, February 10, 2014
(view all comments by lukas)
The story surrounding this book would make a better book than the book itself (if that makes any sense). Jack Henry Abbott was a career prisoner who struck up a correspondence with Norman Mailer, who was writing a book about another prisoner, Gary Gilmore, which became "The Executioner's Song." Abbott, encouraged by Mailer, kept writing and was eventually released and then killed somebody. So, yeah, you could be the biggest advocate for prison reform and still find this book a little repellant, as well as Mailer's sponsorship. Mailer, attracted to violence in an adolescent manner, maybe thought he was discovering the next Sade or Genet, but Abbott, while exhibiting some raw, brutal power, is not much of a writer and a rather incoherent philosopher and political commentator, which he seems to think he is, touching on Marx, Engles, Sartre and Nietzsche without making much sense of them. This muddled, half-assed philosophizing is also found in Mailer, so he might have recognized himself. He also has lots of nice things to say about Communism (like the Communist press always tells the truth) and about himself (like he's read a lot of important books). Interesting to read next to Mailer, but a deeply flawed, morally queasy work.