The Sporadic Beaver

Epiphany on Beaver Street

May 31, 2012

Tags: Bloomsday on Beaver Street, James Joyce, Ulysses, banned books, Killarney Rose

In addition to the invitation to Bloomsday on Beaver Street, there's also a press release. This is what it says:

What: New York launch party for Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, by Robert Rosen
When: Bloomsday, Saturday, June 16, 2012, 7 P.M.
Where: Killarney Rose (upstairs bar), 80 Beaver Street

Ten years ago, Robert Rosen, author of the international bestseller Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, was searching for a title for the new book he’d begun writing, about the history of modern pornography. He found it while wandering around downtown Manhattan, not far from Wall Street. Looking up at a street sign, he saw that he was on the corner of Beaver and Broad, and realized he’d found not only his title, but nearby, at 80 Beaver Street, an ideal venue for a publication party—the Killarney Rose.

Now, after a series of sometimes raucous events in the Midwest and California, Rosen has come home to celebrate the New York launch of Beaver Street, and he’s doing so on Bloomsday, a day named for Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of the groundbreaking James Joyce novel Ulysses, which takes place in Dublin on June 16, 1904. Why did Rosen choose this particular day? Because Ulysses, like Beaver Street, was considered a “dirty book” in its time, a work of smut rather than literature.

When an excerpt of Ulysses, about Bloom masturbating, was published in the U.S. in 1920, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice succeeded in having the book declared obscene and banned in the U.S.—until 1933, when the courts, in an epic decision that marked the beginning of modern literature, declared the novel non-pornographic, and Ulysses was officially recognized as a work of art.

Though some critics have branded Rosen’s book “smut”—and Amazon, claiming “technical difficulties,” has not made the print edition available in the U.S.—when Beaver Street, a Vanity Fair “Hot Type” pick, was published in the U.K. last year by London indie Headpress, other critics across the cultural spectrum and on both sides of the Atlantic recognized the investigative memoir for what it was.

“Robert Rosen’s history of modern porn is entertaining, insightful, and hot,” said Michael Musto, of The Village Voice.

Beaver Street captures the aroma of pornography, bottles it, and gives it so much class you could put it up there with Dior or Chanel,” said Jamie Maclean, editor of the legendary British sex journal Erotic Review.

Beaver Street… adds considerable depth and texture to any understanding of how the pornography industry worked…. The book is as much a literary as it is a conventional historical account,” said Patrick Glen, of the academic site H-Net.

So, in a spirit of new and vital literature that James Joyce himself might appreciate, Rosen is celebrating the U.S. publication of Beaver Street at the Killarney Rose, an Irish bar on Beaver Street, on Bloomsday.

Rosen and special guests will read provocative passages from Beaver Street. “Characters” from the book will be present. Recording artists HooP and Mary Lyn Maiscott will provide live music.

Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography is now available in New York City at Shakespeare’s, McNally Jackson, St. Mark’s Books, and Barnes and Noble, and in all e-book formats at all online booksellers.

Download Invite to Bloomsday on Beaver Street

May 30, 2012

Tags: Bloomsday on Beaver Street, Killarney Rose, banned books

Bloomsday on Beaver Street, the New York launch event for my investigative memoir, Beaver Street, is going to take place Saturday, June 16, 7 P.M., at the upstairs bar of the Killarney Rose at 80 Beaver Street. The event is free, open to the public, and will feature provocative readings from the book by me as well as special guests, and live music by HooP and Mary Lyn Maiscott.

To learn more about the event, you can download the invitation by clicking on the image to the left.

Hope you can join me on Beaver Street to celebrate literature and banned books that refuse to die.

The Banning of Beaver Street

May 29, 2012

Tags: Meese Commission, banned books, Amazon, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, Ulysses

Beaver Street is a book that deals with explicit sexual themes while launching a full-frontal assault on the outrageous hypocrisy of Republican anti-porn warriors who were either convicted of multiple felonies and sent to jail or were forced to resign from office in disgrace to avoid criminal prosecution--notably Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Edwin Meese, Charles Keating, and Alberto Gonzales.

