Hole in My Life

I would heartily recommend Jack Ganto’s memoir Hole in my Life as a good read for anytime at all. The main reason that I believe it could be read at anytime (and by anybody, whatever your overall reading habits are) is that it is one of the simpler and more economical books that I’ve ever read, making it easy to get through in about three days–the length it took me. The book follows the young Jack Gantos, and his struggles to become a writer, which turn out to be rather more drastic than the ordinary struggles of aspiring writers. While working for his father’s construction company down in St. Croix in the early seventies– at that time run amok with race-riots and crime– Gantos is offered a job on a sailing boat by one of his father’s shadier customers. The nature of the job is to deliver two thousand pounds of hash buried on a nearby island to New York, where Gantos would then recieve ten thousand dollars for his services. Gantos immediately accepts the job because of the money, which he plans to use to pay his college tuition. He also thinks that getting wild life experience of any kind is the key to becoming a great writer, and so he largely overlooks the simple fact that what he is doing is seriously illegal. From that point on, he sails with the captain, a prickly english drug-smuggler named Hamilton, up to New York, everything going smoothly up until and after arrival. But then, Gantos and his companions start to notice a car that has been following them while they are driving back from upstate New York. Then, they hear that their boat was searched one night while they were gone. It all culminates in the FBI busting in on them at their Chelsea hotel and arresting Hamilton. Gantos, ever the one for adventure, briefly escapes, but is soon forced to turn himself over to the FBI, as they have at least as much information on him as they did on his partners and informed his family about all his activities. Gantos is sentenced to an uncertain amount of time in a federal prison; anywhere between sixty days and six years. He begins serving time in the truly ugly world prison racked with guilt, fear and regret. I came about this book myself in a somewhat unusual way; one of my professors, who vaguely knows the author from her job at Emerson, bought me the book as an end of the semester present, saying that she thought I would enjoy it. (I was not an exception in the class; every one recieved a book). I  started reading it that same day and finished it some fifteen minutes ago as of this writing. Gantos actually has a background in mostly children’s literature, and while this book is certainly not for children, this background comes through in the writing. Everything is stated in a matter-of-a-fact, unsensational way, the vocabulary is simple and straightforward and Gantos portrays himself in a way that anybody else could emotionally relate to, even though some of the early chapters reveal a predilection towards recklessness that do make him a unique and worrisome character. What Gantos goes through is far more painful than what the average idealist in their early twenties has to go through and if anything, will leave you telling yourself ‘I will never, ever go to prison.’ At the same time, I was sometimes faced with the strange envy that I haven’t had quite this interesting a life; that is, the same envy Gantos felt about other writers, leading him to make such a massive mistake. But this is an emotion that evaporates for Gantos while he is in prison. The book is ultimately reassuring. As he writes in one passage; ‘Prison may have been serious, but from within it, looking out my cell window, I knew life outside prison was more interesting.’