Professor of Law and humor writer Jay Wexler discusses his eight-month sabbatical in Buenos Aires, and forthcoming novel Tuttle In the Balance.
Professor Jay Wexler returned to Boston University School of Law this year after a sabbatical spent teaching in Buenos Aires on his second Fulbright Fellowship. He was awarded his first Fulbright in 2008, and taught a church-state course at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.
Between teaching, writing, and traveling, Wexler kept busy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He taught a course in English on US Constitutional Law at the University of Buenos Aires Law School. Throughout the course, he was consistently impressed by his students’ work. “They were super smart, and not shy to speak up in class,” Wexler says. “And they know more about US politics than most people in the US.” In addition to teaching, he frequently lectured on both religion and law and environmental law for the State Department at nearby universities and scholarly institutions.
In the midst of teaching and lecturing, Wexler found time to write. During his time abroad, he finished writing his book, When God Isn’t Green: A World-wide Journey to Places Where Religious Practice and Environmentalism Collide, to be published on March 15, 2016 by Beacon Press. He also began writing a new book, Our Non-Christian Nation: How Wiccans, Atheists, Satanists, and Other Non-Christians are Demanding Their Rightful Place in American Public Life, now under contract with Stanford University Press.
Now, back home in Boston, Wexler has the December 7 release of Tuttle in the Balance to look forward to. The book, his second piece of fiction but first novel, follows Supreme Court Justice Ed Tuttle—who readers met in Wexler’s first fiction book, The Adventures of Ed Tuttle, Associate Justice, and Other Stories—as he falls into a mid-life crisis during an important term. Tuttle finds himself becoming unstable, developing an interest in Taoism, and facing critique from his fellow judges. “I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that a fracas—a brouhaha, if you will—may or may not break out in the justices’ conference room,” Wexler says.
Even in his academic pieces, Wexler knows how to make a reader laugh. “I’ve written humor my entire life, starting with a puppet show I penned in third grade called ‘Hey Be Cool,’” he says. Rejection from the Harvard Lampoon in college steered Wexler down the path toward becoming a law professor, but he still maintains his love of humor. Between fiction and nonfiction, he embraces both, and often finds inspiration for his fictional work in non-fictional events or circumstances. “I feel like I know what I’m doing more with the nonfiction, but when I write a piece of fiction that works, that gives me a different sort of happiness,” he says. Wexler has written two nonfiction books, Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church/State Wars, and The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of its Most Curious Provisions, and is well known for his joke study on which Supreme Court judge elicits the most laughter during oral arguments.
In addition to his newest work of scholarship, Our Christian Nation, Wexler sees many more publications in his future. “I’m also trying to write a new novel,” Wexler says. “It’s called The Sabbatical, and it’s about a law professor on sabbatical in Buenos Aires. Real creative, right?”
Tuttle in the Balance will be promoted with a brief December book tour, starting with a discussion and signing event at the Harvard Bookstore on December 8.
Reported by Johanna Gruber (CAS’16).