Obama pops up

The Guardian - Review - - Forewords -

To mark the pub­li­ca­tion of Michelle Obama’s new me­moir, Be­com­ing, we at gal-dem, an on­line and print mag­a­zine writ­ten by women of colour and non-bi­nary peo­ple of colour, have cre­ated a pop-up book­shop.

We have drawn on the rich tra­di­tion of black-owned book­shops in the UK to cre­ate the phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of our cul­tur­ally rad­i­cal mag­a­zine; it will chal­lenge a pub­lish­ing in­dus­try that still strug­gles with di­ver­sity. In 2016, the Book­seller found that fewer than 100 ti­tles were pub­lished by non­white British au­thors. Ev­ery­one de­serves to have ac­cess to books that re­flect their ex­pe­ri­ence, and that can only hap­pen in the long term if more women of colour and non-bi­nary peo­ple of colour have their works pub­lished.

It makes per­fect sense for Obama’s me­moir to be at the heart of this project, as she has al­ways up­held the im­por­tance of read­ing. Lit­er­a­ture is a democratis­ing force and ev­ery­one is wel­come into our shop to re­lax, have a cup of tea, some cake, at­tend one of our events and dis­cover won­der­ful au­thors they may not have heard from be­fore. Char­lie Brinkhurst-Cuff The gal-dem x Pen­guin pop-up shop will be at 2 Bury Place, Lon­don WC1A, for one week from 23 Novem­ber. and shared freely. But this was not al­ways the case. My in­sti­tu­tion, the Bodleian Li­braries in Ox­ford, cre­ated a spe­cial cat­e­gory for books that were deemed too sex­u­ally ex­plicit. Th­ese books were marked on the shelf with the Greek let­ter Phi, and stu­dents had to sub­mit a col­lege tu­tor’s let­ter of sup­port in or­der to ac­cess any racy ma­te­rial. The Phi shelf­mark was cre­ated in 1882, at a time when Vic­to­rian Bri­tain was at its most prud­ish, and it re­mained in use un­til rel­a­tively re­cently.

Now the pub­lic will have the first chance to view th­ese books in an ex­hi­bi­tion of around 3,000 items that range from sci­en­tific works to The Pop-up Kama Su­tra, Ovid to Os­car Wilde. More re­cent ti­tles in­clude Madonna’s Sex and ho­mo­erotic drawings by Tom of Fin­land. It gives a kind of so­ci­o­log­i­cal snap­shot, chart­ing how per­cep­tions of sex­u­al­ity and ap­pro­pri­ate­ness have changed over time.

The li­brar­i­ans have also pre­served books whose UK pub­li­ca­tion was ini­tially pre­vented by ob­scen­ity laws. Per­haps the most fa­mous of th­ese was Lady Chat­ter­ley’s Lover. The book was first pub­lished in Italy but not openly avail­able in the British book trade un­til 1960. The Bodleian’s copy of the first edi­tion had to be smug­gled into Bri­tain in a diplo­matic bag. Richard Oven­den

The word of the year,

an­nounced this week, is “sin­gle-use”, as in plas­tic bags or straws that end up in the oceans. In ret­ro­spect, the idea that one should man­u­fac­ture spoons de­signed to be used ex­actly once and then chucked away who­cares-where seems per­fectly mon­strous. But where did it come from?

The first records “sin­gle use” in 1959, in a pub­li­ca­tion about metal con­tain­ers by the British Stan­dards In­sti­tu­tion. Here, a “sin­gle-use tube” is also known as a “oneshot tube” be­cause it can’t be re­sealed and used again. Later, we find a ref­er­ence to a “sin­gle use” type­writer rib­bon, and then an ex­plo­sion in the 1980s of sin­gle-use rec­tal ther­mome­ters, hy­po­der­mic nee­dles, and so forth.

Clearly there are hy­giene rea­sons to pre­fer sin­gu­lar use in some such cases, but it is the vast quan­tity of sin­gleuse plas­tics used in the food busi­ness, in par­tic­u­lar, that now seems in­creas­ingly per­verse, a hang­over from blithe mid-cen­tury as­sump­tions of re­source abun­dance. In this con­text, the in­dus­try pref­er­ence for the term “sin­gleuse” is plainly a sly eu­phemism that de­lib­er­ately fo­cuses on util­ity rather than pol­lut­ing af­ter­life. Let’s all say in­stead what they care­fully don’t: “dis­pos­able”.

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