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Richard Prince Blog Watch: On Art and Murder

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richard-prince-mailerOne of Richard Prince’s new year’s resolutions for 2014 must have been to blog more (or, in Prince-speak, “bird” more), because he’s been writing up a storm over on Birdtalk. The screed to which we turn our attention in this installment of Richard Prince Blog Watch begins as a rumination on Norman Mailer’s successful 1981 campaign to free confessed killer — and, in Mailer’s opinion, talented author — Jack Abbott, only have him stab a waiter to death six weeks after leaving prison (where he then returned for the remainder of his life). From here, Prince goes on to make some exceptionally lucid pronouncements about the comparative values of art and human life, concluding his musings in typically authoritative fashion.

We’ll skip over Prince’s recounting of the Abbott case — which is available in much greater detail here — and get right to the meat of his feelings about Mailer, which you might have guessed by now are not so rosy. He writes:

What a fucking ass Mailer was. What was he thinking? That art trumped human life? He was up to his eyeballs in crime writing. A couple of steps behind Capote… writing Executioners Song. A fucking gas-bag liberal who didn’t give a shit about the life of an innocent waiter/actor. Anyway… that’s what I was thinking. I was thinking that it was Mailer who killed the waiter not Abbott. I was pissed at Mailer for getting all busy bodied about a convicted murderer who wrote a “talented book”. An expert “artist” with an opinion… and the opinion was an aesthetic one…

Prince concedes that people who come from broken families and communities have the cards stacked against them, and that Abbott was at a disadvantage from the get-go — long before he and his brother killed a woman as part of an ill-conceived diversion tactic to pull off a likewise ill-conceived jewelry heist — but remains skeptical of the implication that his artistic achievements may have outweighed the loss of life he caused. Or, as Prince puts it:

I’m not going to get fuzzy and do Norman Mailer and lobby to get this guy out of jail. That’s none of my business. That’s not for me to decide. I don’t have the skill, the background, or the expertise to make that kind of judgement. And I’m certainly not going to stick up for the guy just because he wrote a prize winning book. (Maybe the victim’s relatives should decide).
Maybe the woman who died in the fire would have written a book. That I can talk about. The inmate “might never of had a chance”… there’s a question there… but the woman who died in the fire CERTAINLY didn’t have a chance. That’s a fact. She died, she’s dead, she’s gone… and she didn’t get to do anything in last forty years that the inmate has gotten to do. Deal? I don’t think so.

But, as always, Prince’s closing line is his best: “That’s my “position”… right or wrong. And I don’t give a fuck because I know I’m right.”

— Benjamin Sutton (@bhsutton)

PS. Hereafter, every BLOUIN ARTINFO article mentioning artist Richard Prince will initially refer to him as “Richard ‘I don’t give a fuck because I know I’m right’ Prince,” before resorting to the short-hand “Prince.”

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