The Sporadic Beaver

Happy Anniversary, St. Louis!

April 8, 2013

Tags: St. Louis, Left Bank Books, Shameless Grounds, Apop Records, Kendra Holliday

Though I'm usually proficient at celebrating anniversaries on this blog, one of them slipped by me last week. One year ago, I began the Beaver Street U.S. promotional campaign with three raucous events in St. Louis: at Shameless Grounds coffee house on April 3, at Left Bank Books on April 4, and at Apop records on April 7.

It wasn't until afterwards that I found out that more books were sold that week in St. Louis than in any other city since then--despite the fact that Beaver Street was unavailable on Amazon at the time. The reason this happened is because the events were well publicized and the good people of St. Louis responded enthusiastically.

Kendra Holliday did an amazing job of promoting the Shameless Grounds reading on her Website, and with Sex+ St. Louis, as well as doing a very provocative interview. Left Bank Books managed to have the event featured as a pick of the week in the Riverfront Times. And the Apop reading, which wasn’t even scheduled, came about spontaneously when I walked into the store and introduced myself to the owner, Tiffany Minx. I told her about Beaver Street, she bought a bunch of copies that I had with me, and she then set up an event for the following day. Such things, I said to Tiffany, do not happen in New York.

So, happy anniversary, St. Louis. I miss you. Yes, I’ve always enjoyed visiting my wife’s family there, but the week of March 31-April 7, 2012, changed my entire concept of your fair city.

Where to Buy Beaver

April 27, 2012

Tags: Book Soup, Left Bank Books, Powell’s, Shakespeare & Co., St. Marks Bookshop, Apop Records, Barnes & Noble

As Beaver Street remains unavailable from America's number one online bookseller due to "technical problems," I'd like to bring to your attention several brick-and-mortar bookstores where Beaver Street is available, both on the shelf and online.

Book Soup: This is L.A.’s coolest bookstore and a place that I visit every time I’m in town. And, hey, Beaver Street is a featured title of the week! I’m going to be reading here on Saturday, May 12, at 4 PM.

Left Bank Books: I read at this St. Louis landmark earlier this month to an enthusiastic crowd at the Central West End store. They were the first bookstore in America to have Beaver Street on the shelves. Kudos.

Powell’s: One of the largest independent bookstores in the world, this venerable emporium features five branches in Portland, Oregon and a website that can give any online bookseller a run for their money. They’ll ship Beaver Street anywhere on the planet.

Shakespeare & Co.: One of the many independent booksellers in my downtown Manhattan neighborhood, they feature an eclectic selection of popular and offbeat titles which at the moment includes signed copies of Beaver Street.

St. Marks Bookshop: An East Village institution since 1977, St. Marks carries a diverse assortment of books—including Beaver Street—and periodicals not generally found in the chains.

Apop Records: This is one of the edgiest stores in St. Louis, and they carry an offbeat line of books, magazines, records, and vintage clothing. I did a reading here, too, when I was in town. On their shelves you will find signed copies of Beaver Street.

Barnes & Noble: Yes, they carry Beaver Street in both the paperback and Nook editions.

If you know of any more places that carry Beaver Street, please let me know and I’ll give them a shout out.

Support independent bookstores!

On the Shelves

April 17, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Left Bank Books, Shameless Grounds, Apop Records, Powell’s, Book Soup, Shakespeare’s, St. Marks Bookshop

Left Bank Books, in St. Louis, was the first bookstore in America to carry Beaver Street. There it was, well displayed on the night of my reading two weeks ago. Seeing it for sale, in three-dimensional reality, in a brick-and-mortar store made it real.

Other places where Beaver Street is available now or will be soon are: Apop Records and Shameless Grounds coffeehouse, in St. Louis; Powell’s, in Portland, Oregon; Book Soup, in L.A., where it’s a featured title of the week and where I’ll be signing and discussing it on May 12; and Shakespeare’s, on Broadway in Greenwich Village, which should have it in stock in a week or less.

Yesterday I walked into St. Marks Bookshop on Third Avenue in the East Village, and found three copies of Beaver Street on the shelf in the sociology section. I don’t know if I’d classify Beaver Street as “sociology,” but who cares? St. Marks is the first bookstore in New York City to have Beaver Street on the shelves. So, if you’d like to help out this venerable emporium, which is struggling to remain in business, buy your Beaver there and ask for it by name. Tell ’em the author sent you. And tell ’em to put it in the window where it belongs.

