The Judge and the Case That Came Back to Haunt Him
The following is the text of a speech I gave at Stegner’s home in May 2009, two days before his death. I have tried to cut out the most personal stuff, but that is impossible to do in more than two thousand words. The last page of the speech contains a few corrections that the author of this article and I made during the course of the evening.
I met James Stegner in my own back yard while staying at the house of the editor of his first book, “Ithaca: A History.” Over a long conversation we discussed “Ithaca” and “The Last Lecture.” I was excited to hear that he had a new book in the works about the two cases, the one in which we were both involved and the one where I had taken a long and very public fall from grace by speaking in public at Princeton.
After a few more drinks with him, we became friends and stayed in touch about the cases. As well as being fascinated by the story of the prosecution and the defense in the case, I was fascinated by the story of the two cases, the one that he had taken in his “Ithaca” novel, and the one that was the subject of his one-man show, “The Last Lecture.”
I first met Stegner about ten years before I had ever read his novel, “Ithaca.” At that time he had been working on the “Ithaca” novel for a couple of years, and I happened to have read his first novel, “Ithaca” for a couple of years before I read “Ithaca” myself. We became friends in the course of a long conversation about my involvement with the trials. As we talked, we began to realize that while we were both fascinated by the story of the case and by the story of our lives, we had more in common than either of us wanted to admit.
We had the same tastes in reading. We were both readers of history,