Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Orange Is The New Black (The Book, Mkay?)

UP FRONT CONFESSION: I didn't finish the last chapter of this one because the library audiobook expired before I got a chance to (and damned if I'm getting BACK on the two month waiting list to listen to that last 45 minutes). But I almostalmostwasthisclose to finishing it, and I'm counting it, and you can't stop me. This will teach me to borrow digital audiobooks from the library.

Like many of you out there, I picked this up after mainlining the Orange Is The New Black T.V. show on Netflix in about two days. It is some amazing television, and if you're looking for something completely addictive, I suggest you gets ta steppin' and watch that shiz. For those of you who have already watched it, I'll go ahead and answer a few questions I know I had going into the book:

No, the Alex character is not actually in prison with Piper.
No, Larry is not as much of a douche as he is on the show.
Yes, there is a Crazy Eyes, and a Yoga Janet, and a porn-stache CO.
No, Pensatucky is not Piper's arch nemesis (though she is a black-teethed-and-lovable crack addict).
Yes, Big Boo does have a puppy.
No, Piper is not as insufferable in the book as she tends to be in the show.

The last one was the one that really surprised me- Middle Class Blonde Smith Grad Goes to Prison is bound to be 300 pages of EHMEHGERD I CAN'T EVEN GET A LATTE UP IN THIS NOISE, but (the real/the real Piper's version of) Piper isn't anything like that. She's both understanding of the ridiculousness of her situation and 100% aware of her privilege. The book isn't a woe-is-me story, it's a woe-is-the-fucked-up-justice-system and a woe-are-mandatory-minimum-sentences and a woe-is-the-way-we-prepare-inmates-for-the-outside-world. It's got a solid undercover investigative journalist feel to it.

The show takes the skeleton of the book, sexes it up, adds some new conflict, and changes a few names. Both versions of the story are smart, critical, and eye-opening. But while the show's soap-operatic romantic plot lines can distract from the unmitigated and infuriating bullshit that is the American prison system, there's nothing in the book to shield you from the unfairness of it all. Larry is faithfully waiting and there is no Alex doing time with her, so the book is just Piper- the eyes and ears of typical middle-class America, prying where she seemingly doesn't belong.

So yeah, go into it for Crazy Eyes and Delicious (the book's version of Taystee), but stay in it for the smart critique of the prison system.

Four stars out of your mom.



    Taystee's name autocorrects to all caps on my phone. Such is my love for her. ALSO, this is kind of the opposite of what I heard about this book -- meaning they said the show was more self-aware of Piper's kind of suckiness than Real Piper is. So that's good to hear and makes me actually want to read it. Even though Alex isn't there. SIGH.

    1. Well the Alex character is there AT FIRST, she's just not there in the prison. So there's a little Alex-love there.

  2. You answered almost all my questions about the book to show conversion. I've been curious about this one after watching the show and now I think I need to get it.

  3. I reaaaaaaally want to read this. Badly. Mainly because oh my god I love that show so much and why can't the new season just be made already and GAH. I feel like this would be an acceptable stand in for the moment, though.