Read In the Belly of the Beast: Letters From Prison by Jack Henry Abbott Norman Mailer Online

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This book collects Abbott's correspondence from prison with Norman Mailer, who provides an introduction. Abbott was a convict who had served the bulk of his life in various prisons across the country. The book is a lauded entry in the repertoire of prison literature....

Title : In the Belly of the Beast: Letters From Prison
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780679732372
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

In the Belly of the Beast: Letters From Prison Reviews

  • Jon(athan) Nakapalau
    2019-05-04 07:50

    This was a hard book to read given how the story of JHA ended. Still one of the best books I have ever read on prison life and how individuals feel when they are 'digested' In The Belly of the Beast.

  • Patrick Belair
    2019-05-14 05:34

    This was a very interesting book written by a very troubled man, who spent the majority of his life behind bars.I feel that Mr Abbott was troubled most likely in his early life also! Many people have bad or troubled early years and don't resort to lives of crime or fighting authority.I'm sure that the criminal justice system was a lot different in the 60's than today but the culture of us vs them still apply's today.I believe that even if one is in the joint a person can change if they want,even with the daily fight for survival in prison.Mr Abbott's thoughts on politics,race, life in prison,survival are most interesting.This book might interest some people and disturb others.Check it out and make up your own mind!!

  • stephanie roberts
    2019-04-25 02:50

    At a young age Jack Henry Abbott was arrested for a petty crime, while in prison he advanced to murder, and almost the minute he was released due to an ego trip of Norman Mailer, he killed again and was returned to prison where he would eventually die by his own hand. I think this is an excellent book if you would like to see into the mind of a sociopath, who can talk a good intellectual game, but he seems to be entirely unable to empathize with any other human. He tells a story in the book about how mean the guards are to him when his mother dies, as though he is again a victim, he however never expresses any grief or sorrow for her loss.

  • Krista
    2019-05-19 00:39

    In a journey that began with Killing for Sport Inside the Minds of Serial Killers, I spent some of last year indulging in true crime stories. One of the things that Pat Brown does in the book mentioned is make a clear distinction between Psychotics (who can be cured, or at least managed, with drugs) and Psychopaths ( who don't have underlying medical issues but are cold and calculating and have the makings of becoming serial killers if social conditions create them that way). Intrigued by one of her stories, and by way of a recommendation found in the writings of Dominick Dunne, I read The Executioner's Song, in which Norman Mailer wrote a "nonfiction novel" about the killer Gary Gilmore and his quest to compel the state to enforce his sentence of execution.As the story goes, while assembling vast amounts of material into his book, Norman Mailer was contacted by Jack Henry Abbott, an incarcerated convict, who offered to educate the novelist about the real inside workings of penitentiaries and the criminal mind, an offer that, based upon the intriguing voice of the convict's correspondence, Mailer eagerly accepted. I found The Executioner's Song to be a bit sterile and bloated, but was intrigued by the relationship that Mailer developed with Abbott and was led toIn the Belly of the Beast.If half of what Abbott writes is true about sensory deprivation, starvation, torture and humiliation by prison guards, constant/crippling fear of other prisoners and the emasculation/infantilization of the prisoners, then it's easy to see his point about how it's the penitentiaries themselves that turn budding psychopaths into full-blown murderers. I could only console myself that he was writing of a time 40 or more years ago and the treatment of prisoners must be improved by now; that I may as well have been reading about a Dickensian workhouse for how removed the situation is from what I assume to be reality today.Mailer thought that Abbott, a self-taught expert on everything from Philosophy to History, was a literary genius, deserving of another chance in society (although to be fair, he didn't agree with the killer's Marxist views). Lending his weight at a parole hearing, and offering a job to the convict, Mailer was able to get Abbott released and they were soon gratified to see Abbott's correspondence to the novelist edited into this volume. Within six weeks, Jack Henry Abbott had killed again and went on the run.I suppose that looking into the aftermath of this book has very little to do with what lies between its covers, but since Abbott spends most of the book blaming society in general and the penitentiary system in particular for the man he had become, it might be instructive to consider (as Pat Brown, the criminal profiler, would) to what extent his psychopathic tendencies were at play during the writing of these letters; to what extent the convict was conning the novelist into giving him another chance at freedom and at killing.I don't know if it's appropriate to talk about whether I "liked" this book or not (I can't say if I did, truly) but it is an interesting piece to fit in to my reading journey of late.

