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.


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

Mania: a short reading list

My family is no stranger to mania.  It’s killed or threatened at least one of us in the last three generations, and along with a corresponding (and perhaps causally related) tendency towards addiction of various flavors, it’s ruined and altered lives, both of those it has directly affected, and those who have had to live along side the manics of our strange clan.  Here are a few books related (some tangentially, most directly) to mania and its causes.  Each has helped me understand this disease from a slightly different angle.

Kay Jamison, a psychiatrist, found herself descending into mania and depression.  An Unquiet Mind is her story.
Marbles:  Ellen Furney’s amazing graphic novel about her journey with depression and mania.
While the City Slept, Eli Sanders’ book about the murder of Teresa Butz and the undiagnosed wasted life of her killer, Isaiah Kalebu
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Playing the Manic game — it’s an academic paper, but it’s a must read for anyone who loves someone with mania.



Mania: a short reading list