Tuesday Feb 20, 2024

Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell

Warning: this episode contains discussions of domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and suicide. Listener discretion is advised. 

A rare twofer this week on our show: we discuss the lives and careers of Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell. Both frustrated writers from the North of England making their way in the repressive, damp climate of the postwar UK, they were sent to prison for defacing library books into brilliant collage art. But when Orton achieved fame and success, the pressure was too much for Halliwell to bear. And their disturbing pattern of traveling to Tunisia to abuse children casts a pall on any simple attempt to recuperate them as heroes.

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Ilsa Colsell, Philip Hoare, and Leonie Orton Barnett, Malicious Damage: The Defaced Library Books of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton (Donlon Books, 2013)

Prick Up Your Ears (Curzon Film Distributors, 1987)

James Fox, “The Life and Death of Joe Orton,” The Sunday Times, November 22, 1970

John Lahr, Prick Up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton, 1st edition (Berkeley: Univ of California Pr, 2000)

Joe Orton, The Orton Diaries, Reprint edition (New York: Da Capo Press, 1996)

“Joe Orton,” Front Row (BBC Radio 4, August 11, 2017), https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08zzly6

Our intro music is Arpeggia Colorix by Yann Terrien, our outro music was made for us by DJ Michaeloswell Graphicdesigner


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