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Tribe, 42 Tulsa Law Review 961 (2007)


I met Larry Tribe in 1997 at a dinner party in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To
introduce me to her colleagues, Harvard Professor Martha Minow asked me which of the University's scholars I would like to invite to my ideal dinner. As a newly minted professor, it took me a moment to realize this was not an interview question, but her characteristically generous attempt to construct a guest list. I asked for Larry Tribe and Helen Vendler. I had been lucky enough to take a seminar on modem poetry with Vendler as an undergraduate at Harvard. But neither Vendler nor I had met Tribe before.
At one point in the evening, someone mentioned Vendler's book on the odes of
John Keats.1 Tribe mused aloud about who John Keats might have grown up to be if he had lived past the age of twenty-six. (This off-hand reference to how old Keats was when he died was my first experience of Tribe's intellectual range and photographic memory.) "I think he would have grown up to be James Merrill," Vendler replied. I saw Tribe look up at her as she issued this extraordinary pronouncement. James Merrill, after all, was still alive. I thought each recognized a kindred spirit. She was forging the literary canon as he was forging the legal one. I felt I was in the presence of greatness.

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Larry Tribe, gay rights