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A Beautiful Spot , View from Within

Murray Tepper takes his parking seriously. So much so that when the native New Yorker happens upon a "beautiful" legal spot, no one, it seems, can make him or his Chevy Malibu move. He's even got all kinds of gestures down to wave people frustratingly along. After all, time, as the meter tells, is on his side. And Tepper uses it, perfectly content to read the newspaper in peace.

Until a newspaper reporter for the East Village Rag climbs inside Tepper's car one day to get to the bottom of things.

Why does Tepper, a happily married man who has a modestly successful business selling mailing lists — and a secure space in a garage — park like this? It is as if he's suddenly gone mad and started speaking to people in elevators.

Soon articles appear in all the papers about Tepper's passive aberrant pastime. What's more, strangers find him comforting. They begin to watch for his Chevy, waiting to slip inside to talk with Tepper about anything. Here we find Trillin at his best, gently and wittily poking fun at us all for falling for Tepper's innocence.

Word of Tepper's parking practices reaches the mayor, Frank Ducavelli, whom people call "Il Duce" because of his obstinacy for order. Naturally, the mayor is incensed and aims to thwart Tepper in his tracks. Ultimately what ensues is hilarious and heartwarming, and typically Trillin. — Brandon Walters

View from Within

In "You Got Nothing Coming: Notes from a Prison Fish," (Broadway Books, $24.95), Jimmy Lerner gives us a terse, irreverent account of his prison sentence in Nevada. Voluntary manslaughter has effectively condemned this M.B.A.-carrying, marketing executive to four years.

As a "fish" caught in the "tank," the author finds that his corporate training and 18 years at Pacific Bell have prepared him well for the pervading culture behind bars. He uses a variety of techniques to build rapport with his fellow "dawgs," and he adjusts his behavior to respect the unwritten codes of conduct. The prison is run by the most despicable felons, so if you don't establish yourself as a "righteous con," the abuse is horrific.

Lerner, suspensefully, does not reveal his crime until the end. By then, I was so charmed by his wit and self-deprecating humor, my jury credentials were tainted. But regardless of the circumstances, Lerner committed a tremendously violent act.

Two things are clear: Lerner is an alcoholic, and he is very funny. His witty banter never slows nor ceases for the 400 pages, making it difficult to put the book down.

I recommend this book for both the commentary and the content. It's a shock to experience how much criminals have affected the jail cycle of our judicial process. They have created an evolving counterculture that consists of much more than a vacuum of personal liberties. Furthermore, because publishers rarely underwrite convicts, you should grab the chance to read an authentic story to contrast with Hollywood's cliches.

— Jason

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