Between The Covers: 06/02/2011

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books

An Idaho woman has been jailed for a month after a string of incidents in which she poured and squeezed condiments into a library's book-drop facility.

The 75-year-old's crime spree started in 2009, when she covered books in corn syrup after a falling out with library staff. She was finally caught dumping an open jar of mayonnaise into the book box, having caused damage totalling $1,000.

US newspapers have been restrained in their reporting of the bizarre mini crime wave, so thanks instead to readers of the Reuters website, whose comments include: "I know the library must relish this conviction"; "I never would have mustard up enough courage to do it"; and "She should have known the police would ketchup with her one day."

***

If George Orwell had lived, he doubtless would have dreamt of having his own blog, so hats off to the people behind The Orwell Prize, who are blogging his The Road to Wigan Pier, entry by entry, at http://theroadtowigan pier.wordpress.com. Each diary entry appears 75 years to the day since it was first written (though the book was not published until 1937); starting in Coventry on 31 January 1936, and ending in Mapplewell, near Barnsley, on 25 March 1936.

The project aims to replicate the success of the blog of Orwell's wartime diaries at http://orwelldiaries.word press.com, and to promote the Orwell Prize for political writing, which has received a record number of entries for 2011. The prize is based on Orwell's ambition "to make political writing into an art", which is probably not what was foremost in his mind when he wrote on 2 February 1936 that "Wolverhampton seems a frightful place ..." and that in Penkridge he had a cup of tea in "a tiny frouzy parlour with a nice fire, a little wizened oldish man and an enormous woman about 45, with tow-coloured bobbed hair and no front teeth."

***

The latest debate among users of ebooks has moved on from Kindle vs Sony vs You Still Can't Read it in The Bath. It's now all about page numbering, and the fact that Amazon's Kindle has done away with it. Because of the anomalies that would be caused by reading in different font sizes, Amazon decrees that page numbers are obsolete and that "locations" now reign. Many readers, naturally, are spitting fury about this, complaining that academic citations call for a page-numbering system, and openly talking of their "hatred" for Amazon'sJeff Bezos. Others, however, have pointed out that the "locations" system echoes the chapters and verses in the Bible, so praise be to Amazon. Duck, and watch what happens next.

***

Lovers of a literary bent looking for an avant-garde Valentine's Day present should know that Romeo & Juliet – the entire play printed on a single sheet – is currently 14 per cent off (£29.99) at www.spineless classics.com. Each of these framed or unframed posters comprises a classic text, printed beautifully in its entirety, with a suitable illustration picked out in the gaps between the words. The range includes On The Origin of Species, Pride and Prejudice and The Complete Works of Shakespeare (not for the short sighted), but has yet to find a font small enough for War and Peace.

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