Because of this, I thought that there was a decent chance that somebody might try to ban the book, leading to controversy, a flurry of media attention, and a few more sales. What I had in mind was a group like Focus on Family, a fundamentalist Christian organization that I cited in Beaver Street because their founder, James Dobson, an “evangelical pediatrician,” had served on the Meese Commission on Pornography, which, in 1986, attempted to outlaw pornography in America.

Well, it’s time to file my little fantasy under: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Though Amazon U.S. has not exactly banned Beaver Street—they are selling the Kindle edition and allowing outside vendors to sell the paperback edition—they are not selling the paperback edition themselves, which means that they’ve made it extremely difficult for anybody who doesn’t want to read Beaver Street on a plastic machine to get their hands on it.

Amazon claims they’re doing this because they haven’t been given the right to sell Beaver Street in the U.S., which is simply not true. The distributor and the publisher have repeatedly reaffirmed Amazon’s right to sell the book in the U.S., but Amazon has repeatedly ignored them and continues to insist that they don’t have the right to sell the book in the U.S.

None of the readers, potential readers, and journalists whom I’ve spoken to about this believe that Amazon is so inept they’re unable to correct what amounts to a minor clerical error. They think that Amazon has banned the book due to its explicit sexual content, and nothing I say can convince them otherwise.

So, if perception is reality, then I’ve gotten what I wished for: Beaver Street, like James Joyce’s Ulysses, is a banned book.

Which is one more good reason to join me June 16 at the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street to celebrate Bloomsday on Beaver Street and express your distaste for any organization that, intentionally or by benign neglect, bans books.

And, if you’ve got a little free time, do me a favor: Write to Amazon. Let them know that you don’t appreciate them banning books of any kind, even if they swear on a stack of Kindles that they haven’t banned it, that they simply don’t have the right to sell it.

Why Bloomsday?

May 25, 2012

Tags: Bloomsday, Beaver Street, James Joyce, Ulysses, banned books, Killarney Rose

Funny thing, the unconscious. Somehow you know things, but you don't know how you know them, or even that you do know them. That's what happened when I was looking at the calendar, trying to select a day for the New York Beaver Street launch. I knew I was going to have it in on a Saturday in June and I knew I was going to have it at the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street.

June 16 jumped out at me.

Yes, I knew it was Bloomsday, named for Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of the James Joyce novel Ulysses, which takes place in Dublin on June 16, 1904. I was in Dublin once on Bloomsday, and participated in the daylong festivities, which included readings from the book. So, I figured: Bloomsday, Irish bar on Beaver Street, people will read from the book—perfect.

But I didn’t realize until yesterday how perfect it was. That’s when I remembered something I’d known all along: In 1920, a literary magazine published an excerpt from Ulysses that contained a description of Bloom masturbating. He’s at the beach, pleasuring himself as he watches a young girl, leaning back and revealing her “beautifully shaped legs.”

Joyce describes Bloom’s orgasm: “And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind blank and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely! O so soft, sweet, soft!”

The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice considered this passage pornographic, took the matter to court, and succeeded in having Ulysses declared obscene and banned in the U.S. for 13 years.

Beaver Street has not actually been banned—though in the eyes of many attentive readers, Amazon’s failure to make the paperback edition available comes pretty close. And some critics have, indeed, branded the book “smut.” (Happily, most recognize it as literature.)

Bottom line: Celebrating the publication of a “dirty book” in an Irish bar on Beaver Street on Bloomsday is the way to go. And I hope to see you all there for Bloomsday on Beaver Street. It’s free and it could be fun.

Amazon Case #34451451

May 24, 2012

Tags: Amazon, Beaver Street, Kafka

Regular readers of this blog are aware that the paperback edition of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography has been unavailable directly through Amazon U.S. since its publication here last month. Though Amazon has made the Kindle edition available, and is allowing outside vendors to sell the paperback edition, they claim that they themselves do not have the right to sell the paperback edition in the U.S.

Since becoming aware of this problem, my publisher, Headpress, the distributor, SCB, and I have repeatedly told Amazon, by e-mail, by telephone, and by letter, that they do have the right to sell the book in the U.S.

Amazon continues to insist that they do not.

Yesterday, in fact, I received a phone call from a woman at Amazon Author Central. She told me that the reason Beaver Street does not have a “buy box,” as Amazon calls the button you click to buy the book directly from Amazon, is because Amazon does not have the right to sell the book in the U.S.

