May 2020: Inside Time

Inside Time, the national newspaper for prisoners and detainees, has always been a vital source of information and interest for people in prison, and never more than right now.

We usually feature a Reading Group roundup from one of our groups, but this month we asked Inside Time to share information about our prison lockdown resource, Bookstuff. Read the full piece here, or below:

Introducing Bookstuff

These are tough times for everyone, not least for those in prison. Most libraries are closed and books are in short supply. Prisoners can’t get together so PRG’s reading groups have mostly had to take a break. But we’re working hard with our partners at Give a Book and with Penguin Random House to get more books into prisons for people to read and listen to.

We’re also producing a weekly handout called ‘Bookstuff’ with very short stories, poems and tidbits to keep you going. Look out for it on your wing and meanwhile here’s a taste of things to come.

What makes a good story? Should it tie things up at the end or keep you guessing? Try this one:

The Chicken
‘As I was walking down Stanton Street early one Sunday morning, I saw a chicken a few yards ahead of me. I was walking faster than the chicken, so I gradually caught up. By the time we approached Eighteenth Avenue, I was close behind. The chicken turned south on Eighteenth. At the fourth house along, it turned in at the walk, hopped up the front steps, and rapped sharply on the metal storm door with its beak. After a moment, the door opened and the chicken went in.’
Linda Elegant

Or maybe something even shorter? The six-word story was supposedly invented by the writer Ernest Hemingway, better known for novels like For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Here’s his six-worder:

‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’

And a few more by other writers:

‘“Wrong number”, says a familiar voice.’

‘But it enjoys watching you sleep.’

‘He didn’t. She did. Big mistake.’

Maybe have a go yourself or try different genres in under 50 words. Here’s a ghost story to get you going:

Talk about Short
‘He was alone and in the dark; and when he reached out for the matches, the matches were put in his hand.’ (Kevin Crossley-Holland)

Or maybe a detective story?

Nail in the coffin
‘The evidence was already heavily against me. The ring – that item meant to solve my problems -found in my possession. Tyre tracks in the mud. The dirty shovel in my car. But what really convinced the jury in the grave robbing case was DNA proof. My nail in the coffin.’
(Michael Dondero)

Or a comic one:

Mom’s the Word
‘A 50-word story? Impossible.’ ‘You’re wrong.’ ‘Try it.’ ‘Okay: Honey, I’m pregnant.’ ‘What?’ ‘Just kidding.’ ‘Not funny.’ ‘How about: I’m preg-nant, and it’s not yours.’ ‘What!?’ ‘Kidding again. How many words, so far?’ ‘34.’ ‘Let’s stop. I’m hungry.’ ‘For what?’ ‘Pickles.’ ‘Pickles?’ ‘How many words now?’ ‘47.’ ‘And ice cream.’ (John M Floyd)

Poems too can be thousands of lines long, like John Milton’s Paradise Lost, or just a few words. And with poems especially, meaning comes from the spaces on the page as much as the words themselves. Have a look at this one:

Somehow it seems different from those two words written as an ordinary sentence: ‘Come home’. Do you agree?

Here’s another short one called ‘Just Passing Through’:
Light travels through light
air through air
Sometimes we travel through each other
As if we weren’t there

Did you know?
• The fear of running out of something to read is called abibliophobia;
• The most expensive book ever purchased is said to be the Codex Leicester by Leon-ardo da Vinci. It’s a collection of scientific writings and was bought by Bill Gates in 1994 for $30.8 million;
• The Harry Potter series are said to be some of the most banned books in the US because they are thought ‘to promote witchcraft and set bad examples’;
• There are four law books in the Harvard University Library that are bound in human skin. The process is known as anthropoder-mic bibliopegy (!)

Thank you to Inside Time for including news about Bookstuff in their latest issue. We create a new Bookstuff handout each week, which you can find here.

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