lives,"" exaggerates the author, an attorney specializing in employment discrimination law, obviously on the defense side. His excursions celebrating ""the restorative powers of blue-streak cussing"" are enjoyable enough, especially as he assays dictionaries to show how long-standing neglect of dirty words is being supplanted by the new slang dictionaries. Similarly amusing are his investigations into the literary pedigree of our leading four-letter words. In between, he slaloms through prominent Supreme Court cases concerning offensive speech, teasing out inconsistencies and idiocies, and slams campus speech codes. It is the claims of verbal sexual harassment--""hostile environment,"" as opposed to the easily evaluated quid pro quo variety--that enrage Dooling, and he catalogues some rather silly court cases. But his general argument--that the ""language police"" support the Orwellian idea that law can help end hatred--is somewhat caricatured, unleavened by either reportage or (hint) a fictional approach. Author tour. (Aug.)