A podcast about writers who may or may not have written about crime, but who definitely committed it.
Episode 10: Call the Time Eternity
A Village voice exposé denounces Kosinski for using ghostwriters and casts aspersions on his entire literary career. Nine years later Jerzy Kosinski is a broken man. His writing career is over; he’s managed to write only one novel which was unanimously panned. One night after going to the movies, he drowns himself in his bathtub. Across town, Mailer’s easing into the role of one of the aging titans of American letters. One of Mailer’s many mistresses publishes a tell-all memoir that includes the claim made by a number of people who knew him well: that the most manly, heterosexual man in America was actually bi-sexual. But he manages to live into old age and die peacefully before the book’s release, avoiding the issue and also avoiding any reckoning for stabbing his wife and for all the other horrible shit he said and did.
Episode 9: Criminal Chic
On July 9th, 1981 Jack Henry Abbott, Norman Mailer and Jerzy Kosinki get together at an expensive Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village to celebrate the imminent release of Abbot’s book. A week later Richard Adan is dead and Kosinksi and Mailer have a choice to make: Stand by Abbott or throw him under the bus? Mailer endures the negative publicity and supports his friend while Kosinski turns on both Abbott and the political Left. In doing so, he makes powerful enemies who will begin looking into the whispers that he’s used ghostwriters, plagiarized some of his novels and lied about his childhood. Their findings will destroy his career, and eventually, his life...
Episode 8: Sexual Politics
If you’ve made it to Episode 8 and part of you still likes Mailer and/or Kosinski, that’ll change with this episode. Jerzy Kosinski admits to having committed rape when he was a young man in Poland, and his adult behavior is just as horrific. As for Norman Mailer, he takes it upon himself to try to save the patriarchy from Second-wave feminism by attacking Kate Millet in The Prisoner of Sex and then at the so-called “Town Bloody Hall” by championing misogyny and homophobia. Needless to say, he makes a complete fool of himself and is absolutely owned by Germaine Greer, Susan Sontag, and Cynthia Ozick among others.
Episode 7: American Dreams
Mailer’s violent ways continue both off and on the page. He fictionalizes the stabbing of his wife in an absurd, grotesque little novel aptly titled An American Dream. Not to be outdone, Jerzy Kosinki and his finest ghostwriter get to work on an even more grotesque little novel called Steps which will win him the National Book Award for fiction in 1969. That year's non-fiction winner is our guy Norman Mailer with his book The Armies of the Night about the Anti-war movement and his experience getting arrested at the March on the Pentagon. When he’s not getting arrested, Mailer’s now making movies. One devolves into a porno, another ends in Mailer getting nailed in the head with a hammer by Rip Torn.
Episode 6: A Matter of Millimeters
After spending the 1950s trying to follow up The Naked and the Dead with another hit, Mailer writes two poorly-received novels and mostly spends the decade getting stoned, drunk, angry and delusional. By 1960 he’s so far gone that he decides to run for Mayor of New York City. To celebrate his decision he throws a party that begins with him announcing his candidacy and ends with him stabbing his wife Adele in the chest with a rusty penknife, puncturing her pericardial sac and missing her heart by a matter of millimeters. Aside from a couple-week stay in the Bellevue Psych ward, the great white American writer receives no punishment for nearly murdering his wife and his career continues with hardly any blemish.
Episode 5: The Comet
In fall of 1965 a book called The Painted Bird is published and begins to make waves across the literary world. It’s the story of a boy separated from his parents for six years during WW2. It follows him while he wanders the Polish countryside witnessing and enduring unimaginably sadistic torture and abuse. And as if the plot weren’t shocking enough, it’s made all the more sensational by the fact that it’s true! Yes, the author, a man named Jerzy Kosinski, managed to live to tell the tale. He’s compared to Anne Frank, his book is held up as one of the most important works of holocaust literature, and his life story is one of the most remarkable ever told! But...well, it’s all b******t. Kosinski was never separated from his parents. Almost none of the events in the novel actually happened, and on top of that, he didn’t even write the book by himself.
Penknife Season 1
Just finished listening to the last episode of Penknife. An amazing amount of research, writing and performing went into this podcast.
I highly recommend it.
I have listened to many crime podcasts and this one is not one that repeats, repeats, repeats. It constantly moves forward and fleshes out new stories about the writers who behave badly.
Excited for season 2!
Anyone who loves true crime and wants a podcast that absolutely stands out Penknife is it!
Just what I’d been looking for!
A true crime podcast that is as gripping and easy to listen to as it is cerebral and thought provoking. Fans of Criminal will love Penknife!