July 3, 2017

"It’s surprising how little contemporary fiction has emerged from American prisons. More than two million people in the United States are incarcerated..."

"... and many prisons have writing programs. PEN America runs a writing program that reaches more than 20,000 prisoners. But very little contemporary prison literature is released by major publishing houses, which seldom consider writers who are not represented by agents and which may be wary of the logistical and ethical pitfalls of working with convicts. In 1981, Random House published 'In the Belly of the Beast,' a collection of writing by Jack Henry Abbott, a convict who served time for bank robbery and other crimes. He was befriended by Norman Mailer, who lobbied for Mr. Abbott to go free. Shortly after his release, Mr. Abbott was arrested in New York for stabbing a waiter to death...."

From "An Addict, a Confessed Killer and Now a Debut Author," a NYT book review of a book of stories by Curtis Dawkins called "The Graybar Hotel."

What we learned from Jack Henry Abbott is, don't let your admiration for someone's writing blur your thinking about the character of the person. It's especially absurd to think that if the writing is good the person is good. There's more likely to be an inverse relationship between the goodness of fiction writing and the goodness of a person.

It's one thing to publish Jack Henry Abbott and Curtis Dawkins, quite another to let them loose on the world. Keep them in prison along with the other duly convicted persons, the ones who can't or don't wow us with writing.

Here's a sample of the writing in "The Graybar Hotel":

84 comments:

rhhardin said...

There should be prisoner tweets.

dreams said...

It occurs to me that most people who end up in prison aren't very talented people so it shouldn't be a surprise.

Kevin said...

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver.

Also, as the NYT would say, from Downtown Arkansas.

AllenS said...

How to Pick a Lock and Get Caught -- by #394702

Meade said...

Lock Picking For Dummies

Meade said...

The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen

Ambrose said...

Why would this be surprising?

Ann Althouse said...

"It occurs to me that most people who end up in prison aren't very talented people so it shouldn't be a surprise."

But an awful lot of writers insist that you should only be a writer if it's the only thing you can do. Prisoners are so highly restricted in what they can do that more of them should fall within that category. Plus they all have a story to tell and lots of time to think about it.

But I assume the answer has to do with the low intelligence and/or low education of the people who end up in prison, the lack of a propensity to reflect and work through things carefully, and the noise and craziness of the prison setting.

Susan said...

Surprisingly little contemporary literature comes out of public school graduates.

Filtering for prison attendance is bound to bring the number even lower.

Ann Althouse said...

Maybe people who can tell a good story talk their way out of the charges against them.

Don't take that as legal advice!

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Too bad we don't know the name of "the waiter."
Did Mailer every write anything about the waiter, I wonder?
You know, the murdered person?
Doesn't even have a name...must not have mattered much.
#SomeLivesMatter

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Cake: Shadow Stabbing

Kevin said...

What about Tyrone Greene?

Images by Tyrone Greene ...

Dark and lonely on the summer night.
Kill my landlord, kill my landlord.
Watchdog barking - Do he bite?
Kill my landlord, kill my landlord.
Slip in his window,
Break his neck!
Then his house
I start to wreck!
Got no reason --
What the heck!
Kill my landlord, kill my landlord.
C-I-L-L ...
My land - lord ...
Def!

Laslo Spatula said...

Maybe those prone to Prison today simply prefer different art forms.

The Complete List of Rappers Who've Been in Prison

A collection of short stories might make you a momentary darling of the Book Review Elite, but a Rap Career can bring fame and millions.

I would posit that Ice-T's "Original Gangsta" album has more attention to detail and lives lived than most contemporary fiction.

I am Laslo.

Virgil Hilts said...

"It's especially absurd to think that if the writing is good the person is good."
Vonnegut once posed this Q in an essay, and in college my film professor brought up the same Q - whether there is any great literature that was written by a truly horrible person. Both gave the same answer -- Journey to the End of the Night by Celine -- which made me think that there are probably not many good examples.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

The waiter's name was Richard Adan. He was 22 years old when he was stabbed to death by Jack Abbott.