I told her that Amazon had received a letter from the distributor over a month ago confirming that they had full distribution rights for Beaver Street throughout North America. I read the letter to her.

The woman repeated that Amazon does not have the right to sell Beaver Street in the U.S.

The conversation went around in circles. I told her that dealing with Amazon was more frustrating than dealing with the IRS.

The woman gave me a case number: 34451451. She said that this number should be used in any future dealings with Amazon.

When I hung up the phone, I felt as if I’d just played out a scene in a Kafka novel—probably one that doesn’t have a buy button.

I know this much: When any corporation, large or small, is unable to solve simple problems quickly—and adding a buy button to Beaver Street is about as simple as it gets—it’s symptomatic of deep-seated systemic problems throughout the corporation.

I look forward to discussing case #34451451 with Amazon at the BEA next month.

Loose Ends

May 23, 2012

Tags: Tiffany Granath, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, Book Soup, Kendra Holliday, Shameless Grounds, Nowhere Man, Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, Paolo Palmieri

If you're one of those people with Sirius-XM radio, perhaps you heard me yesterday on The Tiffany Granath Show. I know somebody was listening because my 20-minute chat with the enthusiastic host, who was excited to get her hands on the paperback edition of Beaver Street, resulted in a modest surge in sales. I'd also like to thank Tiffany for assiduously plugging the New York launch event on June 16, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, which is free and open to the public.

Though my Book Soup event seems like ancient history at this point, I haven’t written about it yet, and I’ve been meaning to say that I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made in reading the so-called “dirty part” from “The Accidental Porn Star” chapter, which I’ll be reprising at the New York event. My performance, I dare say, is beginning to feel like a cross between a Lenny Bruce stand-up routine and a recitation of a Shakespearian soliloquy. What stands out in my mind about the reading was a man who was browsing through some art books off to the side, paying no attention to me—until I began reading. Then he looked at me with a huge smile, mesmerized, as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The Accidental Porn Star had connected with The Accidental Listener.

Just before I left for L.A., my old pal in St. Louis, Kendra Holliday, posted a video of her interview with me, conducted moments before the event at Shameless Grounds coffee house. It’s an interesting document of a very nervous writer, with a lot on his mind, about to embark on a U.S. promotional tour. I have mixed feeling about this video. Some of it, I think, is outrageous and hilarious. In other parts, however, my nervousness is obvious, and I find it difficult to watch as I struggle for words. But this is the book biz in the 21st century, where every writer, no matter how reluctant, is forced to become a performer.

Finally, here’s a link to a Google-translated review, posted yesterday, of the Italian edition of Nowhere Man: Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, which has sold out its first printing. (Here’s the review in the original Italian.) The critic calls the book “daring,” “an unforgiving but truthful portrait,” a “must for… Beatles fans,” and praises the “excellent translation” of Paolo Palmieri. Made my day.

Live, from New York… and Occasionally L.A.

May 22, 2012

Tags: Christy Canyon, Ginger Lynn, Tiffany Granath, Paul Slimak, Erich von Pauli, Beaver Street

I've often said that the live radio interview is my preferred form of book promotion. I've done hundreds of such interviews since 2000, when my first book, Nowhere Man, was published. Usually, I'm sitting at home, in New York, talking on the telephone. When the chemistry's right and the host has actually read the book, the interview can be like free-form jazz--it can go anywhere.

My May 10 appearance on Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn’s Spice Radio show, You Porn, out of L.A., was memorable for many reasons. Christy, an author in her own right, had indeed read Beaver Street—the book was full of her notations in the margins. She was an excellent interviewer who knew how to make me feel comfortable, asked all the right questions, and let me answer them at length. She also had a good sense of pacing, knowing when to gently cut me off if I was going on too long. The show got off to a fine start when Christy showed me her astonishing breasts, and asked if I recognized them.

“Yes,” I said, “I remember them well… and they haven’t aged at all.” I then urged the show’s listeners to give her breasts a well-deserved round of applause.

It was towards the end of the show that a character from the book, “Henry Dorfman,” who in real life is professional actor Paul Slimak, called in as Erich von Pauli, the deranged Nazi character he plays in the Beaver Street promotional videos. Von Pauli had everybody in the studio cracking up, as he praised the book’s superior literary quality and threatened to launch his V-2 missiles if Amazon doesn’t get their act together and make the print edition available immediately.

