The Sporadic Beaver

The Eichmann Transition

September 30, 2013

Tags: Bobby in Naziland, Mary Lyn Maiscott, writing

New York Times article from May 25, 1960.
Mary Lyn Maiscott, aka the Mistress of Syntax, is an editor whose judgment I trust implicitly. (That's one reason I married her.) She edited my two previous books, Nowhere Man and Beaver Street. In both cases, when they were accepted for publication, the editors at the publishing houses barely changed a word.

Four months ago, having finally reached the point where I felt I could do no more on my own, I gave Mary Lyn the complete manuscript for Bobby in Naziland, a novel I'd been working on for more than five years and had shown to nobody. She has since read it and has been giving me feedback--specifically flagging passages that she thought could be clarified, tightened, or somehow improved. (I gave an example of this in a previous post.)

Though I’ve been making improvements, there’s one passage that’s been driving me crazy since 2009, and that I continue to struggle with. It’s the primary thing that stands between me and a finished book. I call it “The Eichmann Transition.”

The capture of Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Final Solution, is a story that I knew as well as any story: In 1960, the Mossad kidnapped Eichmann off the street in Buenos Aires and spirited him back to Israel to stand trail for crimes against humanity. I drew on my memory of these events to write a chapter titled “Tales of Eichmann.”

But when I turned to the historical record to check the accuracy of my memory, I came upon a fantastic tale that had been declassified only a few years earlier, and that changed the very essence of the story. Though the Mossad had taken all the credit for capturing Eichmann, acting as if they’d learned of his whereabouts clairvoyantly, it so happens a former Dachau inmate who’d fled with his family to Argentina had tipped them off.

Once settled in his new country, the former inmate, Lothar Hermann, did such a good job of concealing his Jewish identity, not even his teenage daughter Silvia knew about it. She was, in fact, so oblivious of her heritage that she began dating Eichmann’s rabidly anti-Semitic son Klaus, who used his real name and bragged to the Hermanns that his father was a high-ranking Gestapo officer.

The Hermanns, acting as spies, then confirmed Adolf Eichmann’s identity, at which point the Mossad took over.

This story, reduced to little more than a historical footnote, remains generally unknown to anybody who hadn’t researched the matter in the past few years. And it cried out to be included in Bobby in Naziland, a fictional memoir that in part explores the meaning of memory. But how to include it? The story of the Hermanns was not part of the narrator’s memory and its inclusion seemed to violate the narrative structure of the book.

And this is what I continue to struggle with—how to seamlessly transition from what the narrator remembers about Eichmann to what he couldn’t have possibly known, because nobody outside a select inner circle knew it.

Sometimes it feels as if Eichmann will be the death of me yet. But, I swear, with a little help from the Mistress of Syntax, I’ll nail the bastard sooner or later.

In Denial

September 23, 2013

Tags: Bobby in Naziland, conspiracy theories, Facebook, Google, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, Shade Rupe

In the Adolf Eichmann chapter of Bobby in Naziland, the novel to which I'm currently applying some finishing touches, one of the things the Mistress of Syntax flagged was my reference to a bone-grinding machine used in death camps. She wanted to know if the machine had been built specifically for use in the camps. This was a good question, I thought, and turned to Google for an answer. The search terms I put in, as shown in the graphic, were: bone grinding machine Nazis. I was shocked and dismayed to see that the first three results were Holocaust denial sites. (In a search two days later, the denial sites placed two and four, and the order continues to change.)

One of the first things that popped into my head was the idea of a kid in grade school, who knows nothing about the Holocaust, being given an assignment to write a report about the Nazis. He goes to Google and the first thing he sees is that the Holocaust didn't happen, thereby handing a tremendous victory to the deniers.

I posted this on Facebook, and it led to a surprisingly large number of comments, notably from fellow Headpress writer Shade Rupe, who’s done a great deal of Holocaust research.

What I hadn’t mentioned on Facebook was that part of the inspiration for Bobby in Naziland was my own dealings with a Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist who’d read Nowhere Man, and in Internet postings that described me as a “Jewish writer,” said that I was the Zionist-funded CIA spymaster who’d given the order to kill John Lennon. He also tried to goad me into an online debate about whether or not the Holocaust really happened.

In the book’s endnotes, I say of this (naturally) pseudonymous fellow, “That there are people like this lurking on the Internet should come as no surprise to anybody. That other people who call themselves journalists echo such theories in cyberspace and, on occasion, have published them in books, and in at least one legitimate newspaper, is an alarming truth that cannot be ignored.”

That’s just the way it is in the fact-free 21st century. Holocaust denial is spreading and Bobby in Naziland is, in part, my own small response to it, for whatever that may be worth.

And, yes, the bone-grinding machines were specifically built to grind human bones in Nazi death camps.

Perversion for Profit

September 16, 2013

Tags: Perversion for Profit, Charles Keating, Whitney Strub, Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, politics, Beaver Street, pornography, H-Net

Perversion for Profit is the title of an anti-porn film that Charles H. Keating, founder of the pro-censorship group Citizens for Decent Literature, produced in 1965. If Keating's name rings a bell, however, it's probably not because of his heroic efforts to save America from the pornographic menace. Most likely, you remember Keating because, in the 1980s, he was at the center of the savings and loan scandal, which cost taxpayers $341 billion in bailout money. Keating's bank alone, Lincoln Savings and Loan, had sold uninsured junk bonds to 23,000 elderly investors, swindling them out of $300 million--real money in those days--and Keating himself was sentenced to 12½ years in federal prison on 73 counts of racketeering, fraud, and conspiracy.