Wiki: Jack Abbot - Manslaughter & Return to Prison

Don't worry, though; after Abbott was captured (he fled to Louisiana and worked at an oilfield for a while) he "was represented by high-profile defense attorney Ivan Fisher" and "gained the support of such celebrities as writer Jerzy Kosinski and actress Susan Sarandon."

Wikipedia doesn't say if the murdered waiter gained the support of any celebrities. I guess not.

Jess said...

Robert Mason comes to mind, but he was a writer, before he was a felon.

I've worked with felons. In prison, they'll grab onto any special program, such as the Pen America, to escape the boredom, or work programs. The same goes for religion. After release, and the struggle to return to society, I doubt many write, unless they have a special talent; like most writers that are published.

Jess said...

Robert Mason comes to mind, but he was a writer, before he was a felon.

I've worked with felons. In prison, they'll grab onto any special program, such as the Pen America, to escape the boredom, or work programs. The same goes for religion. After release, and the struggle to return to society, I doubt many write, unless they have a special talent; like most writers that are published.

Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sykes.1 said...

With an average IQ likely in the 70's, illiterate, impulsive and violent, the inmates are hardly candidates for novelists. You really need a totalitarian government like the USSR to produce inmates like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Fernandinande said...

Strange that they called an alcoholic an "addict" - technically correct, I guess, but unusual.

Michael K said...

sykes.1 has the explanation.

Rappers don't have to be intelligent or literate.

Fernandinande said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandinande said...

[Neuropsychiatrist and Columbia University researcher Dr. Carl Hart] told AlterNet that claims that using crack for the first time can cause users to become addicted or violent are wildly imaginative. "We have given thousands of doses of crack cocaine in our lab, and we get predictable effects—increased drug dose, increased effects—and nobody has died or become violent."

Rusty said...


"Wikipedia doesn't say if the murdered waiter gained the support of any celebrities. I guess not."
Something I've noticed about the left. They seem to need people as props for their agenda. Mr. Adan didn't fit the bill.
Did Mailer ever express his regrets to the family of the deceased?

Robert Cook said...

"But an awful lot of writers insist that you should only be a writer if it's the only thing you can do. Prisoners are so highly restricted in what they can do that more of them should fall within that category."

Writers who say aren't referring to people who are constrained from doing anything else. They mean people who are compulsive writers, who can't stop themselves from writing, who write even if aren't being paid.

rehajm said...

Inertia and friction. The tablecloth trick with shoes and feet.

Brian said...

The reason is that the great majority of prisoners are dumb. When they're not dumb, they usually lack impulse control, so they mostly write crappy poetry, not stories or novels.

Wilbur said...

Merle Haggard. Served time in San Quentin. Was in the audience when Cash did his famous album from there.

Not a novel writer, but - much like the rap artists mentioned above - reflected more wisdom and insight about society and those who comprise it than most novelists.

Robert Cook said...

"The waiter's name was Richard Adan. He was 22 years old when he was stabbed to death by Jack Abbott."

I remember well when it happened. It was during my first year living in New York and the restaurant where the murder occurred was at one end of the block where my best friend lived at the time, (East 5th Street, corner of 2nd Ave...just two blocks south of where the Fillmore East used to be).

It was the Bini-Bon Restaurant. There's still a restaurant there now, but a different one...one of a few that have opened and closed in that space.

chickelit said...

Following Meade's lead:

"Wuthering Heists"

"To Kill A Mockingbard"

"The Gripes Of Wrath"

"Lord Of The Files"

"To The Lighttower"

Robert Cook said...

"'It's especially absurd to think that if the writing is good the person is good.'
"Vonnegut once posed this Q in an essay, and in college my film professor brought up the same Q - whether there is any great literature that was written by a truly horrible person. Both gave the same answer -- Journey to the End of the Night by Celine -- which made me think that there are probably not many good examples."


Well, it's debatable if Celine was really a "truly horrible person." He certainly wrote terribly anti-semitic opinions prior to the advent of WWII, which indicates some personality issues. (I see it as a more exaggerated form of the compulsivity that animates some commenters here when they go on at ridiculous length about "leftists" and "liberal leftists" and "Dumbocrats" and what-not.) However, he never included any of this in his proper novels--which were scabrous toward humanity in general. He worked as a doctor and served low-income and poor residents of a rundown neighborhood in Paris. As far as the record shows, he never committed any terrible acts.