  • Christopher
    2019-05-09 06:44

    My father rarely told the story, but he said he read The Bridge on the River Kwai during his stint in the Marine Corps, and upon reaching the climax of the book--which outraged him--he threw the novel overboard into the sea.And while I didn't throw it into the sea, Jack Henry Abbott's In the Belly of the Beast is the only book I've ever thrown away with deliberate intent--I simply wanted to spare others from having to endure that shitty book--at least that particular shitty book.It's one of a genre we now call 'prison literature,' but calling this literature is generous on a grand scale. Abbott duped no less a writer than Norman Mailer, who sponsored this book and wrote its glowing introduction.I wonder if Mailer ever got a kick out of anyone telling him that the introduction to this book is a lot more satisfying to read than Abbott himself--because I would have told Mailer that if I'd ever had the chance.Abbott was certainly an interesting convict--the prison library made him relatively well-read, he dabbled in Marxist theory, and he had a lot to say about the prison system and its place in society. His thesis is that prison doesn't reform people, it only cultivates criminals--it's like the higher university of criminal science. That's basically his point here, and it's a good one, but it's his only good one.He goes downhill fast by applying his grasp of Marxism to the prison system--likening prisoners to the proletariat on the one hand, and as higher mammals on another. Of course, he engages in a lot of recrimination--which can be expected of a career convict. Marxism, though, continues to be a touchstone for the remainder of the book.It's too bad Mailer's advocacy helped get Abbott released from prison--Abbott killed a man not long after his release and got himself bounced back into prison, where he eventually killed himself.I bought my copy for about 25 cents from the back of a used book store, and I figure I got my money's worth. I'm not a book-burner or a censor by any means, but I do think taking my copy off the streets did the public a tiny bit of good, and I figure that's more than a shitbird like Abbott ever did.

  • Darren
    2019-05-21 03:45

    booo whoo. I'm in prison so im gonna whine about it. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. A bunch of dribble. Gave me a headache and heartburn.

  • Cosimo
    2019-04-22 08:27

    Indemoniata condannaUn detenuto cresciuto dallo Stato: un ragazzo che viene ritenuto responsabile del reato di “assenza di adattamento all'interno delle famiglie affidatarie” e quindi rinchiuso in un istituto minorile. Così il giovane Abbott, figlio di una prostituta di origine cinese e di un soldato irlandese, conobbe la crudeltà e la privazione del prigioniero, del dannato. Poi il primo reato da adulto, emissione di assegni a vuoto. Il carcere, l'omicidio di un altro detenuto, la condanna indefinita. La formazione da autodidatta su centinaia di testi e la corrispondenza con Norman Mailer, mentre questi stava scrivendo The executioner's song. La pubblicazione delle lettere che diviene un bestseller, il successo, la libertà, la società. Infine, appena rilasciato, la violenza che torna, un omicidio e di nuovo il carcere, dove Jack Henry Abbott morì suicida impiccandosi con lenzuola e stringhe alle sbarre della cella. Si tratta di una durissima e nuda testimonianza di orrori e ingiustizie del mondo carcerario e della stessa concezione punitiva insita nella moderna società poliziesca. Sono implacabili e brutali le pagine sull'isolamento disumano, progettato per distruggere l'essere umano, ridurlo a un essere inanimato e privarlo di timidezza e di coraggio, coscienza e speranza. Abbandonare la speranza sembra essere l'unico modo di sopravvivere a quell'inferno. Il penitenziario è il luogo dove agiscono l'odio, la paura e il terrore che altrove vengono repressi o negati, è un oltretomba violento e impietoso, dove gli individui divengono maschere di follia e di disprezzo. Nel ventre della bestia è un canto d'amore valoroso e tormentato, dove l'aspirazione alla libertà convive con un certo orgoglio spirituale, l'onore dei vinti che non hanno mai smesso di credere, disobbedire e lottare per migliorarsi e meravigliosamente conoscersi.

  • Gabriela
    2019-04-28 05:27

    I had never thought about prisons before, so the thoughts in this book were completely new. I was horrified. I guess it's good that despite the overload of human suffering I've read about, I am still always shocked at our ability to harm others and other people's ability to persevere...I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants a different perspective on our society. I would wait to read about Jack Henry Abbott until AFTER you read his story.A few notable passages (Abbott spent almost ALL of his life in juvenile penitentiaries and then prisons):"Can you imagine how I feel - to be treated as a little boy and not as a man? And when I was a little boy, I was treated as a man - and can you imagine what that does to a boy? (I keep waiting for the years to give me a sense of humor, but so far that has evaded me completely)" "And what is so odd about it all is that society has denied me the experience it enjoys (or thinks it enjoys). The oddity exists in the fact that I cannot know from experience what I have missed, so why am I not happy? I have been denied the society of others: it is as simple as that"

  • Wally
    2019-05-21 05:29

    A book you can never like, but have to respect. The best lesson in what it means to be human can come from such documents of inhumanity.

