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Sixth time is the charm for an accidental ‘Epic’

University of Baltimore School of Law professor Garrett Epps wrote his latest book by accident.

What started off as a 60-page guide for his classes has emerged as a 304-page treatise, “American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution.”

“I didn’t intend to publish,” Epps said. “The next thing I knew I had 150 pages of manuscript.”

Photo of Garrett Epps

To write his latest book, Garrett Epps says, he would wake up in the morning and read one piece of the Constitution six times.

Epps along with fellow constitutional scholar Sanford V. Levinson, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, held a discussion about the book and the Constitution in general at the law school Friday.

The more you look at the Constitution, he said, “the more you realize [that] even within the clear points are places that take you into entirely different places where you can speculate,” Epps said.

The book, published by Oxford University Press, analyzes each article and section of the Constitution, talks about the meaning of the language and the ways the words can be interpreted.

“I am embarrassed and remain embarrassed by how much I learned reading this book,” Levinson said.

Epps, who has been teaching at UB Law since 2008, has published two novels and three other nonfiction works. He said he plans to write more in the future — either another novel or a nonfiction work about the laws of segregation.

He spent two and a half years writing “American Epic,” simultaneously working on “Wrong and Dangerous: Ten Right Wing Myths about Our Constitution,” which was published last year by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Epps said he researched “American Epic” by waking up in the morning and reading a piece of the Constitution six times.

“By the sixth time, maybe I am crazy, but by the sixth time, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe all the things that are in this’,” Epps said.

“American Epic” is not written for lawyers, Epps said, but for anyone who knows how to read.

“It’s purely for pleasure,” he said. “You shouldn’t read it to improve your mind, read it because it’s fun.”