Virgil Hilts said...

Robert Cook - Yeah, Celine was a rather complicated guy. http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/a-gentler-cline

mockturtle said...

There's more likely to be an inverse relationship between the goodness of fiction writing and the goodness of a person.

Certainly there are plenty of examples of excellent writers whom you wouldn't want to hang out with. While not all are felons or psychopaths, most are/were reported to be cynical and misanthropic. I wish we could separate the man from his art and appreciate the art for its value without exonerating bad behavior by the artist.

Robert Cook said...

"I wish we could separate the man from his art and appreciate the art for its value without exonerating bad behavior by the artist."

But isn't that what we do?

Fernandinande said...

The fNYT description seemed to be hiding something ...turns out Dawkins went out intending to rob people at gunpoint.

https://cases.justia.com/federal/district-courts/michigan/miwdce/1:2009cv00555/59586/7/0.pdf
He testified that Defendant’s “idea was is [sic] that he was going to go out and rob somebody-get money from people was his exact words”(III Tr 538).

roesch/voltaire said...

Shed So Many Tears by Rodrick V. Bankson ,who served twenty years before a new lawyer found evidence to show his innocence, wrote this powerful story of a teens' struggle growing up in Milwaukee's inner city. I've read the book, which he wrote while in prison, as well as met the man, and I strongly recommend it.

David Baker said...

" major publishing houses... seldom consider writers who are not represented by agents"

True across the board. But there's another requirement; credentials, in the form of a certificate from a recognized creative writing program, ideally an MFA from Iowa.

Meanwhile, Cervantes flourished quite nicely in his prison surroundings, but today I suspect Random House (et al) would throw his Don Quixote manuscript in the trash, and with haughty emphasis - knowing they have the power to step on greatness. This would be true of many of the classics, had they waited around for Sleepy Simon and Shyster Schuster.

Which means there's some wonderful pablum out there, if you have the stomach.

Jeff Gee said...

Richard Adan was a friend of a friend of mine (I never met him). A play by Adan was being workshopped when he was killed. My friend was in it. It ended up never being publicly performed.

One thing about the aftermath of the murder that I remember vividly: suddenly all the cheap restaurants in the East Village would let you use their bathrooms. Before Adan's murder, a remarkable number of them didn't. I don't mean the rest rooms for For Customers Only. I mean you could buy a meal there and you still wouldn't get to use the john. The Wiki article on Abbott says the Bini-Bon had this policy because they didn't have accident insurance for customers, but conventional wisdom insisted it was because the restaurants were sick of finding junkies nodding out on the toilet. In any case, post-murder, you could finally use the bathrooms.

The Wiki article says that Adan & Abbott argued about the toilet "and took their dispute outside." Adan's fellow employees said that Adan took Abbott out to the alley with the idea of letting him pee behind the dumpster while Adan stood watch to grant him privacy. Abbott misunderstood.

During Abbott's trial, one of the NY papers (I think the Village Voice) reported that when one of the other waiters testified about why Adan took Abbott into the alley, Abbott looked startled.

William said...

From Dostoevsky to Solzhenitsyn, Russia has had a tradition of producing great prison literature. This is partially due to the fact that Russia also has a traidtion of sending great writers to prison.......O'Henry knew how to tell a story, but he still ended up behind bars.

William said...

Why is past involvement with Communism no stain on a writer's reputation, but past involvement with Fascism is an irredeemable blot?

Robert Cook said...

"Why is past involvement with Communism no stain on a writer's reputation, but past involvement with Fascism is an irredeemable blot?"

What writers are you thinking of?

Chip said...

"There's more likely to be an inverse relationship between the goodness of fiction writing and the goodness of a person."

I really doubt this is so.

Michael said...

Robert Cook

Philosophers: Sartre/communism, Heidegger/fascism

Quickly off the top of my head.

Michael said...

Robert Cook

You have already mentioned Celine and thanks for mentioning him. I read everything of his in English in my darker existentialist youth. Haven't thought of him in forty years.

Lucien said...

