The Crimes of Joe Orton

The playwright Joe Orton and his partner Kenneth Halliwell spent six months apiece in Her Majesty’s prisons for defacing library books.  Far from representing crime, these were acts of civil commentary and genius, sadly ahead of their time.

covers

Here’s Orton discussing his acts of creative vandalism in a 1967 interview:

Well, yes I used to do very strange things on library books.  It was really a joke.  I used to take lots of books out of the library — I used to smuggle them out in a satchel, and then I used to paste a picture over the picture of the author …

…  I remember one of them was by Lady Lewisham, a book on ettiequte actually, and um …  it showed a picture of lady Lewisham in her garden.  And I pasted in a picture of a great nude woman cut from a nude book … people must have been very surprised.

Also, I didn’t like libraries anyway.  I though they spent far too much public money on rubbish.  I didn’t like the books, I mean I don’t think people need books on etiquette anyway.

I have no regrets at all, I had a marvelous time in prison.

You can read more about Orton’s life in and out of the theater in John Lahr’s excellent biography.

The Crimes of Joe Orton

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s