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Miss Fleur gave me the most awful restyle

Elaine Showalter: Joe Orton, 10 December 1998

Between Us Girls 
by Joe Orton.
Hern, 224 pp., £14.99, October 1998, 1 85459 374 9
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‘Fred & Madge’ and ‘The Visitors’ 
by Joe Orton.
Hern, 224 pp., £12.99, October 1998, 1 85459 354 4
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... Joe Orton came 16th this year in the National Theatre’s poll of the hundred top playwrights of the century. Not bad for someone who failed the 11-plus, spent six months in prison, and was bludgeoned to death at the age of 34. He wrote Between Us Girls in 1957, after he had ended a period of collaboration with his lover and mentor Kenneth Halliwell ...

The Story of Joe

Craig Raine, 4 December 1986

The Orton Diaries 
edited by John Lahr.
Methuen, 307 pp., £12.50, November 1986, 0 413 49660 0
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... When Joe Orton was in Tangier, he noted down the following exchange: ‘You like to be fucked or fuck?’ he said. ‘I like to fuck, wherever possible,’ I said. He leaned across and said in a confidential tone: ‘I take it.’ ‘Do you?’ I said. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘up to the last hair.’ ‘You speak very good English,’ I said ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... living on ‘this desperate edge of now’, or the mercurial evanescence of a Jim Clark or a Joe Orton, counts for little in the scales of achievement when weighed against such elephantine stamina and titanic endurance. This book is, unashamedly, perhaps inevitably, a monument to the loneliness of the long-distance runner, rather than a paean of ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Voices from Beyond the Grave, 20 November 2008

... and Jonathan Ross. None of the English writers on the British Library CD has a regional accent: Joe Orton doesn’t sound like a boy from Leicester, but like someone from Rada, which claimed only a few years of his life but all of his voice. Thankfully, some of the writers do sound as we might wish them to: like their style and like more than one of ...

End of Story

Robert Taubman, 20 November 1980

A Humument 
by Tom Phillips.
Thames and Hudson, 367 pp., £12, October 1980, 0 500 09146 3
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The Past 
by Neil Jordan.
Cape, 232 pp., £6.50, October 1980, 0 224 01845 0
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Black Tickets 
by Jayne Anne Phillips.
Allen Lane, 194 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7139 1354 1
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... stand out to be read as words. If there’s a connection with games played by Max Beerbohm and Joe Orton in ‘treating’ a printed text, A Humument is never merely subversive or facetious, and pictorially is highly effective. There are pages that suggest soil profiles as used by ecologists, or Matisse cut-outs or Pop Art fashions: but brought ...

At Tate Britain

Brian Dillon: Queer British Art, 6 September 2017

... also Edward Burra’s carnival-masked Soldiers at Rye of 1941, Lewis Morley’s 1965 photograph of Joe Orton in Christine Keeler pose, and Orton and Kenneth Halliwell’s scurrilously rectified library books, for which they went to jail. By the end of the show – stills from Basil Dearden’s film Victim (1961), pages ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1986, 18 December 1986

... nothing to write home about. London, 14 July. First day of shooting a film based on the life of Joe Orton. We begin with the childhood scenes, Thornton Heath standing in for Leicester. The film is announced in Variety. The title Prick up your ears presents a problem as Variety’s cryptic style demands the film be known as Prick. But no. The headline ...

Mother Punk

Zoë Heller: Vivienne Westwood, 10 December 1998

Vivienne Westwood: An Unfashionable Life 
by Jane Mulvagh.
HarperCollins, 402 pp., £19.99, September 1998, 0 00 255625 1
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... of people and things divided into two columns of Loves and Hates: Christine Keeler, Ronnie Biggs, Joe Orton in the former; Bianca Jagger, Vogue, the suburbs and so on in the latter. McLaren understood such lists to be playful, provisional. Westwood did not. She was never quite in step with her boyfriend’s nimble opportunism and he eventually became ...

‘Très vrai!’

