On the beauty of the prison library.

“Reading changed me,” said Watson, who now works as a clerk in the prison library at Jessup Correctional Institution, “and when it did, it began to change other people’s perceptions of me.”

He hopes that a recent $100,000 grant from the Maryland State Library to purchase thousands of books for prison libraries will provide a similar morale boost for his fellow inmates.

Department of Correction officials celebrated the donation in December by leading visitors on a tour of Jessup’s library, an unimposing, carpeted room with shelves that hold roughly 6,000 books and with a circulation desk at the front. The only signs that this wasn’t a branch library were the barred windows and the customers’ gray prison garb.

Boosting Black poetry

The Library of America is offering grants to other institutions to help promote and highlight African American poetry. Money behind a worthy cause? What is this? Scandinavia?

Lift Every Voice is designed to enhance Americans’ understanding and appreciation of the African American poetic tradition and its imaginative range and richness. Its principal objective is to engage participants in a multifaceted exploration of the tradition, the perspectives it offers on American history and the struggle for racial justice and the universality of the power, music, and precision of its language.

More like "Marie Gonedo," amirite?

I am on the side of people who live in precarious conditions wherein they might be forced to one day chew off their own arm to avoid dying under the pile of books that fell on them and pinned them to the stairwell wall. Of course, I would be very careful to not get any blood on the actual books. The arm we can get rid of. Books? Pfft. Besides joy, my litter of books might also spark a fire, but that’s how I likes it, Shelf-Nazi. (Okay, I’m not as bad as the image below, but this site doesn’t deal in subtleties.)

My office is just books everywhere. There is no order. There is no rhyme or reason. They’re every which way. There are picture books, an old Scrabble board, cookbooks, typewriters, newspapers that have stories that I’m inspired by, fan art that I’ve framed, stickers and finger puppets that kids have given me. I’ve got Spider-Man toys given to me by Marvel, my own books. I should be more organised, but I’m not an organised person. It’s a good example of how my mind works. 

The only time I get rid of books is when I have multiples. I send them to schools and to people who need them. I know people say, “What’s the point in keeping them if you’ve already read them?” But they’re reference. This is my craft. These are my tools. That would be like the construction worker saying he has too many hammers.

Q: How did Fifty Shades of Beige affect our sex lives?

A: not all that much. I remember when this fan-fiction-turned-bestseller came out and people told me there was contract negotiation than decent sex in it and I thought, Oh, this will disappear quickly. So young. So naive.

Immediately, attempts were made to measure its impact. Science was involved. Experts variously claimed that Fifty Shades was a sexual turn-off (among college-age women); a measure of women’s self-esteem (fans aged between 18 and 24 were more likely to binge drink, have eating disorders and end up in abusive relationships); responsible for increasing sexually transmitted diseases among the over-50s (anecdotal); and covered in herpes and cocaine (according to two Belgian professors who studied the surfaces of library copies). Sociologists predicted a boom in babies that could never be causally linked. Anecdotally, women on mum forums talked about their incumbent “Fifty Shades baby”, while retailers cashed in on knockoff “Generation Grey” onesies.

These days, with fourth-wave feminism, the ubiquity of hardcore pornography and the politics of the #MeToo movement, when millennials cheerfully joke about “eating ass” and choking has been normalised, Fifty Shades has been left looking a little naff. Yes, there are butt plugs and handcuffs, but the books feel very conservative now, with many of Grey and Steele’s simultaneous orgasms achieved in missionary as they gaze into each other’s eyes. Reading all 1,500 pages of the trilogy left me thinking, more than once: “I’ve had weirder sex than this on a Tuesday.”

Ye olde-timey news dump

An old (as in longtime; though increasingly for both of us, also as in middle-aged) Bookninja reader said yesterday that he missed the “news dump” type posts I used to do back in the day–wherein I’d post a bunch of snappy headlines and you had to click through to find out what the article was about. So here’s one:

People rise up against the King on Twitter

Stephen King, whose Twitter is generally a bastion of forward-thinking, progressive thought, said something that revealed some white privilege and Twitter is calling him out on it.

He said that diversity is not a consideration for him when he votes as a member of the Academy. “I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong,” he said on Twitter.

He has since been criticized by leading Hollywood names and authors saying his argument centers on the idea that quality and diversity are mutually exclusive.