The Sporadic Beaver

A Radical Idea for Selling Books

September 30, 2011

Tags: Paulo Coelho, free books

Paulo Coelho photo by Xavier González.
Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian novelist best known for his book The Alchemist, which has sold 65-million copies worldwide. What sets Coelho apart from virtually every other working writer on the planet is that he pirates his own work on his own website. Ideas, he believes, should be free, and books should be available to people who can't afford to buy them. The only thing Coelho asks of readers who download his free novels is that if they like the book, and can afford it, they should then buy a copy to send a message to the book-publishing industry that "sharing contents is not life threatening."

I’m a working writer who has an opinion about everything, but when I read about Coelho’s sales strategy in The New York Times the other day, it left me speechless. If I were to call any of my publishers, in any country, and tell them that I’d like to try increasing sales by making Beaver Street and Nowhere Man available for free, I don’t think they’d say, “Great idea! Let’s do it!” Even a radical, freethinking publisher like Headpress.

But I’m not about to make such a phone call. Because as often as I’ve proven that I’m willing to go anywhere and do anything to sell books, and as much as I like the idea of disseminating my work to people who can’t afford to buy it, the idea of making it available for free to anybody frightens me. I’m too cynical to have the kind of faith in the human race that Paulo Coelho has.

And yet, he’s sold tens of millions of books and I haven’t. Which only means I have something new (and frightening) to think about over this first weekend of the year 5772.

'72

September 29, 2011

Tags: Rosh Hashanah, 5772, Observation Post, City College of New York, Occupy Wall Street, 1970s



Today, Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Jewish New Year, 5772, is one of the two Jewish holidays I acknowledge. My wife and I will go down to the Hudson River with some stale bread and, according to tradition, cast our sins upon the water. Usually the seagulls eat the bread. "What a relief," I'll then say. "They didn’t turn black." The birds, that is.

I like the Jewish New Year because I feel as if I’m getting a second chance to re-live the year designated in the last two digits—’72 in this case. Yes, it’s the ’70s again, and 1972 was an especially interesting year. The energy of the ’60s was still very much alive, and having recently transformed myself into a radical hippie, I’d become an editor on Observation Post, the “alternative” student newspaper at the City College of New York, where the remnants of the SDS and Weather Underground had fused with an emerging punk sensibility.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that kind of energy. But I felt it yesterday when I went down to Liberty Square, where the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have set up camp. Galvanized by both ridicule in the mainstream media and a cop’s unprovoked pepper-spray attack on a woman demonstrator the other day, the motley gathering veritably exuded the Spirit of 1968 (5729). “There’s something happening here/What it is ain’t exactly clear…” is the way Buffalo Springfield put it in those electrifying days.

The demonstrators’ energy was focused around a tribal drum circle on the Broadway side of the park. People were pounding out an infectious rhythm on drums, cymbals, and garbage cans. They were playing tubas, trumpets, and washboards. And they were dancing, while a few yards away, on Broadway, a chorus line of demonstrators held up signs demanding economic and social justice. It was uplifting, hopeful, and magical in a way that’s difficult to quantify, but obvious to anybody who was there.

And take my word for it—these people aren’t going anywhere. Because most of them have nothing to lose and nowhere better to go. They’re serious, angry, unemployed, and dug in for the long haul. Ignore them at your peril.

Happy New Year, Wall Street.

Fat Sex

September 28, 2011

Tags: Plump & Pink, Buf

In the twilight of my career as a porn editor, when the market for print magazines was collapsing in the face of free Internet smut, my esteemed publisher told me to produce two fetish magazines that were the antithesis of what turned me on personally.

As a porno professional, I’d learned to take such assignments in stride. After all, I’d just spent a dozen years editing mags like D-Cup, Stacked, and Bra Busters, which, as the names imply, are devoted to gargantuan breasts. Though my preference is for a slim, well-toned female body, I had no trouble with this assignment. I dare say I even learned to appreciate such oversize appendages, especially when they were beautifully photographed and attached to a gorgeous woman.

This was not the case with Plump & Pink and Buf. Though the former, whose models tended towards more-than-a-little chubby, was tolerable, the latter took me into a world I barely knew existed. Buf models were often 500-700 pounds, were photographed in a purposely amateurish way that tended to exaggerate their least attractive qualities, and they participated in a fetish in which their partners grew sexually aroused by feeding them things like fried chicken and chocolate cake, and watching them grow fatter.

