Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review: "Orange is the New Black" by Piper Kerman; thinking about Philip Seymour Hoffman

I bet you didn't know that it was from a book, right? I, like everyone else heard all the buzz that the "Orange is the New Black" show was making, and so I did some internet sleuthing. When I found out it was a book I put myself on my libraries waiting list and despite having at least 50 copies, I waited for at least 4 months for my turn to finally pop up. It was a long time to wait for a book that I was only minimally interested in, but hey you never know when you're gong to need cocktail party information.

Piper Kerman is our narrator. She graduated from a great college but didn't have much in the way of ambition or direction. One of her friends has suddenly come into a lot of money and  she discovers it's because she's involved with drug trafficking (at this point it would have been a good idea to back away from said friend slowly and then turn and run.) She and Nora start dating and Piper slowly gets pulled into this world. She never moves any drugs but once she does carry a suitcase choked full of undeclared drug money on a few international flights. She panics, decides this is not what she wants o do , breaks up with Nora and leaves her brush with the criminal underbelly behind her, or so she thinks....

Fast forward almost 10 years later. Piper is living in New York City with her (male) fiancee Larry. Suddenly there's a knock on the door and 2 detectives serve her with papers that she's being charged with money laundering. She streaks down to Larry's office and has to tell him the whole ugly ordeal, and surprise that she might be going to prison. Larry takes it surprisingly well, and supports her when she has to tell her whole family and some of her friends that she will be doing time in a federal penitentiary. She is sentenced to 15 months.

She is lucky enough to go to Danbury, in Connecticut which is the closest federal pen to her family.(At the end of her time she does a short stint in a scary place in Chicago, actually with Nora). The book mostly focuses on how she does her time in prison and who she does it with. The woman are almost universally tolerant and even nice to her. Though they think it's weird that she gets so many books in the mail. She seems surprised that some of the woman are middle/upper class white women like herself who despite being well educated and from good families have done dumb things.Her greatest struggles come from the insane amount of useless rules and never ending prison red tape, and how to fill her long days. She eventually gets into a routine, which saves her sanity. I think she's greatly helped by the fact that she has visitors every single visiting day (weekends) including her best friend who lives in Washington who flies to Connecticut once a month to see her. The most interesting parts of this book are the other people that she serves with (Yoga Janet, Pop) and prison etiquette (don't you ever put your pint of ice cream from the commissary in the ice machine, that shits not sanitary for anyone). 

This book wasn't bad. It was kind of depressing, because the prison system is just so broken. It seems pretty obvious that recidivism is going to be a problem unless major changes are made. I appreciate that Piper owns up to what she does and never tries to get out of it or blame someone else for what she did. I thought the most interesting parts were the prison social norms and etiquette. And the terrible food. If you want to shed those last pesky pounds, go to prison. Maybe it was because I had to wait for so long for the book but I was just kind of underwhelmed by it. It makes for an interesting story but it also seems kind of weird for someone to be making money of a prison stay. Like if a rapper did that would we be okay with it? Would we be okay as long as he wasn't serving time for a violent crime? (I'm officially over thinking this book, wrap it up Wesley!). It's a 3 out of 5 from me!


So I'm very bummed about Mr Hoffman's passing. I enjoyed his movies and really appreciated the variety of roles that he played. I loved him, most recently, in Catching Fire and loved how he played Plutarch. 

Some movies that he acted in were based on book like: "Doubt" (technically a play), "Charlie Wilson's War" (his character learns Finnish for no reason and then is so angry, hilarious), Capote (based on Truman Capote as he wrote his book "In Cold Blood") and of course the Hunger Games series.

I didn't realize that he had struggled with addiction, which makes his passing even more sad because it was so preventable and unnecessary. A quote that popped into my mind when I heard about the circumstances of his passing was said by Stephen King (a man who struggled with his own addictions): "Monsters are real; ghosts are real too.They live inside us and sometimes they win."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for your comment. I'd love to talk books with you!