The show went so well, and everybody had so much fun, the Spice Radio people have invited me back to appear today, at 3 PM (EST), on The Tiffany Granath Show, on Sirius-XM channel 102. A rotating panel of sex experts takes your calls on this “advice show,” as it’s described.

Well, I’m ready, and I’m looking forward to seeing you on the radio this afternoon.

How To Sell Books

May 21, 2012

Tags: Christy Canyon, Ginger Lynn, Book Soup, Beaver Street, Tiffany Granath

The author busts sod with a pickax in the Santa Barbara sun. Photo by Mary Lyn Maiscott.
I've returned from California jetlagged, upside down, and out of sync. My plan is to spend the next few days easing into New York reality and writing more about my Book Soup reading and my appearance on Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn's Sirius-XM radio show, which went so well, the Spice Radio people have invited me back to talk about Beaver Street on The Tiffany Granath Show tomorrow, at 3 PM (EST). But before I embark on a day of dental appointments, laundry, and dealing with insurance providers, I want to share with you the most important lesson I learned in L.A. about selling books: The book itself doesn't matter. What's important is how you look when you're selling it.

If you want to move product, the best thing to do is get out in the California sun, take off your shirt, and wield the biggest, most macho tool you can find. So that’s what I did. And yeah, I realize I need to work on my tan. But if I say so myself, this ain’t too bad for a middle-aged author who’s generally loathe to venture into the afternoon sun. I’ll let you know how it works.

Going to California

May 7, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Christy Canyon, Ginger Lynn, Book Soup, Killarney Rose, Bloomsday

I'm leaving for California tomorrow morning, and since I tend not to post, or do much writing of any kind, when I'm on the road, this will probably be the last Daily Beaver entry for a few weeks. So I'll take this opportunity to remind whoever's reading this blog of the upcoming events in L.A. and in New York when I get back, and the general state of Beaver Street since its U.S. publication last month.

Thursday, May 10, 1 P.M. (PST): I’ll be talking about Beaver Street on Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn’s Sirius XM radio show, You Porn, channel 103. It’s a live call-in show and you can reach us at 1(800) 774-2388.

Saturday, May 12, 4 P.M.: I’ll be reading from “The Accidental Porn Star” chapter and signing Beaver Street at Book Soup, L.A.’s coolest bookstore.

Saturday, June 16, 7 P.M.: Please join me for the New York launch party, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, at the upstairs bar of the Killarney Rose at 80 Beaver Street. There will be live music and readings, and the spirit of James Joyce will be present.

The State of the Beaver: Amongst a flurry of extraordinary reviews, which you can access from the home page, and a selection as a Vanity Fair “Hot Type” pick, Beaver Street continues to slowly find its way into independent bookstores such as Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, Book Soup in L.A., Left Bank Books and Apop Records in St. Louis, and Shakespeare’s, St. Mark’s Books, and MacNally Jackson (this week) in New York. You can also get it a Barnes & Noble in both the paperback and Nook editions.

Sadly and frustratingly, the paperback edition remains unavailable through Amazon U.S. due to ongoing “technical problems.”

And that’s the Beaver Street story up to this point. See you in L.A.!

The Ubiquitousness of Pornographic Imagery

May 4, 2012

Tags: MAC Cosmetics, Beaver Street

The other day, this ad for MAC Cosmetics, which appears in the June issue of Vanity Fair, was brought to my attention. To say the least, the similarities between the MAC image and the image that appears on the cover of Beaver Street are striking. Which is not to say that the Mad Men who created this ad were studying the Beaver Street cover--though I suppose it's possible that it influenced them unconsciously. It merely illuminates a point that I make in the Beaver Street prologue--that pornographic imagery has become an "ubiquitous cyber-force" that has "penetrated virtually every niche of the mainstream media." I know that when I look at this ad, I can't decide if I want to buy a tube of red lipstick or have oral sex.

Bloomsday on Beaver Street?

May 3, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Killarney Rose, Bloomsday, James Joyce, Ulysses

Yesterday, I floated the idea of having a Beaver Street launch party at the Killarney Rose, at 80 Beaver Street, in New York, sometime in June, probably on a Saturday night. A number of people responded enthusiastically to this suggestion, and wanted to know the exact date so they could plan their lives accordingly. Though I wasn't going to set a date until after I return from L.A., in late May, a glance at the June calendar gave me an idea: Bloomsday, June 16.