Though the magazine sold well, putting it together made me physically ill.

I mention this now because of a recently published book called Big Big Love: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size (and Those Who Love Them), by Hanne Blank. Though I’ve not read it and have no intention of doing so, the book sounds like a pep talk for fat people and people who enjoy having sex with them. And Blank, apparently, explores the line between fat admiration and fat fetishism, which sounds like the same line that divided Plump & Pink from Buf.

This is all well and good, as there are a lot of people out there, fat and skinny, who are deeply interested in having sex with the overweight. Some of them might be reading this blog. So, if you’re one of them, here’s a link to an interview with Ms. Blank.

Enjoy! Just don’t ask me to edit your favorite magazine.

The Indictment of Carl Ruderman

September 27, 2011

Tags: Carl Ruderman, High Society, Gloria Leonard, phone sex, pornography, Beaver Street

Much of the time I spent writing Beaver Street was devoted to research. It took me about a year to unearth all the information I needed for the Traci Lords chapter alone. Though time consuming, the problem wasn't finding material. Between Lords and the Meese Commission, there was too much material, and the challenge was to sift through it all, figure out what was important, and then integrate it into my narrative.

Carl Ruderman, the anonymous publisher of High Society magazine, posed an entirely different problem. The “Invisible Man of Smut,” as Al Goldstein called him, hid behind figurehead publisher Gloria Leonard and went to great lengths to keep his name out of the media, at least in connection with anything having to do with porn. In fact, as I said in Beaver Street, “an internet or library search for any connection between pornography and Carl Ruderman produces little that’s concrete or substantiated.”

Well, that’s changed since the book was published. In the past year, much that connects Carl Ruderman to pornography has been popping up on the internet. One example that I wrote about a few months ago was an article in the New York Observer that bore the headline, “Porn’s ‘Invisible Man’ Prices His Condos at $13.5 M.”

Yesterday, I found something even juicer: the Justice Department’s 1987 appeal of the dismissal of an indictment against Ruderman for “various federal obscenity crimes in connection with the operation of a ‘dial it’ telephone service whereby persons could call a New York City telephone number and listen to a sexually suggestive, pre-recorded message.”

You can read the entire document by clicking here.

I’ve posted this link for my own reference and as a service to any future researchers who want to cast more light on a man who revolutionized the porn industry but has, for the most part, managed to escape being credited (or indicted) for what he did.

Springtime for Beaver in America

September 26, 2011

Tags: Headpress, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Kindle, e-readers

I received word from Headpress the other day that Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography will be published in trade paperback in the United States on March 23, 2012. It will also be available as an e-book in all formats, including Kindle.

Beaver People, start your countdown! It's only six months to springtime.

I’m especially excited about the Kindle edition. Over the past few months, Kindle (and other e-readers) has reached a tipping point in New York. Not only do I see more and more of them on the subway, but when I tell people about Beaver Street, their first question is often, “Is it available on Kindle?” Indeed, people have told me that they will only buy a book if it is available on Kindle. (Yes, I know, you love your Kindles.)

I’m also aware that a certain segment of the reading public prefer not to be seen on subways and buses reading a book titled Beaver Street. Well, with an e-book, nobody can see what you’re reading. But please, promise me, when strangers inquire why you’re laughing out loud, you’ll tell them it’s because you’re reading Beaver Street.

Okay, then, I’ve got six months to prepare for the big day. All I can tell you at this point is that I'm going to have a publication party in an appropriately sleazy bar on Beaver Street, in downtown Manhattan. You’re all invited.

On Raves and Hatchet Jobs

September 23, 2011

Tags: Nowhere Man, John Lennon, reviews, Paolo Palmieri, Oscar Wilde

The best lesson I've learned about reviews since the publication of Nowhere Man in 2000 is that a vicious review will sell as many books as a rave review. And, God knows, I've gotten enough of both to speak with authority on the subject. In fact, since Nowhere Man was published in Italy this week, two more reviews of the book have been posted--a five-star rave on Amazon Italy (in Italian) and a one-star hatchet job on Amazon Germany (in English). These critiques serve as a microcosm of what Nowhere Man has been subjected to for the past 11 years.