  • Alicia
    2019-04-22 02:53

    Psychopathic and narcissistic behaviors are defined as lacking empathy. No one chooses this state of emotional deprivation. Our error is that we believe those afflicted are unintelligent which simply is not so. Jack Abbott possessed a self taught intelligence but this in and of itself required self examination. One must first be able to ask the question, why. It seemed he had done the work and understood the why's better than most of us. How many of us can write with such honesty? What makes this read so powerful is that it was not written to impress us. Jack comes across as having at last found a place to be heard even understood with Norman Mailer. Clearly Jack's understanding of social etiquette does not fit with what is considered the norm outside of prison. These are two completely different worlds, Jack only has practical knowledge of one world.Quote: “I would sell my soul for freedom from prison, but I won't give an honest day's labor or behave myself for an instant for that same thing.” This alone would scare me.....didn't anyone hear what this man was saying or were they just too taken in with the eloquence of the writing and the intelligence of his point of view? Clearly Jack Abbott was let down in so many ways. This is a thought provoking, intelligent writing, honest, deeply studied and a thorough contemplated self evaluation. Of course it is also true that understanding is only a first step. The real work is in learning to curb one's reactions towards those who displease you. By his own self admission Jack had no intention of monitoring himself. This read is well worth the time and energy. A human study from many different angles.

  • Lauren Gail
    2019-05-17 06:49

    Total bullshit.

  • Suresh
    2019-05-07 05:39

    I so wanted to like this book. I read an excerpt of it originally in an anthology of prison writing, and after reading the book in its entirety, I felt the excerpt pulled out the best parts of the book, about Abbott's childhood experiences in the Utah Industrial School for boys in Ogden. It is an interesting account of Abbott's experience in prison along with his philosophy. It provides a glimpse of the depravity of prison. However, Abbott has very carefully written a book without revealing much of himself. That's what I found to be disappointing. In fact his second book, My Return, while panned by the critics has at least one intruiging bit about Abbott's childhood that was better than anything in this book. I enjoyed the part Abbott's thoughts on racism in America as he told some personal stories about a street fight in SLC as well as his first-hand experience of racism in the South, in Burkburnett Texas, the home of his father, Rufus Abbott. The book is emotionally one-sided for the most part, anger at the system. A kind of anger that translated into a revolutionary consciousness which appealed the NY literati of the time. However, the book never makes mention of how Abbott refused to cooperate with an investigation by a prisoner rights public interest law project trying to reform conditions at the federal pen in Marion, IL. Abbott began to say that the lawyers were trying to coerce prisoners into making up stories about poor conditions in the prison and violations of basic rights, when earlier he had been one of the main reasons why the project had taken on abuses in the Marion pen in the first place. This ended up being used by prison authorities to deny the ability of lawyers to meet with their clients to build their case. It was said by an attorney who was part of the project that Mailer didn't get Abbott out, but his cooperation with the prison authorities at Marion helped to allow Abbott to be transferred back to the Utah State Penitentary in Draper, where he was ultimately paroled. These facts undercut the proletarian prisoner-hero Abbott a bit. Abbott also was reportedly assaulted in Attica in 1997 on account of being an informant for prison authorities. Maybe he felt he did what he had to do to try and get out or save his own skin. I don't begrudge him for that, but what it means is that he's not being emotionally honest when he portrays himself as the incorrigible pro-prisoner anti-authoritarian tough guy he makes himself out to be. I did a lot of digging on my own to find details of Abbott's life. I had hoped the book would shed more light on how he ended up in prison. He tells us in My Return that his mother's parents were rich Chinese who had businesses in Tennessee and that his mom had spent a lot of her childhood in China itself (His mom was born in Athens TN in 1903). However, his mother was also suspected as being a prostitute. Abbott reveals in My Return that he was in foster care in TX shortly after he was born. I wondered why it is he ended up in foster care when his parents were married. His dad at the time was an army staff sergeant in the Pacific theatre. He contracted malaria there and when they reunited after the war, Jack went home with his family, but then his parents divorced and he ended up in foster care again. He was taken in by a Mormon polygamist family until the polygamist father was busted. Then he was, for a time with sculptor Avard Fairbanks. He eventually ended up in reform school for trying to hotwire a car. If Abbott's mom was from a family of chinese businessmen, then why were her children taken from her? By Abbott's account in my return, she apparently seemed to be a good mother. How did the circumstances of his life lead him to jail? Why couldn't he get his life on track later? I got the answers to these kinds of questions to an extent from a Le Monde newspaper article from 1980 and not from Abbott's book. Some of what I read there was actually a lot more revealing of the tragedy of Jack Abbott than his own book was. I suppose his book may not have been an autobiographical attempt, and perhaps Norman Mailer suppressed a good deal of the personal stuff. In fact, if one is ever in Austin TX, UT Austin has the Mailer letters in a special archive where one can read the correspondence of mailer with abbott unabridged to find out perhaps the true story of Abbott's life. The book is too guarded and never lets us in to see the picture of the real Jack Abbott.