Writing is hard because you need to have some clarity and organization of thought. Writing clearly is even harder. Inventing fictional characters likely involves a fair amount of empathy and emotional understanding. These qualities are rare in sociopaths.

Even good writers have trouble getting published.

Crazy Jane said...

Robert Cook said:

"I wish we could separate the man from his art and appreciate the art for its value without exonerating bad behavior by the artist."

But isn't that what we do?

Yes, it is what we do. Serious artists want to be understood through their work, period. Do we "get" Picasso by knowing about his personal life? Is a reading of "The Great Gatsby" enhanced by reading a biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald? I'm pretty sure that Emily Dickinson, a quiet intellectual and withdrawn poet, would like to stab dead the filmmaker who made that terrible, maudlin bio-film about her.

But we do it just the same. W.B. Yeats acknowledged as much: "How can we tell the dancer from the dance?"

Robert Cook said...

"Philosophers: Sartre/communism, Heidegger/fascism

"Quickly off the top of my head."


I'm not up on the reputations of philosophers. Is Heidegger badly regarded today because of his association with fascism?

As for Celine, I've read JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT, DEATH ON THE INSTALLMENT PLAN, and GUIGNOL'S BAND, (twice, as I wanted to remember it when I read the belatedly published-in-English LONDON BRIDGE, aka, GUIGNOL'S BAND TWO. However, I haven't read LONDON BRIDGE yet, years after buying the book).

I read about 2/3rds of FABLE FOR ANOTHER TIME, but he refers to so many events and persons contemporaneous to when he was writing the book, (late 40s-early 50s?) that I found it hard going and haven't finished it.

I also have NORMANCE, (aka FABLE FOR ANOTHER TIME TWO), CASTLE TO CASTLE, NORTH, and RIGADON in my library. Perhaps I'll get to get to them in time.

Robert Cook said...

mockturtle:

I think you misunderstood me. I meant, don't we appreciate the art without considering the character of the artist? Many great artists have been disreputable human beings. This matters to those in their lives, but should not to those who know them only through their art/music/writing. Those artists' works, if they are worthy, are still appreciated.

William said...

Some time back I read a book about the Juan Robles affair during the Spanish Civil War. Robles was a Communist and a Spanish teacher at John Hopkins. He went to Spain to fight the Fascists. He was apparently something of a linguist for he served there as an interpreter for the Russian General who supervised Soviet efforts in that country. Like most Soviet officers who served in the west, he fell afoul of Stalin's paranoia. Stalin ordered him killed and, since Robles was part of that "traitor's" group, Robles was also killed...... Robles was an American citizen. H couldn't just be liquidated. Questions were asked about his disappearance. The Communists then put out the story that Robles was a Fascist spy......Robles was a good friend with John Dos Passos. Passos knew that the story was nonsense and raised holy hell. Thy had not only killed his friend but then slandered the murdered man's reputation. Dos Passos went to Hellman and Hemingway to enlist their help in rectifying the situation. They refused. They said the struggle against Fascism was too important to get bogged down in counterproductive details... When Dos Passos continued to raise a fuss, he was ignored by leftvwng journals, and his reputation took a body black w. The reputations of Hellman and Hemingway continued to soar.......There was an HBO movie about Hemingway and Gellhorn's romance during the Spanish conflict. The movie mentioned the Robles case but glossed over Hemingway's perfidy. It's good to be a leftist. Posterity insurance.

Kevin said...

I think one reason we don't have good fiction coming out of prisons these days is the inmates are too busy posting comments to Althouse's blog.

David Baker said...

""Why is past involvement with Communism no stain on a writer's reputation..."

Even better, current involvement.

Meade said...

"the inmates are too busy posting comments to Althouse's blog."

