Krakoff, Jere. “Something Is Rotten in Fettig: A Satire”, Anaphora Literary Press, 2016.
The Travails of Leopold Plotkin
Leopold Plotkin is a butcher whose business is failing. He lives in a place called Republic whose legal system is much like our own here in America. After Plotkin committed an act that begins a major crisis in his home state, he becomes embroiled in conflict with every branch of Republic’s government and he abhors conflict. He refuses to go back and undo what he had done (and I am fully aware that I have not mentioned that), he is, after months of prison, prosecuted by the Republic’s ethically-challenged Prosecutor General. He is tried before a congenitally pro-prosecution judge, and defended by a reclusive lawyer who has never been in a courtroom. Plotkin has only one witness—an unhinged resident of the Warehouse for the Purportedly Insane. Everybody, including Plotkin and his small circle of supporters, expects that he will be convicted and receive the longest sentence allowed by law, if not longer.
I doubt that I have to point out what is being satirized here but just for clarity I will say that everything in the legal system has its day— prosecutors, public defenders, judges, juries, expert witnesses, high courts, low courts, trials, and potential perjurers. (We also get caricatures that accompany chapters are drawn by the author). So now I have you wondering with poor Leopold Plotkin’s crime was and it was that he smeared mud on his butcher shop window.
Looking at Leopold’s character, we learn that when he was a youngster, he was socially awkward and he got the butcher shop from the estate that his family left. He was never comfortable showing his excellent skills in cutting meat to his customers so he does not have many customers coming into his shop and decides to cover the window with mud so people cannot see in. What he did not expect was the reaction of his fellow residents of Fettig who saw this act as an “affront to capitalism”.
There were loud protests and demonstrations that became so loud that Leopold was arrested and sent to the Purgatory House of Detention just for instigating the Mud Crisis. With this, the reader sees that he is going to be taken on a very funny tour of justice in Fettig. Of course Leopold is put on trial and it is up to the prosecution to prove “beyond a Nagging Doubt” that he is guilty. The odds are stacked against poor Leopold and the judge, a
Justice Stifel is so convinced of Leopold’s guilt that he overrules every objection from the defense saying that each is an interruption. He asks the jury for a verdict before a single witness has even said a word. In one aspect, Leopold is lucky—he has a friend and employee, Primo Astigmatopolous and a friend from his youth, Ana Bloom who are on his side, so there may be a chance of an acquittal.
The satire is very heavy here and I must say that I laughed all the way through the read. Leopold is such a sad little character that I found myself rooting for him on every page. There is even a hint of tension during the trial. Author Jere Krakoff seems to have a great time naming his characters and creating quite a cast here that includes lawyers, witnesses and judge. He pokes fun at some of what we see on he nightly news.
Leopold’s pro bono lawyer, Bernard Talisman as well as Leopold’s family are so sure that he will lose the case that they have already packed up his personal possessions and his uncles who have promised to visit him in prison every third weekend. A local magazine “The Monthly Contrarian” (that is rarely read” states “Regrettably, there is no realistic possibility for an acquittal” as an editorial. Everyone, including nebbish Leopold, seem to think Plotkin will be convicted. While Leopold is no “great shakes” , he is an angel compared to the terrible and awful characters who are against him.
Krakoff’s prose is lyrical and lovely and this is interesting when we consider what the novel is about. What we read is not entirely implausible and I am sure there are things we read here that we have thought about more than once. To find Leopold Plotkin guilty of something seems to be a necessity and we see that justice must prevail no matter what. Here is a society that exists because of bribery and kickbacks, one where dishonesty is a way of life and justice is not served. We would not want to live there but we do enjoy reading about it.