In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison

In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison



The Pequod Review:

Jack Abbott achieved notoriety as the convict who was freed on parole in 1981 following the intervention of Norman Mailer and others, only to stab a Lower East Side restaurant waiter to death six weeks after his release. In the Belly of the Beast is his 1981 memoir (if you can call it that) describing his experiences in prison. Some of his stories may be true, but mostly the book is a giant exercise in self-delusion and self-rationalization. Abbott mythologizes his experiences and blames his crimes (which continued while in prison; he killed a fellow inmate) on capitalism, inhumane prison conditions, and in general everyone and everything except himself:

Paranoia is an illness I contracted in institutions. It is not the reason for my sentences to reform school and prison. It is the effect, not the causeā€¦ Imagine a thousand more such daily intrusions in your life, every hour and minute of every day, and you can grasp the source of this paranoia, this anger that could consume me at any moment if I lost control.

The royalties from this book were awarded to the widow of the murdered restaurant waiter, so at least you can read it with a guilt-free conscience.