Two Frogs

Education of a Felon: A Memoir


by Edward Bunker
Date Reviewed: January 04, 2004

This is the memoir of a convicted felon from Los Angeles, who later became a successful author. It tracks the life of Eddie Bunker from his parents’ divorce when he was 4, through boarding, reform, and military schools, the juvenile justice system, and various California jails and prisons. The story is riveting, but the writing could have really done with some more diligent editing. Bunker re-introduces the same characters several times as if it is the first mention. The narrative jerks along as if it were written in spurts at various points of his life, and never really formed into a cohesive, flowing timeline. For example, at one point he ends a chapter on the run in Miami, and at the beginning of the next chapter he is back in jail, with no explanation of how. The reverse is true later; a chapter ends with Bunker in jail, and the next begins with him free. That’s pretty jarring, but I blame the editors more so than the author. One disturbing aspect is Bunker’s attitude toward his crimes. I quote (emphasis mine):

To anyone morally outraged by my schemes and lack of apparent remorse, let me say that I only had to justify myself to myself, which is all that anyone has to do. No man does evil in his own mind. I thought, and still think, that if God weighed all I have done against all that has been done to me in society’s name, it would be hard to call which way the scales would tilt. I only stole money and stopped doing that as soon as I sold a novel. I refused to accept the position to which society relegates the ex-offender. I would rather risk going back to prison than accept a job in a car wash or a career as a fry cook. Nothing is wrong with either, but they’re not for me. I’d already heard too many heroic tales and raged to live. I had no family to constrain me with shame, and I owed society nothing, as far as I could determine, and considered most of it’s members deserving of whatever happened to them. They were classic hypocrites, proclaiming Christian virtue but at best living by older, meaner ideas and violating even those if it was expedient and they could suck up their courage. They did not live in good faith with the values and virtues that they professed, explicitly or implicitly. I had no misgivings about stealing their money. They might have gotten it legally, but not by creating anything, doing anything constructive, or otherwise contributing to the commonwealth or to human freedom or anything else save, perhaps, their immediate family. The Salvation Army and Franciscans were real Christians. They didn’t make their domicile in the greatest palace on the planet, amid riches and art greater than those of any two museums on earth; they were out on the street trying to help. There were others, real Christians, persons of good faith, but they were a minority. One thing that gave me unique freedom was my lack of concern about what they thought of me or what they could do to me. I was more concerned with the truth – and having as much fun and as many adventures as I could find. What I liked I would do until it became boring.

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