Hot Document

Jailhouse Lit Bust!

When an English translation of The Savage Detectives, by the late Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño, was published last year in the United States, New York Times critic Richard Eder judged the work “complex, numbingly chaotic and sinuously memorable.” Inthe Sunday Times Book Review, James Wood, a famously  exacting literary critic, compared  Bolaño’s novel favorably to the work of Stendhal and Gide. The literary thriller’s content, however, falls outside the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s publication-review guidelines as spelled out in its Offender Orientation Handbook (see excerpts on Pages 2 and 3). The disqualifying passage, which appears on Page 39, describes an oral-sex contest in a nightclub that ends when the champion vomits after nearly choking to death on the penis of a particularly sadistic and well-endowed customer.

Inmate No. 1385412, in Huntsville, Texas (below), ordered a copy of the book, but on its arrival, the prison mailroom intercepted it and sent it, at the inmate’s expense, to a relative of the inmate’s in Austin. The prison determined that the material could “encourage homosexual or deviant criminal sexual behavior” and was “detrimental to the offender’s rehabilitation.” (For what it’s worth, the sexual and violent acts described in the offending passage are in fact between a man and a woman.)

Inmate No. 1385412 is seeking to appeal the decision. Failing that, he’ll have to find something else to read until his projected release date of August 2009. 

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