Langohr’s collection of four short stories details the brutality of life behind bars.
A “behind the scenes” look at prison, Langohr’s work is a fictionalized account of his life: Sent away on drug charges, he turned to writing on the inside. Set inside a California prison, the collection comprises short segments driven by action and dialogue. It opens with a recently convicted man’s trip into a correctional facility that is surrounded by redwoods and beautiful wilderness; the narrative transports the reader from civilization to something primal from its first lines. Soon, racial conflict comes to rule the text; inmates fight over whatever small territory seems to be at hand and, motivated by a sheer instinct for survival, seek protection in numbers. What drives one to continue reading, though, are the small parts of prison life which Langohr illuminates, such as making jailhouse moonshine: “The more refined drinkings such as ourselves would take...fermented juice made wine and distill it into pure white lightning.” The process to make the alcohol, which involves trash bags and heating sources, is ingenious and attention-getting. There are aspects of the text which fall flat, however. The continued refrain “these are... The Prison Days of Our Lives” is repeated ad nauseam. The sometimes unstructured tales can feel chaotic and—though all take place in prison—almost unrelated. The quick pacing energizes the scenes, but it doesn’t allow for enough reflection. Still, the flawed work viscerally presents the rituals, worries and daily activities of a largely voiceless group of people with an unvarnished humanity.
A flawed work, though lively, readable and interesting.