Book Review – The Legal Kiss

The Legal Kiss: The Legal Aspects of the Kiss, by Victoria Sutton, MPA, PhD, JD. Vargas Publishing, Inc (2011). Trade paperback, 131 pages, listed on Amazon for $18.99.

“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” – Proverbs 24:26.

Honestly, but skipping the kiss, this book is interesting and intriguing from the start. The Legal Kiss, written by Victoria Sutton, Paul Whitfield Horn Professor at Texas Tech University School of Law, reads like a collection of short essays. The clever titles for each chapter give you insight on where the author is going to take you – whether it be to the Garden of Gethsemane where Judas places an identifying kiss upon Jesus’ cheek or to a modern day New Delhi where Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty are publicly shamed for a passionate back-bending kiss at a charity event. In all of the situations that Sutton takes the reader, she outlines the act of the kiss and its intended and unintended consequences within society and the law.

As an academic librarian, I am always looking at how other people introduce and explain complex or abstract legal theories. For that purpose, I would recommend this book for being able to make obscure concepts of the law come to life. For example, Sutton discusses “the celebrated contractual kisses” in the context of whether or not a kiss (or a bunch of kisses) can be consideration for a contract. And if so, would the court require specific performance for the enforcement of said contract? In my opinion, it is much more interesting reading about specific performance when the performance involves the question of what constitutes a legal kiss rather than whether a duck is adequate consideration for a sales contract. As an added feature, I don’t believe libraries would have a hard time marketing this book to their patrons. It basically promotes itself. I think it would be an easy addition to any new books shelf or on a book display set up around our favorite February holiday because its title and appearance would spark the interest of shelf browsers.

Let me step back and take a hard look at the content, not just the packaging. Before Sutton begins to even explore the legal kiss, she provides the caveat that this work is not a complete treatise on the subject. Take her word for it. It is not. I was a bit disappointed in the lack of authority cited throughout the book and in the bibliography at the end. That being said, Sutton does provide the relevant authority when discussing subject-specific topics, such as citing the Restatements when discussing tort and contract claims, Supreme Court opinions when considering “Kisses and the Konstitution [sic],” and various other legal primary and secondary authority along the way. I believe the scope of the work is intentionally surface level, which provides an air of lightheartedness to the book.  Because of the coverage, I would not recommend this for a book to keep at reference, unless your reference staff is compensated with two lips in lieu of dollars and cents!

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  It was fun to sit and read about all the different ways a simple kiss on the cheek, lips, or a “Kiss my A**” has been twisted and construed by our courts and legislatures. If you plan to kick off your Valentine’s Day celebration with a kiss, make sure you read this book to be sure you’ll steer clear of any legal ramifications! Or if you do get caught kissing (say in Times Square) and someone makes big bucks off of the picture of you and your partner, know that you can consult this book for your chances to cash in. After reading this book, I kiss off with a positive and doting review.

Elizabeth (Liz) McCurry Johnson, JD/MLS, is a reference librarian and an adjunct professor for the course Health and Medical Research for Lawyers at Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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