  • Laura
    2019-04-21 03:56

    A lot of people on this site are probably too young to remember all the fuss over Jack Henry Abbott in the 80s. He was in prison (I forget what for initially), and started corresponding with Norman Mailer. He eventually became a protege of Mailer, who worked to get him paroled. I bet you can guess the rest: he did wind up getting paroled, whereupon he murdered a young man with whom he had had an argument in a restaurant. He then got sent back to prison, where he eventually died fairly recently.The political considerations aside, his writing really isn't that great, for the most part. He writes powerfully about certain aspects of prison life, but those passages are few and far between. Mostly, the book is composed of his maunderings on various topics, none of which is particularly well-written or compelling. This book is more or less a footnote to Mailer's career, and not an intrinsically interesting one.

  • G.M. Lupo
    2019-04-24 01:35

    It's been a while since I read this, but I recall it being a compelling read. Abbott's description of a life behind bars is very gripping, and I found myself hanging on his every word. The notion of a prisoner with the soul of a poet isn't exactly a novel concept, but Abbott demonstrates that even someone with a history such as his has a story to tell. Be that as it may, he was still a man hardened by the system, as the murder he committed following his parole demonstrated. Being unable to adjust to life outside, he spent the rest of is life behind bars. I've always felt this would make a good adaptation for the stage, and have heard parts of it have been staged before, though I've never seen the results.

  • Jessica
    2019-04-23 08:28

    I became quite irked about 50 pages in when it started to dawn on me this book was rally about Jack Henry Abbott boo hooing about his life in prison. After a while I just wanted to scream okay yes you're in prison and it sucks but come on! You are there because you committed a horrible crime! This wasn't a case of wrongful incarceration or an unjust sentence. What did he expect? I couldn't stand the sob story and felt like he was trying to exploit the reader's pity.

  • Silva
    2019-05-14 02:44

    The story of Jack Henry Abbott is interesting, however I found this book to be a self-absorbed pity fest. Granted he had a hard life, however he was given a second chance he probably did not deserve and proved that to be the case. I will not be crying for him anytime soon and will not be reading this book again. Check it out from the library, don't buy it.

  • Zach
    2019-04-21 07:46

    About 70% of the book - the parts where he actually writes about prison - is absolutely riveting. The remaining 30%, where he expounds on Marxism and a bunch of other stuff, is pretty annoying and basically drivel.The first 90 pages are best read while listening to The Stooges.

  • Jon
    2019-05-02 05:33

    Career criminal describes life behind bars in letters to Norman Mailer. Mailer gets him paroled. Within days he's back in for murder. If not for this back story, no one would read this.

  • Sunsette
    2019-05-16 08:49

    Thought-provoking & disturbing, this is a first-hand account of a man who quite literally spent his entire life in a cage. Jack Henry Abbott started out being shuffled between foster homes. From there he was sent to a juvenile detention facility. At the age of eighteen he was transferred to a prison, where he committed his first murder in the struggle for survival. I have always been all too aware of the many flaws in our penal system, but this book really adds fuel to the fire for me. This is a collection of letters written by Abbott to the author over the course of several years. Abbott paints a vivid picture of his view of the world through the many books he read and contemplated. He also takes you on an unforgettable and heart-breaking journey through his world inside "The Belly of the Beast". This book inspires me. It makes me want to go and take action, to try and make the world a better place to live in, to do my part to help right the many wrongs in our society. Unfortunately, there is no happy ending to Abbott's story. After his book was published, he was released from prison and within weeks of tasting freedom, really for the first time (the second time if you count the time he escaped), he got into an altercation with a 22-year-old waiter and stabbed him to death outside of a restaraunt. When he was sent back to prison, he wrote a book called "My Return" (which I am now curious to read). Later, he was found hanging from a bedsheet in his cell along with a suicide note. I can't help but wonder how different his life may have turned out if he had had a better start. I think that what he became was a product of our penal system. I can't help but feel sorry for him. I see him as someone who could have been a great writer, or maybe even a leader, but never got a chance to have a real life. We'll never know what kind of man he may have become. We'll never know if a monster was born or made. If I had to guess, after reading his letters, I would say a monster was MADE by his misfortune, starting at a very young age. Like I said, this book is thought-provoking, and there are many subjects I could get into, but this is a review and not a discussion. I think everyone of mature age should read it. I give it five stars plus one!

