RB Love's Reviews > Education of a Felon

Education of a Felon by Edward Bunker
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's review
Jun 29, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: books-read-2009
Recommended for: Rick Parmenteer
Read in June, 2009

Terrific. Romantic. Horatio Alger to the 10th power. High power. —Eddie Bunker was Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs. He did 18 years over three separate stints, mainly in San Quentin. He grew up, really from the time he was nine years old, institutionalized. That he became a writer in prison with his formal education ending at 7th grade is tribute to his own perserverance, belief in himself and life. It is also an interesting meditation on nurture vs. nature, born intelligence, native intelligence, street smarts and smart smarts. Bunker was seemingly born intelligent, became cagey and aggressive due to his environment and was then able to survive in the hostile situations life dealt him - to realize a great deal of his potential as a writer, an artist, a man and even, very late in life, a husband and father.
Bunker's rendering of 1940's and 50's Los Angeles is great notalgic writing. You go there with him. I was reading parts of this book aloud to my wife and she loved it. She called it, "so romantic."
His narrative is so detailed with regard to how things happened in his life, key moments, fights, capers, clothing, names, faces, the construction of prison weapons and the culture, politics, bureacracy and language of the prison system, that at times I found myself questioning how he could possibly have such recall. He also takes you through a lot of his self education and his recollections of what was going on around him as he was digesting certain books. It's good, good stuff, through and through. Excellent book.
"It is phenomenal how fast a little toot of smack will take away the agony...It cancels pain so hidden that you were unaware of its existence"
"back in prison for the third time. Race wars. The '60s. Mentions of Angela Davis and other rabble rousers."
"Imagine someone with a seventh-grade education wanting to be a serious writer and accomplishing it without any help or encouragement. Indeed, the prison psychologist said it was another "manifestation of infantile fantasy." p.298.

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Reading Progress

06/19/2009 page 80
25.0% "Terrific. Romantic. Horatio Alger to the 10th power. High power."
06/24/2009 page 207
64.69% "It is phenomenal how fast a little toot of smack will take away the agony...It cancels pain so hidden that you were unaware of its existence"
06/27/2009 page 284
88.75% "back in prison for the third time. Race wars. The '60s. Mentions of Angela Davis and other rabble rousers."

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Denise Elerick I grabbed on to the mentor Mrs. Wallis and how he eventually referred to her as Mom. How she could remain so steady and committed throughout his history of reoffending and landing right back in jail or prison over and over again. If she only had a memoir. I would read it because she had tales of Hollywood and internal sorrow that motivated her to reach out and ...help this kid ? Really? I thought her demise was tragic and sad . There are parts of this book that are very dark in humor and I laughed every time he would drop a bomb. I am amazed at the ability of a kid to grow up on the streets and survive, albeit barely and with a string of misery and suffering. Love the images of LA and San Fernando Valley before the paving over. It must have been heavenly. I do like that he is NOT in San Quentin . Definitely a book that will never make Oprah's list.( (from another review) That is a good thing. And now to rent Reservoir Dogs. I haven't seen that movie that for 15 years.

message 2: by RB (new) - rated it 4 stars

RB Love So cool that you read this Denise. Did you buy it or get it from the library? I like what you say about the images of southern California "before the paving over." That was one of the most miraculous things I found about this book too. The descriptions of the landscape from when he would sneak out of the sort of juvenile half way house he was in, in Pasadena I think, and he would take the trains or buses or whatever and wind up seeing so much of what is now urban congestion. That's one of the parts I remember.

Denise Elerick I liked the book a lot but did have that feeling that I was driving by an accident scene and could not help but stare. I borrowed it from the library. I enjoyed how he could reference a row house that would soon be torn down or a mansion now gone with a freeway running through it. It was very visual for me having spent my share of time in Pasadena and San Bernardino and LA. I would like to read the memoir of his parents, or aunt or Mrs. Wallis USC son, or a school principal or police officer as well . I can see the far reaching effects of this very hard time for so many people. This has a certain LA Confidential feel to it. One of my favorite images were of him swimming in the pool at Hearst castle on the very day William Randolph Hearst died. I would guess that not many ex cons can claim to have swim in that pool in their lifetime. Thank you for the recommendation.

message 4: by RB (new) - rated it 4 stars

RB Love I remember thinking LA Confidential a number of times too. Have you read any of James Ellroy?

Denise Elerick No I have not. You recommend him?

message 6: by RB (new) - rated it 4 stars

RB Love I recommend his novels - highly. Stay away from his memoir, My Dark Places. It's just icky, (forgive my high falutin literary criticism terminology), and too much information that will color the way you look at his books - which are very good, beginning with The Black Dahlia.

Denise Elerick I have a vague memory of watching an old movie The Black Dahlia, late at night, alone. I will start there. By the way, I appreciate high falutin terminology that depicts the truth. Icky means yucky, creepy goose bumps to me... need not say more. "Icky" works more for me than flowery, not very accurate but easier to swallow adjectives.

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