From D Magazine
I’m in the odd but not unpleasant position of regularly receiving in the mail books ordered for me by strangers whose identities I often have no way of ascertaining. This has added a degree of intrigue to my life. I wish I knew, for instance, who keeps sending me black militant literature so that I could express my thanks, or figure out who’s trying to set me up, or whatever. I’m kidding, of course, but at least one of these books, Soledad Brother, turns out to be on the list of proscribed material that on some U.S. prison compounds constitutes procedural evidence of involvement in the Black Guerrilla Family prison gang, which in turn can lead to indefinite solitary confinement (I happen to know this only because I was recently contacted by Shane Bauer, the journalist who did his own stretch of solitary in an Iranian prison a couple of years back while awaiting trial on trumped-up espionage charges; upon his return, he did a fine piece for Mother Jones on the excessive manner in which solitary is used here in the United States, a copy of which he kindly sent me and which I believe can be read online as well). This got me to wondering whether a honkey such as myself could be accused of being a Black Guerrilla member on such grounds, which of course would be rather silly — but if not, then it would seem that there are some books that can in effect be possessed by white inmates but not by black ones. These are the sorts of absurdities that arise when prison policy is left to the discretion of prison administrators rather than sentient human beings.
I’m also curious as to who sent the four-volume, 2,000-page English translation of a 14th-century Chinese novel that was shipped to me the other day from Beijing. Outlaws of the Marsh, according to the back cover summary, has over 100 protagonists — not characters, mind you, but protagonists. The total number of characters is probably unknown. (more…)