Life on the Mississippi

April 12, 2012

Tags: St. Louis, Apop Records, Beaver Street

Since I returned from St. Louis a couple of days ago, I've been corresponding with some of my new friends there, including Tiffany Minx, co-owner of Apop Records, where I read from the "dirty chapter" of Beaver Street last week. In one of my e-mails, I mentioned that I missed St. Louis. Minx was skeptical. She didn't believe that it was possible for a New Yorker to feel such an emotion.

I explained to her that what I missed was sitting in the front yard of my sister-in-law Cecilia’s house in Benton Park, with a cup of coffee in the morning, and looking out at the birds and crazy artwork—Buddhas, tile-covered totem poles, and soaring archways fashioned from volcanic stone—with which Cecilia’s partner, Jim, had transformed the yard into a trippy wonderland.

My description inspired Minx to jot down some of her own St. Louis impressions, including, “the semi-southern gothic feel that seems especially notable in the spring and summer; the feral weed trees and vines, cockeyed wooden patios, dressed down inhabitants, and rust or paint peel on homes and cars. It is, in the end, a river town.”

Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is an entrepreneur with the soul of a poet.

My Midwestern Odyssey

April 9, 2012

Tags: St. Louis, Beaver Street, Shameless Grounds, Kendra Holliday, Left Bank Books, Apop Records, performance

I've just returned to New York from ten days in St. Louis, where I launched Beaver Street in America. I did three readings in six days--more readings than I've done in the past five years. Thus begins the latest phase of a process that began in March 2011, when I went to London to launch the UK edition of the book. And if Beaver Street is anything like Nowhere Man, then these events are going to continue for the next dozen years or so, if not forever. I've got about a month to recover before the next scheduled reading, at Book Soup in L.A.

Sometimes I find it difficult to write when I can’t lock myself in a room, which is one reason I didn’t blog in St. Louis. But I do plan to sort out my thoughts, photos, and videos, over the next few days, and further explore my Midwestern odyssey.

But for now let me say that the atmosphere at each of the three readings was distinctly different. At the Shameless Grounds event, hosted by Sex Positive St. Louis co-founder Kendra Holliday, I read from what I’ve been calling “the filthy chapter.” “The Accidental Porn Star” is about my experiment in participatory journalism: posing for an X-rated photo shoot to gain insight into the mind of a porn stud. The Shameless crowd was enthusiastic, they laughed at all the right parts, and they were full of excellent questions about everything from the legal ramifications of the book to the Traci Lords affair. I’ve never had more fun at a reading.

The well-publicized event at Left Bank Books was more formal and restrained. It was also the first time I’d ever read in a bookstore, rather than at a bar or a publication party. Sarah, who introduced me and is, ironically, the children’s book buyer for Left Bank, told me something I’m beginning to hear quite a bit about Beaver Street—that the book’s depth, and my analysis of the political situation surrounding pornography, surprised her. It wasn’t what she was expecting.

In my presentation, I focused on Beaver Street’s literary heritage, reading from the prologue about my exposure to the “controversial” sex books that my father sold in his candy store many decades ago. Again the crowd was appreciative, and again there were a lot of good questions, many about the fact that the porn industry, like the music industry, is no longer a financially viable business for most people.

Apop Records, on Cherokee Street, is a book/record/clothing store that’s a short walk from where I was staying at my sister-in-law’s house. In the window, among various posters, are photos of the corpses of JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald laid out on autopsy tables. This is a good indication of just how edgy Apop is; it’s rare to find a store like this, even in New York. Their selection of books and magazines can best be described as eclectic and counter cultural—volumes about the Black Panthers mingle with books about porn and the zines of Robin Bougie, publisher of Cinema Sewer.

I walked in one afternoon, and introduced myself to Tiffany Minx, who’s the co-owner along with Dustin Newman. Beaver Street was on the shelf that same day, and a reading was organized for Saturday night. I took the opportunity to reprise my Shameless Grounds performance. Because if you can’t read the dirty parts in a place like Apop, with a woman like Tiffany Minx in the audience, then what’s the point in reading at all?