What I find fascinating about such divergent opinions is that the reviewers appear to be talking about two entirely different books. It’s a perfect illustration of the Oscar Wilde quote from the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray: “Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself.”

Antony, the Italian reviewer, described Nowhere Man as an “excellent” book, and a narrative that “portrays a rock star as very sensitive and vulnerable.” He also said that the author and Paolo Palmieri, the translator, “have made John Lennon one of us,” and that it’s “a book to always have on hand, and occasionally to open and read a few lines to understand the simplicity” of life.

Dulce Erdt, the German reviewer, however, said that Nowhere Man is “confusing” and “revolting,” lacks “sensitivity” and “respect,” paints a “too negative” portrait of Lennon, and then insists, “We all know that John Lennon was not a ‘nowhere’ man, why is this author trying to tell the world the contrary?”

The other good lesson I learned about reviews is to never argue with critics, especially ignorant ones, like Dulce Erdt. But sometimes their ignorance is just too overwhelming to ignore. Which is why I will take this opportunity to point out to Fraulein Erdt that some of us are aware that Lennon’s song “Nowhere Man” is autobiographical. In other words, I didn’t have to tell the world about Lennon’s “Nowhere Man” status. He beat me to it by 34 years.

Take a Sad Song and Make it Better

September 22, 2011

Tags: Troy Davis, capital punishment, Nellie McKay


Song for Troy Davis by Nellie McKay

If you've read Beaver Street (or Nowhere Man for that matter) then you know that my interests range far beyond pornography and rock 'n' roll, into such areas as the rule of law and government corruption. And though I don't know enough about the Troy Davis case to render an informed opinion about his guilt or innocence, I do know enough about capital punishment to say with assurance that it's a barbaric, racist, and deeply flawed practice, and that the United States is the only country in the industrialized Western World that executes prisoners.

Last night, the state of Georgia, in the name of the American people, executed Troy Davis by lethal injection for a murder he was found guilty of committing 22 years ago. I won’t go into any detail here about the hundreds of thousands of people, including many staunchly in favor of capital punishment, who had grave doubts about Davis’s guilt. You can read about it on the Internet if you want to know more.

But I did watch the drama play out on TV, as the Supreme Court considered, then denied, a last-minute stay of execution. Then I heard the news that Davis went to his death proclaiming his innocence.

It sickened me and made me ashamed to be an American.

That’s all I have to say for now about this case in particular, or capital punishment in general. But I would like to share with you the above video, “Song for Troy Davis,” by Nellie McKay.

This Just In…

September 21, 2011

Tags: Cicciolina, Ilona Staller, pornography, Italy

Cicciolina in 2009. Photo by Certo Xornal.
Having had my John Lennon bio published this week in Italy, and hopeful that Beaver Street, which is about pornography and politics, will soon follow suit, I've been keeping an eye on any news of sex and politics to emerge from the declining Roman Empire. I found this:

Porn star Cicciolina (real name Ilona Staller), who made her hardcore debut in 1983 in a film titled Il telefono rosso (The Red Telephone), starred in 40 more XXX-rated movies, and was then elected to the Italian Parliament in 1987 and served one five-year term, has ignited a bitter uproar in her adopted country.

The Hungarian-born former MP, who was once married to artist Jeff Koons, and offered to have sex with Osama bin Laden if he’d renounce terrorism, will turn 60 in November and begin collecting a taxpayer-funded lifetime pension of more than $53,000 a year.

Though this is a standard pension for any one-term MP, ordinary Italians are furious, as they believe Cicciolina did nothing while in office except attempt to pass a dozen sex-related bills, such as one to set up “love parks and hotels.”

Parliament, meanwhile, recently passed an austerity package, and politicians—while they continue to collect an annual salary and expense package totaling more than $335,000—are now asking the rest of the country to make painful sacrifices to prevent a Greek-style financial crisis.

Cicciolina, however, feels she earned her pension and is as proud of her government work as she is of her sex work.

A Few Words About a Headpress Book I Didn't Write and an Author Who Isn't Me

September 20, 2011

Tags: Headpress, Shade Rupe, Dark Stars Rising

There's no question that this blog can often seem self-obsessed, but, really, if I don't promote my work, who is going to promote it? That's just the nature of the book business, where it's every author for himself. And in city like New York, where everybody is self-obsessed, and the book-publishing industry is not exactly known for its generosity of spirit, it's a survival strategy.

