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Books in Brief

How to Survive Federal Prison Camp
By Clive Sharp, with an introduction by Claire Wolfe
Loompanics Unlimited, P.O. Box 1197, Port Townsend, WA 98368; $16.95 paper.

The United States Correctional System ("Over one million served") is not all iron bars and clanking doors. Federal Prison Camp, for the nonviolent reprobate, is where drug fanciers and business partners of Ivan Boesky's end up cooling their heels. Claire Wolfe's fevered introduction assures us that we're all of us going to be next, what with the DEA and the FBI and these politicians we have now. Author Sharp, unlike Wolfe, is an ex-inmate and takes a matter-of-fact tone about the experience, giving the same advice Pat O'Brien always gave the cons in old movies: follow the rules, and make time serve you. Sharp charts the experience from pre-sentencing interview to halfway house and illustrates his time served with excerpts from his diary: "Prison is where I first heard of ostrich farming. Every inmate knows he will get rich ostrich farming when he gets out."

Thrift Score: The Stuff, the Method, the Madness
By Al Hoff
HarperPerennial; $12.95 paper

Thrift shopping: king of hobbies or millennial religion? In this age of standardization, the thrift shop is the last business you can walk into and have absolutely no idea of what you'll find. There are probably 50,000 thrift stores in America, and every one of them is different. So what if they all smell the same? "Big whoop, lots of life smells funny," Al Hoff answers. The publisher of the zine Thrift Score recounts her own adventures in Salvation Armies, St. Vincent de Pauls and Goodwills from coast to coast. She gives many valuable tips on etiquette, discusses textiles and ceramics and suggests how to get that damned grease-pencil smudge off of both. Hoff's cheerful prose is an affirmation for those never happier than when grubbing like a badger through a 30-year-old layer of cultural rubble. Hoff lends thrifters a sense of moral superiority--we're recycling, man! Admittedly, no serious thrift shopper really wants more competition at their favorite stores. Still, with America writhing under the weight of mammoth consumer debt, there are thousands who would really be better off yielding to society's merciless pressure to shop in a thrift store instead of a mall.

By Richard von Busack

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From the Nov. 26-Dec. 3, 1997 issue of Metro.

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