  • Chris Kelly
    2019-05-05 00:46

    I believe many of the other reviews missed the point of the book and that is likely due to the context of its publication. Looking at the text itself, as I did this summer, I was able to glean the author's message without the hype from 'Executioner's Calling.' Abbot describes in detail many terrible realities about the US prison system, but I did not get the sense that he was trying evoke pity from the reader. The question is never does any man deserve justice, the point is to obliterate the misconception of prisons/penitentiaries as tools of rehabilitation during this tragic time of inhumanity. His Marxist views near the end are thoughtful, but not life altering. He is explaining an abstract concept without any civilized experience of practical application. If you bear in mind that his worldview is that of a microscope slide, one can take away useful knowledge of human behavior and understanding under these particular circumstances.

  • Jack
    2019-05-21 01:30

    It's very unfortunate that this book is so indelibly connected with the events that it set in motion, because it's brilliant and painfully honest in its positions. And although it's impossible not to wince when the author discusses his violent tendencies or how he would function in the outside world, for me they don't seem to affect the book's essential value. I don't see this as the sort of book where one tries to determine if the author's conclusions are right, but instead just to understand the mindset that lead him to those conclusions. Intellectually, psychologically, and literally, virtually the whole of this man's development occurred in prison. It colors everything about who he is and how he thinks, including the political philosphies he espouses and the ways in which he rationalizes his own actions, and he conveys that eloquently even as the reader, perhaps inevitably, feels compelled to judge him.

  • Jamie
    2019-05-06 07:27

    When In the Belly of the Beast was written, Jack Abbott had spent most of his life in the criminal justice system, first as a juvenile then as an adult. His well written autobiographical work tells many harrowing tales and how Abbott's life was destroyed. Very good book. Seems important to note that Abbott's version of affairs is likely very self serving and incomplete. In 1981, author Norman Mailer got Abbott out of prison mainly on the strength of Abbott's wonderful book. Shortly after his release, Abbott stabbed and killed a waiter over what was--according to Abbott's version--at most a misunderstanding. Abbott was convicted of manslaughter and returned to prison where he suicided at age 58. There is no doubt that the US prison system is a terrible, horrible place to be. But a big part of the horror is that people like Abbott are in it.

  • David
    2019-05-20 08:37

    I forgot I never posted this book on here. I've read this through a couple times and often pick through it over certain topics. While the narrative is not entirely cogent (he goes off the rails a little when talking about Marx and Lenin), it is a piercing view inside the world of the maximum security prison system, especially pre Civil Rights Movement. For example, his discussion of the use of phenothiazine drugs in the penal system is staggering. Likewise his discussion of prison politics.If there's any doubt that the US-based prison-industrial complex is a terrible harbinger of what awaits our society, this book will remind you. There is no such thing as a "penitentiary," in that penitence is not a factor. Jack Abbott was a sick (albeit brilliant) man, but by the end of the book, you begin to wonder if it wasn't "us," who made him that way...

  • Lori
    2019-05-14 01:42

    Horrifying.

