Books: Resister

IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST by Jack Henry Abbott

Random House; 166 pages; $11.95

Since the 19th century, literature has housed a number of professional resisters, from the cast of Dostoyevsky's The Possessed and Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener to Camus's The Stranger. The letters of Convict Jack Abbott extend and ultimately strain that tradition. Part polemic, part existential survival manual, In the Belly of the Beast was culled from 1,000 pages of handwritten missives to Norman Mailer, then composing The Executioner's Song. Its message is brief, but it echoes like a slammed door...

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