In Beaver Street, I describe Keating as one of the "Fab Four anti-porn warriors of the 20th century," a select group of men that also included President Richard Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, all of whom had to resign their office in disgrace to avoid criminal prosecution or jail time.

Keating serves as a prime example of one of the main themes of Beaver Street: The biggest crooks cry “Ban pornography!” the loudest.

Whitney Strub, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University, was so impressed with Keating’s anti-porn work and the breathtaking magnitude of his hypocrisy that he titled his book Perversion for Profit.

Perversion for Profit came to my attention about two years ago, when Columbia University Press published the hardcover edition, and an academic site, H-Net, reviewed it along with Beaver Street. Both books essentially told the same story, they said, Strub’s from an academic perspective, and mine from a literary perspective.

Tuesday night, September 17, from 8:00-10:00 P.M., at the 2A bar in the East Village, Strub will be joining me, Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, J. C. Malone, Gloria Malone, Britney Shannon, David Healy, and Peter Loureiro for a night of readings about sexual and gender politics. Check out the flyer on my home page and stop by 2A for a drink.

Professor Strub says attendance is mandatory, Beaver and Perversion will both be on the test, grades of A will be liberally awarded, and extra credit will be given for those of you who’ve actually read the books.

Sex & Politics, American Style

September 11, 2013

Tags: Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, politics, Beaver Street, pornography, Perversion for Profit, Whitney Strub, The New York Times

The image on the right is the flyer for the next event at the 2A bar, 25 Avenue A, in the East Village, where Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, and I have been coordinating a series of readings for the past few months. The theme for Tuesday night, September 17, is politics--specifically sexual and gender politics.

In celebration of this theme, I'll be reading the section from Beaver Street that ties together Lyndon Johnson's Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, Richard Nixon, Billy Graham, Charles H. Keating, Deep Throat, and Watergate. All in about 1,300 words.

Whitney Strub, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University, will be reading from his first book, Perversion for Profit (Columbia University Press), which was just released in paperback, and which covers material that’s almost identical to what I cover in Beaver Street. (You can read a review comparing the two books here.) The title is a reference to an anti-porn film produced by banker and convicted felon Charles H. Keating, who might have described Strub as a “permissive professor dedicated to a position of complete moral anarchy.” Our kind of educator, in other words.

J. C. Malone, a take-no-prisoners political columnist for Listin Diario, in the Dominican Republic, will read one of his columns, posible en español. Translation will be provided. Here’s a link to a recent Malone dispatch from the Bronx.

Malone’s daughter Gloria Malone, who writes for Teen Mom NYC, will read “I Was a Teenage Mother,” her Op Ed piece that ran in The New York Times.

Other performers include Lainie, who will read from Election, by Tom Percotta, adult film star Britney Shannon, actor David Healy, and actor Peter Loureiro.

It promises to be a provocative and enlightening evening, and we hope to see you there. Admission is free and the event runs from 8:00-10:00 P.M.

Return of the Beaver

September 9, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, Nowhere Man, Bobby in Naziland, Amazon, Kindle, Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, Deep Throat, The Rialto Report

It's been nearly seven weeks since I last posted here, and the ninth day of the ninth month (see Nowhere Man) seems like an auspicious day to declare an end to summer hours. Regular readers of what used to be The Daily Beaver will notice the name change. I'm now calling this blog The Sporadic Beaver, which means that I'm no longer going to post Monday-Friday, but will make the effort to post at least once every week.

A lot has been going on since July 24:

· I’ve given the complete Bobby in Naziland manuscript to the Mistress of Syntax, who has read the entire thing. I’ve since been working on corrections and rewrites.

· The Beaver Street Kindle edition was re-released on Amazon U.S. and Canada, and last week it was the #1 “Hot New Release” in pop culture books in the U.S., and the #2 “Hot New Release” in art books, behind Gertrude Stein’s The World Is Round, in Canada. This is my first #1 anything in the U.S. since September 2000, when Nowhere Man was riding high on numerous bestseller lists.

· In other Amazon news, the secretive company has made the Kindle edition of Beaver Street unavailable in the U.K., telling me that they “don’t have the rights to sell it.” This is what Amazon U.S. told me last year about the print edition of the book—before the threat of a public protest against Amazon censorship persuaded them to make the book available. Perhaps the Brits will sort this one out, though they’ve given no indication that they’re capable of doing so.

· I’ve been kicking back in Machiasport, Maine; Saint Andrews, New Brunswick; and Greenacres, Florida, doing my best not to think about Amazon or any of the other routine aggravations that the publishing industry is so good at generating.

· Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, and I have been preparing for our next group reading on Tuesday, September 17, at 8:00 P.M., at the 2A bar in the East Village. The theme is politics, and I’ll be reading from the Lockhart Commission/Deep Throat/Watergate section of Beaver Street. Stay tuned for more info, and in the meantime, you can listen to Eric talk about Deep Throat on The Rialto Report.