Super preditors.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Brokeback-G", a Novel by Prisoner T.G. Teggs (excerpt)

…Brokeback-G, he had had enough of that shit. The shitty little apartment, not much bigger than his old prison cell, with the nasty-ass sink and the nasty-ass toilet. The shitty little job, sweeping up a nasty-ass warehouse in the middle of the night while the Mexicans drove around on forklifts, radios blasting out that nasty-ass Spanish narcocorrido shit. The shitty little Life, scraping by and trying to stay clean in the nasty-ass World while the nasty-ass whore in the next room gets slapped around again: yeah, he had enough of that shit, all right…

Brokeback-G went into the Seven-Eleven to get some Forties, and the foreigner behind the counter looked at him warily. Yeah, I'm black: does that mean I'm a criminal? Just because of the prison tattoos on my neck? Back in the day I'd pistol-whip the fucker, just because, and then take what I needed me to take. Now I pays cash in nasty-ass small bills, and he just stares at me, like I'm the Boogey-Man. If it wasn't for his unrequited love for K-Trey, he might rather just go back to the pen…

Oh. K-Trey: how Brokeback-G's mind tumbled and fell when thinking about him. He had never felt this way about a man before, must less a hardcore OG. But there was something he saw in K-Trey -- a hidden vulnerability, perhaps? Sometimes he pictured himself and K-Trey side-by-side, fucking prison bitches in the ass and smoking blunts. It confused him, to think this way: Brokeback-G was No Bitch, word to that…

I am Laslo.

Owen said...

" There's more likely to be an inverse relationship between the goodness of fiction writing and the goodness of a person."

Prof. A, are you serious here, or just trolling? What kind of evidence supports this (very interesting) hypothesis? How would we go about developing the concept and collecting data? In the case of prison writers, we have somewhat more tractable categories to consider: prisoners, and writers. We can ask, as you do, of all the millions of prisoners, how many have produced literary works (poems, short stories, novels, essays, memoirs, etc) that were not just self-published? Something along those lines can produce a statistic, somewhat objective, and we can chew on it.

But the reverse case? Of published writers who are, or are not, "good"? What's the criterion of "goodness"? On either side (the merit of the work, or of the author) but particularly of the author? We can leave "goodness of fiction writing" as simply "it got published, OK?" but on the "goodness of a person [writing it]" what do we do? Beating a spouse? Cheating on taxes? Once caught shoplifting? A chronic offender of traffic ordinances? A raging @ss at parties?

Help.

mockturtle said...

William, the left has always gotten a pass, even in retrospect regarding the HUAC investigations. There was Communist infiltration in the film industry just as there was Communist infiltration in the NYC public school system. But anti-communist [anticos?] are treated with mockery and contempt while 'antifas' with respect and admiration. Just as we have been led to believe that Hitler was more dangerous than Stalin, we are led to believe that the right is always malignant, the left benign.

320Busdriver said...

Apparently "Ear Hustle", a podcast done by 2 San Quentin inmates is finding quite a following. Saw a piece about it on the news recently, but have not explored it yet.

What would Scott Peterson say?

Sally said...

Check out Martin Nalitz, Jr. at Amazon.

Bruce Hayden said...

Blogger sykes.1 said...
"With an average IQ likely in the 70's, illiterate, impulsive and violent, the inmates are hardly candidates for novelists. You really need a totalitarian government like the USSR to produce inmates like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn."

Or, if not stupid, by conventional standards, then lazy, and willing to trade cheating for actual work.

Sigivald said...

The quote just makes me think of a Big Black song.

"Buy a pack of squares.
Arrive at the apartment.
[...]
Shoot him once.
Remember gloves.
Scan apartment.
Kill the dog."

Sebastian said...

@william: "Stalin ordered him killed and, since Robles was part of that "traitor's" group, Robles was also killed...... Robles was an American citizen. H couldn't just be liquidated. Questions were asked about his disappearance. The Communists then put out the story that Robles was a Fascist spy . . . . It's good to be a leftist. Posterity insurance."

There you go again, demonstrating that weird "compulsivity that animates some commenters here when they go on at ridiculous length about "leftists" and "liberal leftists"."

rcocean said...

"He certainly wrote terribly anti-semitic opinions prior to the advent of WWII, which indicates some personality issues."

Doubtful. Celine was a wounded WW 1 vet and his late 1930s politics was motivated by his hatred of communism and his fear that another World war that would bleed France dry. He later recanted and said he'd been a fool.

He certainly was wrong - but to paint him as a "horrible person" or someone with "mental problems" is incorrect. Of course, if Celine was "mentally ill" what are we supposed to say about all the writers who supported Stalin while he was killing Kulaks and sending people like Solzhenitsyn off to the Gulag?

rcocean said...

