Saturday, June 26, 2021

"The Privilege"

D.W. Buffa was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. After graduation from Michigan State University, he studied under Leo Strauss, Joseph Cropsey and Hans J. Morgenthau at the University of Chicago where he earned both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science. He received his J.D. degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Buffa was a criminal defense attorney for 10 years and his Joseph Antonelli novels reflect that experience.

The New York Times called The Defense "an accomplished first novel" which "leaves you wanting to go back to the beginning and read it over again." The Judgment was nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel of the year. The latest Joseph Antonelli novel is The Privilege.

Buffa applied the Page 69 Test to The Privilege and reported the following:
In one of the marvelous short stories of Jorge Borges he tells of the Aleph, “the microcosm of the alchemists,” a “small iridescent sphere of almost unbelievable brilliance,” a sphere with a diameter of “probably little more than an inch;” a sphere in which could be seen, and seen simultaneously, everything that had ever existed. Which brings us to Page 69 and the dubious suggestion that opening a book, any book, to this particular page will tell you whether it is a book worth reading. I did this, opened The Privilege, the latest of my late night scribblings, to page 69, and discovered to my astonishment that, like the Aleph, everything was there, on that one page. James Michael Redfield, the genius, perhaps the evil genius, in the story, is there, and so is Tangerine, the woman that Joseph Antonelli, and everyone else who has ever seen her, is in love with.

Antonelli, who tells the story, tells us that he “carried with me a lifetime of other people’s secrets, my memory a catalogue of violence - murders, rapes, and thefts - crimes that had gone unpunished, crimes that had never been solved, all of them things I had learned from the men and women I had represented in the past; confessions made with full knowledge that they could never be repeated, that whatever they told me, however bestial, however shameful, was protected by a privilege that was more sacrosanct than anything they ever had with their priest.”

The title, The Privilege, refers to that, the attorney-client privilege. It was all that James Michael Redfield wanted to talk about the first time he came to Antonelli’s office. “He wanted to make sure I could never reveal to anyone anything that passed between us.” More than that, “He wanted to make sure that I would become the silent accomplice in whatever he chose to tell me about anything that had happened in the past.”

Page 69 of The Privilege comes after a trial Antonelli would have lost if Redfield, after making sure that the privilege meant that what he told Antonelli would always stay secret, gives him the evidence that makes certain an innocent man is not convicted. Page 69, the end of one trial and the beginning of others, is the pivot on which the action of the novel turns. Redfield, Antonelli notes on this same page, is different, “not just from any client I had had before, but from anyone I had met.”

If Redfield threatens to control Antonelli’s life, Tangerine, the woman he lives with, saves his sanity. “Her voice, as magical as the moonlight on the bay outside, made me forget everything but her.”

Is page 69 unique in what it tells about the story? Is it like the Aleph in that fable by Borges, or is it not something almost normal, something that could be found reading some other, random, page? Years ago, in a book few have heard of and fewer still have read, Ernest Hemingway revealed what every writer, every serious writer, should know, that if you can tell the story so that the reader “can get to see it clear and as a whole. Then any part you make will represent the whole if it is truly made.” The story, the whole story, is told on every page.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Q&A with D.W. Buffa.

My Book, The Movie: The Privilege.

--Marshal Zeringue