Which brings us to my fellow New Yorker Shade Rupe, author of the Headpress book Dark Stars Rising. Shade, whom I’ve spoken to on the phone and occasionally communicate with on Facebook, but have never actually met, has managed to get my attention on two occasions this past month. The first time was when I was buying tickets to see Tree of Life at the Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street. There was Dark Stars Rising on display in the box office—the first time I’d ever seen a book of any kind on sale in a movie box office. “Well done,” I thought, happy to see the Headpress logo in such an unexpected place.

The second time was yesterday, when I saw Dark Stars Rising in the window of Shakespeare’s, the independent bookstore on Broadway, in Greenwich Village. Having never looked at the book, I went inside to check it out, and was greeted by a Dark Stars Rising poster hanging on the wall, near the entrance. But the book was sold out, except for the copy in the window, which a clerk retrieved for me. I didn’t have time to thumb through all 568 pages, but I did read part of Shade’s interview with Divine, which was compelling.

So, Shakespeare’s, what are you waiting for? Order more copies of Dark Stars Rising. There’s money to be made! And again, well done Shade and Headpress. Can’t wait to see what happens when Beaver Street lands on these shores in 2012.

Translator Rising

September 19, 2011

Tags: Nowhere Man, Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Paolo Palmieri, Il Tirreno, Coniglio, Piombino

As Yoko Ono would be inclined to point out, yesterday, on the 18th day of the 9th month, the first article about the impending publication of Nowhere Man: Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon (Coniglio) appeared in the Italian press. And what's extraordinary about this story, that ran in Il Tirreno, is that the book's translator (and my Italian Avatar), Paolo Palmieri, is mentioned in the headline, which roughly translates as "John Lennon's Diaries Translated by Palmieri."

Never before have I seen a translator featured so prominently in an article about Nowhere Man. But in this case the credit is well deserved—without Paolo, there would be no Italian edition.

This is really a story about a local boy who’s made good. The article says that Paolo’s translation of this international bestseller, born of Lennon’s personal diaries, has brought merit to his hometown of Piombino.

Paolo says his translation is “an act of love for a musician who I’ve always loved,” and that he’d dreamed of going to New York to meet the ex-Beatle, but Lennon was murdered before he could make the trip.

Already on sale in some bookstores, Nowhere Man’s “official” publication day is September 22.

The Body-Punishing Sex of Gail Dines

September 16, 2011

Tags: Gail Dines, Pornland, Andrea Dworkin, Ron Jeremy, Vanity Fair, Porn Report

Gail Dines, anti-porn gadfly.
At first glance, Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, appears to be a more rational version of the late Andrea Dworkin, who believed that watching porn led to rape, and that sexual intercourse was the equivalent of rape.

But I've found that after watching Dines debate Ron Jeremy; watching a few of her lectures on YouTube (in one she calls Vanity Fair magazine "pornography"); and reading a couple of her articles, my sympathy for her point of view is rapidly diminishing, even though I tend to agree with some of what she says. (Yes, some pornography is abusive and disgusting.) It simply grows tiresome to listen to a woman whose favorite phrase, repeated ad nauseum, is "body-punishing sex."

An article by Dines, “Time to Start Telling the Truth About the Porn Industry,” posted on the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Website, offers a concise summary of her views. In the piece, Dines takes on the authors of the Australian Porn Report, whom, she says, want to “sanitize porn as a bit of harmless fun” and “seem willfully detached from the realities of how porn functions as a global industry and as a storytelling device.”

In other words, these Australian “academics, public intellectuals, and plain old pornographers” disagree with Dines’s suggestion that, according to her research, the most popular porn sites display a “mind-numbing repetition” of “gagging, slapping, verbal abuse, hair-pulling, pounding anal sex, women smeared in semen, sore anuses and vaginas, distended mouths, and exhausted, depleted, and shell-shocked women.”

Or, to put it simply, “body-punishing sex.”

Lennon, Italian Style

September 15, 2011

Tags: Nowhere Man, Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, Piombino, Paolo Palmieri, Il Pinguino

I didn't know John Lennon had any Italian in him until I saw the cover of Nowhere Man: Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, which, I'm told, goes on sale in bookstores throughout Italy today. It is, of course, the cigarette in Lennon's hand that somehow gives him that Italian look. And as far as I know, it's the only cover of any Lennon bio in any language that shows him smoking.