People's attitude toward Communism - or Stalinism if prefer - and Nazism is rather odd. So similar. Two Totalitarian philosophies that extinguished freedom and killed millions because they were "the wrong sort". And the USA fought against both.

Yet, people just can't get worked up about communism, no matter how many people get killed, while Nazism is the worst thing ever.

We just learned that Hemingway was a communist spy, he actually worked for the KGB in the 1ate 30s and 40s. Result: crickets. But had we learned that Hemingway had been a Nazi spy - you'd be seeing his books burned on every campus in the USA.

rcocean said...

"There was Communist infiltration in the film industry just as there was Communist infiltration in the NYC public school system."

Exactly. People seem to forget that the Communists in Hollywood were doing more then reading the daily worker and writing letters to the editor about Hitler. They were constantly giving work and promotions to their fellow communists over non-Communists. Further, they were doing all they could to ridicule demote or fire anyone who too loudly Anti-communist. One reason Reagan became an Anti-communist is they tried to take over the Screen actors guild and use it for their own purposes.

Joe said...

It’s surprising how little readable contemporary fiction there actually is.

Rockport Conservative said...

As a person who has worked with illiterate adults in teaching them to read, it occurs to me that very few people in prison can read over a 3rd grade level, and writing is not even up to that level. They have a very hard time in life.

Sebastian said...

"People's attitude toward Communism - or Stalinism if prefer - and Nazism is rather odd." Sure, if you want to be intellectually honest and historically accurate. But of course the distinction is merely another tool in the prog culture war, historical narrative front. No leftist will vilify others by comparing them to Stalin or Mao. Making Nazism the supreme evil, and declaring the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei not "sozialistisch," is just a way to whitewash the sins of the international left and demonize anyone who dares to think otherwise.

Ann Althouse said...

"Prof. A, are you serious here, or just trolling? What kind of evidence supports this (very interesting) hypothesis? How would we go about developing the concept and collecting data."

1. I've known some writers and am kind of a writer myself.

2. I think the frame of mind that works in novel writing isn't very nice or charitable and may actually be quite perverse. Think of what you need to do to be funny and engrossing. It can be quite sadistic and cynical.

3. It seems that a lot of writers have bad character elements in the biography: violence, drunkenness, suicide....

rcocean said...

Fiction writers often take their nearest and dearest and put them in their novels as thinly disguised characters - and often show them in an unflattery light.

How'd you like to know Hemingway in Paris - think he was your great buddy - & show up as a nymphomaniac character with a drinking problem?

Plenty of novelists have been sued for libel.

rcocean said...

BTW, William F. Buckley did the same thing with a Edgar Smith, prison killer. The guy was smart and very persuasive and convinced WFB he was innocent of killing a 15 y/o girl. Once out of parole, he kidnapped and attempted to murder another young woman.

Oops. Of course, Smith wasn't a novelist. He was more like Carl Chessman, a "good story teller" who knew how to game the system and convince people he was a "good guy" when he fact he wasn't.

Free associating: If you read about Chessman, he was able to stay out of jail or get light sentences by convincing judges and prison officials he was "misunderstood" or "ready to go straight". From the time he 18 till the time he was finally convicted of kidnapping and multiple rape, he committed a serious crime almost every year, yet convinced the authorities to give him parole. Its quite amazing, if you think 1930s/1940s California had a hard-ass "law and order" penal system.

mockturtle said...

rcocean asks: How'd you like to know Hemingway in Paris - think he was your great buddy - & show up as a nymphomaniac character with a drinking problem?

I think Lady Brett Ashley was rather sympathetically treated in the novel.

mockturtle said...

Composers are another source of art vs. artist dilemmas. Mozart was, aside from the portrayal in the movie, Amadeus, widely regarded as rude, crude and dissolute. But he was arguably the greatest musical genius in history. Bottom line: You don't want to know these people. You just want to enjoy their oeuvre.

Michael K said...

"I think Lady Brett Ashley was rather sympathetically treated in the novel."

She didn't think so. Her real name was Duff Twysden.

I just listened to the book about the novel that tells the backstory. Interesting psychology.

