Sadness tinged this Christmas and New Year's for me, as it did for so many others, because of the news of Larry Ribstein's untimely passing. Amidst shepherding children through holiday traditions, and up and down the East Coast, I have been reflecting on what Larry meant to me.
Here's the Larry story I kept coming back to:
It's early September of this year, and I'm struggling with framing the theoretical portion of my latest draft. It's crunch time: I've arranged weekend babysitting because I need to get this puppy out the door. The good news: I have a new spin! The bad news: I need feedback. Any law professors at their computers this weekend are unlikely to be able to spare the time for me. Except...
Friday night I email Larry, asking him if he has the time to look at a draft. He writes back: "sure".
12:10 Saturday I get comments back from Larry, and a suggestion for a source to help with reframing.
1:57 I've read the source, give the framing another whirl, and email him back at with a follow-up question.
2:08 he emails me with an answer.
2:25 I'm emailing again, suggesting an alternate frame and asking for his thoughts.
2:37 Larry emails back, suggesting a change in emphasis.
2:45 I email back.
3:01 Larry responds.
3:24 I email back.
4:00 Larry responds.
Finally, the section is done. And it's stronger and richer than it was just 24 hours ago. I send my last email at 4:07. It reads: "You're hilarious. And a treasure. Thanks again, U"
On a Saturday afternoon. For a junior colleague. At another institution. Even as it was happening, I couldn't believe how lucky I was. Larry was smart, he was blunt, he was quick, he was generous. Each quality is rare taken individually; together, they are unheard of.
But it was his love of movies that really got me. Larry organized the best conference I think I'll ever go to. I mean, instead of having a list of articles to read, we had a viewing list--I spent March 2009 trying to watch as many movies as possible. For that alone, I'm in his debt.
After all the hype and Oscar drama, I finally saw Avatar when it came out on DVD. I was not impressed. This manipulative simplistic story almost won Best Picture? Really? I emailed Larry to ask what he thought. His reply was terse: "I wouldn't see Avatar unless strapped to a seat and threatened with torture."
God, I'll miss you, Larry. We all will.
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