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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'A gorilla in the roses', 1 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Malicious Damage: the Defaced Library Books of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton (Hardcover)
In 1962 Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton were sentenced to six months in prison for theft and malicious damage. Staff at Islington Library had found a number of mutilated books in their collection and had connected them to a pair of sniggering men seen hanging around the shelves. One newspaper gave the following report:

"Counsel referred to a "quite lovely book." - Collins' "Guide to Roses." On the frontispiece a picture of a monkey's head had been pasted in the middle of a rose. Referring to a book entitled "Discovery of Art," Mr. Hemming said: "On the front, where there should be pictures of eminent persons, there are the faces of cats, and a bird has been pasted where the face of an eminent person should be.""

In addition to reworking covers in this way, Orton and Halliwell also gave Dorothy L. Sayers's books convincing-looking scurrilous new blurbs, replaced material within books, and papered the walls of their shared home with elaborate collages using images removed from yet more library books. "Malicious Damage" includes plentiful reproductions of a number of these covers (including some before the defacement occurred), photos of Orton, Halliwell, and their collaged room, Halliwell's own collages, and various press clippings. All this is tied together with an informative introduction and descriptions of the component parts of each altered cover.

The result is a joy to read and I imagine I will return to this book whenever I need cheering up. The covers make me giggle every time I see them: cats and monkeys abound, serious author photographs receive comical and surreal replacements, a biography of Sybil Thorndike is illustrated with a Henry Moore sculpture, and stranger things still... The doctored blurbs are childish but funny - I love to imagine the reactions of the unsuspecting library users as they came across them. In addition to the humorous defacements, Orton and Halliwell also embarked on reimagining the plain covers of the Arden Shakespeare series. Many of them are illustrated here and the results are both fitting and lovely.

"Malicious Damage" is a fine hardback, resembling a library book with a clear plastic dust jacket. The opening pages seem of somewhat poor quality as the text bleeds through and the formatting in the introductory essay is also a bit strange. These are very minor quibbles though: the full-page colour reproductions are wonderful and this is a book I am delighted to own.
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Eleanor
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Location: Oxford, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 339