The book should soon be available on the Internet, as well, but in a land where Kindle doesn’t exist, the real Nowhere Man action, I’m told, is going to be in le librerie of Rome, Milan, and… Piombino.

Yes, Piombino, a picturesque Tuscan city on a promontory jutting into the Mediterranean, where on a clear day you can see Elba. This is where my translator and Italian Avatar, Paolo Palmieri, lives. I’ve been there, and there’s a lot of Beatles energy in this town.

One place you can feel it is in Il Pinguino café on Piazza Della Costituzione. The owner, Simone, a published poet whose last name escapes me, has decorated the walls of his café with photos of the Beatles. When he heard that I’d written Nowhere Man, he recited for me—with Paolo supplying a simultaneous translation—a poem he’d written about the night Lennon was murdered, “The Last Tolls of Your Footsteps.”

So, if you find yourself in Piombino, perhaps stopping off there on your way to Elba or Sardinia, why not head over to Il Pinguino and say ciao to Simone. He might read you a poem. And, oh yeah, check out the wall in his Beatles room. I hear my picture’s hanging there, too.

Act Naturally

September 14, 2011

Tags: Sleazoid Podcast, R.C. Baker, Village Voice, Boogie Nights, Amazon, Beaver Street, Martin Scorsese, Justin Timberlake, Henry Dorfman, Paul Slimak



The good people of The Sleazoid Podcast wouldn't be the first to suggest that Beaver Street is a movie that needs to be made. R.C. Baker, of The Village Voice, said in his Amazon review, "Vivid and funny, Beaver Street moves at a cinematic pace, a period piece that picks up the story of modern porn where Boogie Nights leaves off." And, of course, I, too, have entertained such big-screen fantasies, musing over the possibility of Martin Scorsese directing (Who does sleazy and gritty better?), Justin Timberlake portraying a younger me, and Paul Slimak, whom I call Henry Dorfman in the book, playing himself. (Check out Slimak's work in the Beaver Street promotional video, above.)

Whether or not a filmmaker comes along and snaps up the rights to Beaver Street is obviously beyond my control, and I’m not about to max out my credit cards producing the movie myself. But with Beaver Street scheduled to be published in the US sometime in 2012 and Nowhere Man about to undergo an Italian Renaissance, I’m feeling unusually optimistic.

So, I’m putting the idea out there, my daily message in a bottle: Come on, Hollywood, let’s make Beaver Street, the movie. If it ain’t a natural, I don’t know what is.

Message in a Bottle

September 13, 2011

Tags: Sleazoid Podcast, Mike Ashcraft, Beaver Street, Nowhere Man

Posting on this blog often strikes me as the cyber-equivalent of sending out messages in bottles. I cast my words upon the great ocean of the Internet, and who knows who's going to see them. And if somebody does see them, who knows how they're going to react or if they're going to react at all.

And though The Daily Beaver and Beaver Street itself have been consistently provoking positive reactions from all levels of the culture, highbrow to lowbrow, it still comes as a surprise each time it happens.

It happened again yesterday. The Sleazoid Podcast, which I was unfamiliar with, had some rather kind things to say about Beaver Street. If you click on this link, you can hear them beginning about 18 minutes into the show.

The host, Mike Ashcraft, having read a Beaver Street review, now wants to read the book because it was written by the author of the John Lennon bio Nowhere Man, and because “It’s an expose completely blowing the lid off the adult industry.” So he ordered it from Amazon—apparently from one of the marketplace sellers, as it hasn’t yet been published here.

Beaver Street?” said Ashcraft’s co-host. “It sounds like a movie we all need to make.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Ashcraft has already invited me to come on The Sleazoid Podcast and talk about Beaver Street. Dear readers, I am so ready to talk.

When Academics Attack (Each Other)

September 12, 2011

Tags: H-Net, Beaver Street, Perversion for Profit, Whitney Strub, Patrick Glen, pornography, Sonja Wagner

Nasty business, academia. Imagine what it must be like to say something inconsequential about an obscure theory only to have 14 other professors in your department, all of whom are competing for the last remaining tenured position, drag you into a metaphorical dark alley and viciously pummel you to within an inch of your professional life.