  • Cat
    2019-05-08 05:52

    Truly, the story of Jack Abbott is one of those late twentieth century chestnuts that will endure in literature and film long after people have actually forgotten the man and this book. Abbott is a symbol for the excesses of New York style limosine liberalism. Wealthy author becomes pen pals with convicted felon, publishes book of felon's letters, felon becomes cause celebre, author gets felon out of prison, felon kills someone while out, felon goes back to prison.The main thing I'd like to address is the idea of Abbott as a "hardened criminal" as he is referred to repeatedly in the other reviews.Nowadays, folks in the know don't call people "hardened criminals". The modern term is "career offender". I find both terms interesting. For the first term, I would like to ask the question: What is the difference between a "hardened" criminal and a "Non-hardened" criminal? Well, a hardened criminal has been to prison. Also: When does a regular offender become a "career" offender? Not to belabor the point, but once a prisoner becomes "hardened" or a "career offender", the odds are that he or she will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.People who have not been convicted of a felony like to judge those who do. Judging others makes us feel better about ourselves. It's harder to empthasize with the stigmatized then with normals.I think it is important to point out that the juvenille justice system in which Abbott came of age was, by modern standard, barbaric. Abbott was obviously insitutionalized from a very early age, and he stayed that way. How can we blame Abbott for internalizing the message that society sent him from the time he was twelve?Abbott should be celebrated, if only because he struggled against the label society gave him. That he failed in his struggle speaks not to any weakness of character on his part, it just means that he's a normal person who doesn't always succeed.

  • David Ward
    2019-04-25 01:53

    In the Belly of the Beast: Letters From Prison by Jack Henry Abbott (Random House 1981) (Biography). In the 1970's author Norman Mailer was working with convicted killer Gary Gilmore on a book about Gilmore's life and prison experiences. Jack Henry Abbott, who was himself serving time in prison for murder, wrote to Mailer and offered to correspond with the author about Abbott's experiences in prison to clear up Gilmore's exaggeration. Abbott became a protege of Mailer; In the Belly of the Beast: Letters From Prison is the collected correspondence between Mailer and Abbott while Abbott was incarcerated. The story of what happened to Abbott is much more interesting than the book. After working with Abbott, Mailer eventually became so impressed by the convict that he worked to gain his early release from prison which was ultimately granted. In conjunction with the publication of In the Belly of the Beast, Jack Henry Abbott became the darling of the literary and art world for a time. Six weeks after his release from prison, while in New York on a book junket, Abbott stabbed a waiter to death outside a New York cafe for refusing him access to an employees' restroom. The day after the stabbing, the New York Times published a book review praising In the Belly of the Beast. Abbott was convicted of the crime and returned to prison, where he later hung himself. It's an interesting read; one can only marvel at the poor judgment shown by all parties involved in this sordid mess. My rating: 6.5/10, finished 1982.

  • Feliks
    2019-05-18 08:41

    This is a book that may dazzle you if you don't know the whole story. At the outset this guy seems a champion; he wrote a scathing indictment of the American penal system while held incarcerated deep in its very bowels. Sent to the 'pen for forgery, manslaughter and bank robbery. He is the kind of guy we all want to cheer for, an underdog. Unfairly imprisoned! He is not just a typical felon, he can write novels!This speaks to the American spirit.Next? So, during the course of his term, he writes this impassioned expose (In the Belly of the Beast) and gains grass-roots fame. A bunch of big-name authors rally around him (Norman Mailer, etc) and win him an appeal and eventually he is a freed man. A win for the good guys! He beats the system! Able to walk the streets a free man once again!And then what happens? He friggin' stabs someone. Murder 1! For real. So he's a fraud and a loser and a scumbag after all. And he realizes it. Winds up a suicide.

  • Aaron
    2019-05-18 01:54

    A very interesting memoir of prison life. It's self-pitying and self-serving and some of it is probably embellished. But overall it's well-written and provides some really interesting insights into prison life and into the mind of someone who was almost certainly mentally ill. The Marxism stuff is generally banal and humorously outdated (he writes on a few occasions of how near the worldwide Communist revolution is and how the Soviet Union really isn't all that bad a place to be). However, the chapters on solitary confinement and on inmate culture (with a revealing metaphor involving bullfighting) are excellent.

  • ScottBreslove
    2019-05-08 01:56

    I don't know how to describe this book...it was interesting and informative (in parts), but it was also repetitive and boring (in parts). It was heartfelt and honest and raw, but also preachy and one sided. It is odd reading a book that is culled together from a series of letters, but you are only reading one side of the conversation, it feels as if something is missing. It also felt choppy and disjointed at parts, probably due to the way it was assembled, different passages from different sections of different letters. All in all it was compelling, and makes you wonder if circumstances have changed from how they were portrayed in the book, you like to think yes, but still wonder...

  • Sam
    2019-05-09 03:46

    WHOOOO. This book is crazy. Abbot was locked up when he saw that Norman Mailer had been writing about Gary Gilmore, who was a convicted serial killer. Abbot wrote Mailer, saying he could offer the literary hotshot better insight into prison life. Long story short, Abbott wrote often to Mailer, and this book is a collection of that correspondence. Crazy thing is: Mailer helped Abbott with his parole only to have Abbott kill a waiter at his book party!