18 March 2007

You Got Nuthin' Comin'

Just finished Jimmy Lerner's You Got Nothing Coming: notes from a prison fish. I had no idea it would be so funny. The "peckerwoods" or white-trash cons our narrator spends his time with are meth-fueled neo-Nazi hillbillies with a penchant for gangsta rap lingo. The stories depressingly remind me of my daily charges in the "alternative" department of a public high school district. The inside world of a Nevada penitentiary is creepy, especially when you see Correctional Officers with the same mentality and behavior displayed by the prisoners. The book lags a bit as the daily routine settles in for Mr. Lerner, but it finishes well with a poignant description of his friendship with a Lifer named Chico, and the harrowing memoir of his descent from middle-class "normalcy" into drinking and drug abuse (and, ultimately, manslaughter). Interestingly, Lerner's satiric send-up of his days as a corporate clone might be the best part. He has a smart-aleck's knack for hitting the right buttons, and the constant use of management jargon to describe prison events works beautifully. Imagine a hard-boiled, bitter Dilbert. In fact, Lerner notes that Scott Adams, the now-famous cartoonist, was briefly a cubicle away from him when they both worked in Danville, CA at a phone company HQ. I picked up this book on remainder from my favorite source--the Edward R. Hamilton catalog. If you don't get ERH, you are missing out.

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