Karen Valby
February 22, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

You Got Nothing Coming: Notes from a Prison Fish

Current Status
In Season
Jimmy A. Lerner
Broadway Books

We gave it a B+

In another lifetime, Lerner was a middle-aged middle-management type; his cubicle at the phone company literally faced that of Scott Adams, the man who would eventually chronicle the dreary workaday life in Dilbert. But then the 47-year-old father of two befriended a drug addict and their twisted relationship ended in a drunken night of rage. Lerner was sent down a two-to-twelve sentence for voluntary manslaughter at a Nevada state penitentiary. Its nightmare of violence and noise is a familiar one, as seen in any brutal hour of Oz, but the book also depicts the remnants of humanity that lie within, like the lifer who keeps a cat and a chess board in his cell. In the epigraphs that begin the book’s three sections, Lerner quotes Dante and Nietzsche. But the ”dawgs” he meets in prison have their own sense of hell-bound poetry, a language drenched in anger and the fear of regret. B+

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