Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Malicious Damage" by Ilsa Colsell (The Defaced Library Books of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton)


I found a copy of this book at the always amazing Printed Matter in Chelsea New York City.  "Malicious Damage is a collection of defaced library books belonging to the Islington London Library, but re-imagined by Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton.   What they would do is either steal or 'borrow' library books, take them home and alter them in some fashion.  Then return them to the library.  Sort of a Brirish version of situationist activity but through a very 'queer' aesthetic from these two giants of post-war London culture.

We don't only get an amazing reproduction of all the books, but also a detailed image of Orton and Halliwell's flat in Islington.  A famous location due that Orton was killed by Halliwell here, but more positive reason is that Halliwell and Orton made colleges on their walls, from floor to ceiling.  The photograph of the interior is pretty fantastic, and was taken by the police at the time they got arrested for defacing library books.

Included are super essays by Ilsa Colsell and the always excellent Philip Hoare.  The foreword is by Joe's sister Leonie Orton Barnett.  Short, sweet, and fascinating that Orton's habit of taking things that not belong to him, actually runs through his family.  Orton and Halliwell were right between 1950's post-war GB culture and the gates of swinging 60's London culture.  But their lives were lived in the grays, when homosexuality was literally against the law.   A shadowy world that their neighbor Joe Meek shared as well.   This is a superb book, and may be difficult to find.  The only two places where I found copies of this book are Printed Matter and the Strand.  Both in New York.  I strongly recommend anyone who is either an Orton fan (and you should be) or have an interest in 'Queer' London cultural history.  Pretty much an essential book to own and enjoy.
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