I got a taste of this kind of scholarly brutality when I sent to the so-called anonymous professor who once edited Swank magazine (I call him “Jack”) the H-Net review comparing Beaver Street to Whitney Strub’s Perversion for Profit. (Jack had previously weighed in with his opinion about Beaver Street.)

At the time I sent it to him, I was still not aware that a revised version of the essay, by Patrick Glen, PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield, had been published on H-Net, and I lightheartedly suggested that “Jack” had written it himself, on a sojourn to England.

Here is the anonymous professor’s response to “Free Speech and Competitively Priced Smut: Pornography in the United States,” an essay that I thought was brilliant, and that another reader has lauded as “the first scholarly paper to refer to the ‘insertion of fifteen billiard balls into a man’s anus followed by an elbow-deep fist-fucking.’”

Hey Bob,
I may have been a bit slow in responding to this for a reason—it is a gargantuan pile of silliness. First, from the spelling and punctuation, it is safe to assume the review is from the UK (or perhaps Oz.) Second, its possibly valiant attempt to merge a post-mod theoretical study (meaning it is largely improvised according to political need) and your authentic and gritty memoirs is sad and strained. I wouldn’t be the first to compare the former to a type of mental masturbation that aligns reality with the titillating prospect of a “reasonable” theoretical outcome, no matter how outrageously this interferes with perceived facts. I’m afraid I don’t have the energy or inclination to respond more fully, but I’ll add that the stylistic errors throughout attest to a desire to put the message before the medium, to the certain detriment of both.

Frankly I enjoyed best Sonja’s comment—“I’m one of those women that worked as an art director for D-Cup. I assure you I am a feminist.”—which simply blew apart the absurd posing of both the “academic” study and the review itself. Pfft.

Jack

PS—I’d probably give him a C-. He’s fairly articulate, though makes stylistic errors that a grad student should not. (Was there no editor?) The main problem is that his approach is simply wrong-headed—it follows a construct that is largely improvisational and therefore less than useful. He does (perhaps by accident) make some useful observations.


Do we have a genuine, take-no-prisoners academic controversy brewing? One can hope.

91111

September 9, 2011

Tags: 9-11, Ground Zero

One mile from where I live, a Tower of Babel again scrapes the sky, rising towards the clouds, standing today at only one half of its freedom-loving 1776 feet.

8 Seconds at Ground Zero, September 8, 2011

A Dirty Book with Universal Appeal?

September 8, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, H-Net, Vanity Fair, Village Voice, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Bizarre, Amazon

As I prepare for Beaver Street's inevitable US publication sometime in 2012, it has come to my attention that the book has achieved an unusual cultural hat trick, so to speak.

The highbrow critics (H-Net) like Beaver Street.

The middlebrow critics (Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) like Beaver Street.

The lowbrow critics (Bizarre) like Beaver Street.

And if you add the sex critics (Erotic Review) and the chorus of professional, semi-professional, and amateur critics on Amazon US and UK who have weighed in with unanimous five-star reviews… well, one might be tempted to argue that Beaver Street is a dirty book with universal appeal.

But one would be best advised to hold his or her tongue until Traci Lords, the right-wing media, and others with delicate sensibilities render their opinions.

The Renaissance of Nowhere Man

September 7, 2011

Tags: Nowhere Man, Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, Paolo Palmieri, Coniglio

Robert Rosen (left) and Paolo Palmieri, Pisa, Italy, March 2011. Photo by Mary Lyn Maiscott.
Last week my Italian translator, Paolo Palmieri, informed me that he had in his hands five printed copies of the Italian edition of Nowhere Man: Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, and that the book would be on sale in Italy in a few weeks. Could there be a more appropriate country for a Nowhere Man Renaissance?

My literary relationship with Paolo began three years ago, when I received an e-mail from a stranger in Tuscany who’d read an English language edition of Nowhere Man. “Why,” he asked, “is there no Italian edition?”

“Good question,” I replied.

Paolo took it upon himself to find a publisher—Coniglio—and then translate the book. For the first time I’ve had an opportunity to work closely with a translator, and clarify, over the course of about a thousand e-mails, the countless words and passages that would have otherwise been lost or obscured in translation, which Paolo then explained in footnotes—the first foreign language edition to do so. This translation, in short, is a labor of love.

