Writing in prison, and writing to prisoners: the inmate who became the literary darling

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I suppose you can't really fault Norman Mailer for being seduced by Jack Henry Abbott. After all, he had already courted Gary Gilmore (complete aside--how wild was it when Mailer & his son appeared on Gilmore Girls?!), who had been acquainted with Abbott in prison. And then of course there's Mailer's whole romance/own problem with violence (i.e. the stabbing-his-wife-incident in 1960--she didn't press charges, but she did eventually publish a book about it).

Their correspondence deepened, and Mailer eventually helped Abbott secure parole. Mailer and his new disciple (perhaps a surrogate for Gilmore; the ktwo never met) became fast friends in New York--Mailer made the callss to help Abbott publish his memoir, In the Belly of the Beast, and the two "did" literary New York--and even appeared on "Good Morning America" together. On July 18, 1981--just one day before the New York Times published a sterling review of his book--Abbott fatally stabbed a 22 year-old waiter in an East Village cafe. He fled town, and when he was apprehended and brought to trial in 1982 he found himself with some celebrity supporters: Susan Sarandon (her son is named after Abbott), Jerzy Kosinski, and Christopher Walken (though, in typical Walken-ese, he told the NY Post: "I often go to court to watch people's emotions").

I'm wondering, though: how many of you have corresponded with prison inmates? My father is involved in prison ministry, I've taught at a prison, but I've never maintained a written dialogue with anyone serving time & I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has...

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October 3, 2007 - 2:36pm
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