June 16, 1904, is the day that the James Joyce novel Ulysses takes place in Dublin. And for the past 57 years, this day has been celebrated in Dublin and elsewhere, generally with readings from Ulysses, as the events of the novel and its protagonist, Leopold Bloom, are relived.

What better day to celebrate Beaver Street in an Irish bar with readings from the book and live music?

So, let me float that date—Saturday night, June 16—and see how that works, especially for the musicians and the people who want to perform dramatic Beaver readings. I think James Joyce would approve.

Two Pornographers Walk into a Bar on Beaver Street

May 2, 2012

Tags: Killarney Rose, Beaver Street, Byron Nilsson

For years I've been thinking that when Beaver Street is published in the U.S., I'm going to have the New York launch party at the Killarney Rose, at 80 Beaver Street. This old Irish bar is not far from the spot on Beaver and Broad where I looked up one day and saw the street sign that gave me the title of the book. Though I've poked my head into the Killarney Rose a couple of time to make sure it really exists and is not a figment of my imagination, I've never sat at the bar and had a drink.

Yesterday, my friend Byron Nilsson was in town. Byron’s a writer with an expertise in computers whom I met on the Internet in the mid-90s when I was editing a few dozen porn mags, and he became a regular contributor to such distinguished titles as D-Cup, Sex Acts, and Plump & Pink. We decided to walk down to Beaver Street and have drink at the Killarney Rose.

We went to the upstairs bar (there’s another bar downstairs), which seemed like a cozy private club because there was only one other person sitting there. The Australian bartender, Michelle, greeted us as warmly as I’ve ever been greeted upon walking into a New York City bar. As she drew a couple of pints, she asked us why we’d come to the Killarney Rose. I told her that I’d written a book called Beaver Street and thought this might be the perfect place to have the launch party—there’s a great back room that seems ideal for readings. Michelle immediately summoned the owner, John Moran, who was enthused by the idea of a Beaver Street launch party, especially after I told him, “I’m going to invite everybody I know in New York.”

Moran said that he'd give my guests a good price on food and drink and that musicians would be able to plug in their amps and provide live entertainment.

I said that perhaps I could even persuade Headpress to kick in a couple of quid so we could have an open bar, at least for the first guests to arrive. (Are you reading, David?)

By the time we’d finished our beers, the friendly barmaid, Michelle, the woman sitting at the bar, and the owner were all eager to get their hands on a copy of Beaver Street.

So, here’s where it stands: I’m leaving for L.A. next week for the Book Soup event, and will be back towards the end of May. I’m thinking that early-to-mid June is the time to launch Beaver Street on Beaver Street. I’ll read from the book—the “dirty part,” of course. Mary Lyn Maiscott and guitarist extraordinaire Gary Hoopengardner will provide the music. And Byron, who’s also an actor, has volunteered to read from the book as if performing a Shakespearian monologue. Hell, anybody who wants to read from Beaver Street is welcome to come up to the microphone and show their stuff.

Everybody’s invited and I look forward to seeing you on Beaver Street in June.

The Year of Nuns and Streakers

May 1, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, City College of New York, Observation Post, The Campus, 1970s

As I peruse the digital archives of The Campus, the "straight" student newspaper at the City College of New York, I continue to find more coverage of my work on Observation Post (OP), the "avant garde" (as they describe it) newspaper at CCNY that I edited in 1974.

The lead story in this issue—“Buckley says kick out editors over ‘bigotry’”—from March 15, 1974, is about Senator James Buckley, arch-conservative of New York, and his reaction to a cartoon of a nun “using a cross as a sexual object” (as The New York Times delicately put it) that I’d run in OP. The students that he wanted to expel were the art editor who drew the cartoon as a response to his education at the hands of “sadistic nuns,” as he explained it, and me. Buckley called the cartoon “a vicious and incredibly offensive anti-religious drawing,” and demanded that the entire college press be censored because of it—in order to protect the civil rights of students who were offended by pornography.

I tell the complete story in Beaver Street in the chapter called “How I Became a Pornographer,” and you can read it here.