Now that the book exists, Paolo is going to give readings, talk about it to the media, blog about it, tweet about it, and promote it in any way he can think of. Which makes him a lot more than my translator. He is my Italian Avatar.

It’s been more than 11 years since the original hardcover edition of Nowhere Man was published in the United States. Can we all just agree now that the book is a classic?

About That Scholarly Analysis

September 6, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, Perversion for Profit, Whitney Strub, Patrick Glen, H-Net, pornography, Eric Cantor

The scholarly analysis comparing Beaver Street to Whitney Strub's Perversion for Profit that I wrote about last week is showing signs of being a turning point in Beaver Street's publication.

The essay, titled "Free Speech and Competitively Priced Smut: Pornography in the United States," by Patrick Glen of The University of Sheffield, and published on the humanities and social sciences site H-Net, seems to have persuaded certain people, who were leery or dismissive of Beaver Street because of its subject matter, to reconsider the book's merits.

Their thinking seems to be: If a scholar, in an academic paper, is describing Beaver Street as “thought provoking,” “vivid,” and “a rich account,” etc., perhaps it’s more than a dirty book. Perhaps it’s even a book worth reading.

But my favorite reaction to the essay comes from an old friend who plays a small but crucial role in Beaver Street. On page 146, he informs me that while I was incommunicado in the mountains of Idaho, trying to forget about what I did for a living, Traci Lords had confessed to being underage for her entire porno career.

Here’s what he said in his e-mail:

Congratulations, Bob. Not only is the analysis flattering, but you are now responsible for the first scholarly paper to refer to the “insertion of fifteen billiard balls into a man’s anus followed by an elbow-deep fist-fucking.”

I hope that no federal funding went to pay for this paper; you might end up being named in a tirade by Eric Cantor on the floor of Congress and will have to defend yourself in the presidential election.


To which I replied:

No need to worry about Cantor. The paper is a product of the British university system. Someone should alert the Queen.

An Open Letter to Carl Ruderman

September 2, 2011

Tags: Carl Ruderman, High Society, Beaver Street, Google

Hey, Carl, Bob Rosen here. How've you been? I know it's been a while since you gave the order to fire me from High Society for "giving the magazine a bad name"--27 years to be exact. But no hard feelings, really. I was glad to be out of there, and you gave me some priceless material for Beaver Street. Thanks for that!

In any case, I’m writing to tell you about a Google search that brought somebody in India, of all places, to this blog a couple of days ago.

You can usually see where visitors to the site are located, and the search terms they used to find whatever they were looking for. Well, this particular query is a doozy.

Here it is, and it’s an exact quote:

“carl ruderman” fraud or launder or embezzle or crime or smuggle or ofac or judgment or jail or rico or terror or corruption or felony or trafficking or drugs or bribe or sanctions or extradite or subpoena or laundering

Wow! Talk about giving a magazine a bad name!

(OFAC, incidentally, is the Office of Foreign Assets Control in the Treasury Department. I had to look it up.)

So, Carl, enjoy your holiday weekend, and feel free to write anytime.

Yours truly,
Bob Rosen

PS—I’ll be sure to let you know when Beaver Street is being published in the US. If you come to the pub party, I’ll give you a free autographed book. You deserve one.

The Sleazeball Six

September 1, 2011

Tags: Rick Perry, pornography, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Edwin Meese, Alberto Gonzales, Charles Keating, politics

In Beaver Street I call Nixon, Meese, Keating, and Agnew (aka Dick, Ed, Chuck, and Spiro) the "Fab 4" disgraced anti-porn warriors of the 20th Century. But in writing about Texas governor, presidential candidate, and former porn monger Rick Perry the other day, it occurred to me that I should add to the group Alberto Gonzales, Bush's attorney general, a 21st century anti-porn warrior who resigned in disgrace before Congress could formally threaten to impeach him for lying under oath. So, with Al in tow, that would make the group the DC 5 (as in District of Columbia, not Dave Clark). But it's really hard to not include Perry himself in the group. Though not a declared anti-porn warrior, he is ignorant, misguided, and morally bankrupt—in short, everything a certain segment of the population is looking for in a president. And as a conservative, evangelical Republican who once invested in Movie Gallery, a video rental chain that specialized in hardcore pornography, that makes him hypocritical and sleazy, too. And it gives me license to call this supergroup The Sleazeball Six, which is both fitting and catchy.