I think I've read everything he wrote. I like the short stories better.

rcocean said...

"I think I've read everything he wrote. I like the short stories better."

His 3rd wife - Gellhorn agreed with you. She liked his short stories the best. A lot of other literate "experts" agree with you too.

Hilariously, in 1970, Gellhorn wrote a letter stating that poor old Hem would be forgotten in 10 years, because the world had moved past his 'Macho' writings.

Me, I like "Papa's" novels and his Short stories - I couldn't choose between them. I must say that the more I've read about him, the less I like him on a personal basis.

rcocean said...

"Composers are another source of art vs. artist dilemmas."

Yeah, they all seem to be oddballs, weirdos, and creeps. Even Beethoven.

Of course, Bob Dylan was different.

Robert Cook said...

"Of course, if Celine was "mentally ill" what are we supposed to say about all the writers who supported Stalin while he was killing Kulaks and sending people like Solzhenitsyn off to the Gulag?"

They were in denial.

mockturtle said...

rcocean sarcs: Of course, Bob Dylan was different.

Calling Dylan an artist is showing either extraordinary generosity or a profound lack of musical taste.

Lewis Wetzel said...

For you youngsters, the Abbot case was the result of a peculiar madness that affected the US heavily in the 1970s: people in the insane asylum weren't crazy, society was crazy. The people in the nut house were reacting normally to an insane society. Us normals weren't reacting normally to this state of being. We were the crazy ones. Ditto criminals. Criminal action was only moral response to a society like ours. Criminals were moral, the rest of us were immoral for going along with a criminal, immoral society.
And, of course, homosexuality was (until the early 1970s) classed as a mental disorder by the DSM because it was associated with certain pathologies (greater chance of drug addiction, involvement in the criminal justice system, suicide and early death, even low birth weight and diabetes). In DSM IV (I think, ca. 1973, the APA gave into threats and blackmail from the "gay lib" movement and took it out of the DSM. The association with patholigies was still there, but now it was society that was to blame. Gays were normal, society was acting pathologically.

Jon Ericson said...

I think J. S. Bach is the cat's pyjamas.

mockturtle said...

Yes, Jon. He is my personal favorite and a good guy, to boot. One wonders how, having sired eight children, he found time to write so much splendid music. But I'm very glad he did.

Mountain Maven said...

I would not buy a book by a murderer.

Robert Cook said...

"And, of course, homosexuality was (until the early 1970s) classed as a mental disorder by the DSM because it was associated with certain pathologies (greater chance of drug addiction, involvement in the criminal justice system, suicide and early death, even low birth weight and diabetes). In DSM IV (I think, ca. 1973, the APA gave into threats and blackmail from the "gay lib" movement and took it out of the DSM. The association with patholigies was still there, but now it was society that was to blame. Gays were normal, society was acting pathologically."


You seem to think homosexuality is a pathology and it was wrong to remove it from the DSM. Your bigotry is showing. To whatever degree homosexuality was "associated" with drug addiction, suicide, the criminal justice system, etc., have you considered that in a society where one's nature is scorned and acting on one's nature with other adults of the same nature was in many places illegal, that this would lead to anxiety and neurosis, (not to mention arrest)? The neurosis and anxiety arose not from one's homosexuality, but from having to deny one's nature to others, to hide, always fearing discovery and disgrace, made to feel shame and to hate oneself, etc.

Linda Fox said...

I was iin an auto accident (I was the pedestrian), and did, in fact, get knocked out of my shoes. One of them traveled over 20 feet away.
And, that was a car traveling at only about 10-20 miles an hour.

Peter said...

"Lock Picking For Dummies.

Unfortunately, real burglars don't pick locks, they just look for back doors that look as they can easily be kicked in (which, really, is most residential doors). Or they exploit smash-and-grab opportunities.

Lock picking takes too long, and besides it is too hard. Did you think burglary was profitable enough to attract high-IQ talent? The victim's loss may be substantial, but it's not as if burglars get $1.00 for a dollar's worth of stolen loot. Burglars aren't even smart enough to realize that burglary offers only high risk for low returns.

And if you think lock picking is tough, try writing a book that a publisher might consider worth publishing.