Welcome to the world of courtroom drama with a difference – Arthur Jay takes on the state of modern life in his satirical novella Everyone Versus Everyone. In this thought-provoking and humorous tale, Jay ponders the question: if everyone was on trial for making a mess of the world, what would happen? If everyone took on everyone in court, how could things possibly be resolved – and would the trial make a difference? Diverse members of the public are plucked from their everyday pursuits to appear on the witness stand for the prosecution or sit on the jury, and the press and public are going wild for this momentous event. Sixteen trillion dollars is at stake and the defense is filling in crosswords in the courtroom while the hand-chosen witnesses recount their various gripes to the nation – who will win the case?
Arthur Jay draws himself into the story as the middle-class Everyman, dissatisfied with his soulless existence, driving back and forth on the interstate, working long hours for little reward, and always having the overwhelming feeling he has to keep up with the Joneses. “I grew up middle class, and have an obligation to remain middle class…” he observes. Other witnesses make his problems pale into insignificance when they recount their own life stories to the court, but all of their concerns are valid. One character is trapped in a vicious circle of crime and punishment, and the author has an opportunity to suggest that the government should start seeing education as a better investment for the future than bombs.
No current social, economic, or political imbalance or injustice is left unchallenged in this book, and there are undisguised parallels with the risible political situation in America today (there is even a scene in which Donald Trump and George Bush send a message in support of the defense). The brevity of this book enables the reader to feel the sense of urgency propelling the bizarre court case forward, and dialogue/monologue is believable and characterful. It is easy to identify with Arthur, and many a reader will sympathize with the other witnesses as they put forward their case.
Despite a few editing issues, it is a smooth read and a page-turner. Some readers may find that the book only touches on so many important concerns due to its short length, and could perhaps have expanded on these ideas. Its other flaw could be its one-sided court case – readers may have liked to hear more from the defense, and less about the clues he is busy pondering in his crossword, which feels like a bit of a gimmick.
However, the writing is engaging throughout, and there is enough original material to withstand the satire. It is a funny story – and scarily its premise may not actually be so unlikely. Jay will certainly give the reader food for thought – don’t blame others: Everyone is responsible.