Leah Price, 18 October 2001

Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books 
by H.J. Jackson.
Yale, 324 pp., £19.95, April 2001, 0 300 08816 7
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... Decentring is the order of the day. Yet our resentment at Islington Public Library for prosecuting Joe Orton (his marginal annotations were deemed ‘obscene’) depends on our knowledge that Orton was himself a published writer. Coleridge realised as much: his friends lent him copies of their books to be returned with ...

Double Act

Adam Smyth: ‘A Humument’, 11 October 2012

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel 
by Tom Phillips.
Thames and Hudson, 392 pp., £14.95, May 2012, 978 0 500 29043 9
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... pasting in prints of eminent figures. Four years before Phillips bought A Human Document in 1966, Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell anticipated Phillips’s bawdy relationship with literary inheritance by stealing books from Islington libraries and remaking them by creating new collage covers, subtitles and dustjacket blurbs. They were sentenced to six ...

Looking for a Way Up

Rosemary Hill: Roy Strong’s Vanities, 25 April 2013

Self-Portrait as a Young Man 
by Roy Strong.
Bodleian, 286 pp., £25, March 2013, 978 1 85124 282 5
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... similar background about which he was equally unforgiving, as was another close contemporary, Joe Orton. The three make a revealing comparison. All were self-invented, reactionaries against lower-middle-class morality, the suburbs and the provinces, but Orton and Osborne were more typical of what Strong calls the ...

Baffled at a Bookcase

Alan Bennett: My Libraries, 28 July 2011

... and the ground to be covered. ‘All these books. I’ll never catch up,’ wails the young Joe Orton in the film script of Prick Up Your Ears, and in The Old Country another young man reacts more dramatically, by hurling half the books to the floor. In Me, I’m Afraid of Virginia Woolf someone else gives vent to their frustration with literature ...

Light Entertainment

Andrew O’Hagan: Our Paedophile Culture, 8 November 2012

... was 13. There’s something creepy about British light entertainment and there always has been. Joe Orton meets the Marquis de Sade at the end of the pier, with a few Union Jacks fluttering in the stink and a mother-in-law tied in bunting to a ducking-stool. Those of us who grew up on it liked its oddness without quite understanding how creepy it ...

In Service

Anthony Thwaite, 18 May 1989

The Remains of the Day 
by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Faber, 245 pp., £10.99, May 1989, 0 571 15310 0
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I served the King of England 
by Bohumil Hrabal, translated by Paul Wilson.
Chatto, 243 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 7011 3462 3
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Beautiful Mutants 
by Deborah Levy.
Cape, 90 pp., £9.95, May 1989, 0 224 02651 8
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When the monster dies 
by Kate Pullinger.
Cape, 173 pp., £10.95, May 1989, 9780224026338
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The Colour of Memory 
by Geoff Dyer.
Cape, 228 pp., £11.95, May 1989, 0 224 02585 6
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Sexual Intercourse 
by Rose Boyt.
Cape, 160 pp., £10.95, May 1989, 0 224 02666 6
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The Children’s Crusade 
by Rebecca Brown.
Picador, 121 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 330 30529 8
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... sinister mother and son, Sylvia and Norman: both of them sound as if they are just off-stage in a Joe Orton play. There follow activities of the sort named in Rose Boyt’s title, and a cycle of birth, marriage and death documented with a curiously impressive and distasteful laconic relish. Possibly Rose Boyt is about to become the George Gissing of our ...

Punk-U-Like

Dave Haslam, 20 July 1995

The Black Album 
by Hanif Kureishi.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1995, 0 571 15086 1
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The Faber Book of Pop 
edited by Hanif Kureishi and Jon Savage.
Faber, 813 pp., £16.99, May 1995, 0 571 16992 9
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... and the weekly music press, as well as from more outré authorities on pop music (such as Joe Orton) and a few anti-pop pieces (by Paul Johnson and Richard Hoggart, among others). Liveliest and most useful are the contemporary reports documenting specific occasions: Elvis Presley recording ‘Hound Dog’, Decca turning down the Beatles, the ...

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