The Sporadic Beaver

Fear and Self-Loathing at Swank Publications 2

June 1, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, Nowhere Man, Arnold Shapiro, Oscar Wilde, Dorian Gray, Swank

This is my response to the e-mail I posted yesterday.

Hey Alan, thanks for the feedback. Appreciate your perspective and the energy you put into writing it. Thank god you weren’t bored with Beaver Street. As a rule, I don’t argue with critics. Tried it too many times with Nowhere Man and found you can’t change people's minds. So, I stand by what I wrote. The book speaks for itself. I didn’t use Arnold Shapiro’s real name cause he’s not dead—dead on the inside doesn’t count—and he’s not a public figure or even a limited-purpose public figure. (I explained it in the author’s note.) This is the most negativity I’ve received from somebody who’s capable of genuine critical thought. But that’s encouraging, as I’m sure you know what Oscar Wilde said about when the critics disagree. (See the preface to Dorian Gray if you don’t.) I am going to share your critique with a few other Swank alumni cause I’m sure they’ll find it as interesting as I do.

Take care.

Bob

Fear and Self-Loathing at Swank Publications

May 31, 2011

Tags: Swank, Beaver Street, Chip Goodman, Carl Ruderman, Bill Bottiggi, Arnold Shapiro, pornography

A former co-worker at Swank Publications sent me this e-mail after reading Beaver Street. Both complimentary and scathing, it serves as a reminder of what happens when you write books about real people. I’ve changed his name as well as the names of any non-public figures and still-living former colleagues that he mentions. All names in the letter correspond to the names I used in the book. The redacted names do not appear in the book.

OK, Bob, finished the Beaver. It’s obvious the work you put in, research, continuity, editing, organizing. You juxtapose the subjective and objective in interesting ways. As an insider, you still surprised me with new info and reminded me quite tactilely what we saw, felt, and dealt with. I can only imagine readers who weren’t there being pulled in and getting a good idea of it. The evolution of the biz does indeed mirror and contradict society simultaneously. All that is very effective and reads well without lecturing.

The pacing is good all along but feels like it jumps at the end. You go from lots of detail and everyday experiences to and overview in the last couple chapters. Was this your decision or a result of editing?

Your disdain for the biz, employers, and self-loathing is palpable. Not sure who you’re blaming. Them for over-paying you, your dad for exposing and inspiring you to pursue fringe publishing, yourself for not doing something else despite the money. (You don’t make it sound like it was easy money—being disgusted, nauseated, adjusting and adapting to each and every thing thrown at you. And you appear to never say no...)

A couple other things I question: How do you know Chip [Goodman]’s moods were solely influenced by the amount of coke he did? That he had a Napoleonic complex is clear but do you know if he was ever diagnosed as bi-polar, had family issues, painful teeth or any of a million other things that cause mood swings? Yeah, we know he did coke but there is nothing on record about rehab, ODs or the like. I think you take a broad stroke there merely to smear someone you despised and depict with great judgment. Same for [Carl] Ruderman but to a much less scathing degree. And it seems you spared “Arnold Shapiro” all but being a kiss-ass yes-man. Plus I thought you said you used his real name. Why not out him? He was perhaps the bigger douche in the big scheme of things because of his duplicitous and hypocritical relationship with and against Chip. You mention his flip-flopping to please the boss but not his loathing for him behind his back, all the while dancing to the bank and doing his investing on the phone while we toiled and made him more and more money. You also point out the money thrown at you for pick-up books but don’t mention how he would pay outside people double what he gave full-time employees. Outsiders wouldn’t know that, just saying.

And lastly, the thing I like least is your treatment of Bill Bottiggi. Why out his scam? And imply the connection to his murder? Totally not necessary and I might ad, not cool. Seems a crappy way to treat a troubled guy. Not to mention he was a very sweet soul despite his problems. If there was something he did to make your life difficult in some way, fucked you over, ripped you off or dissed you in any way other than trying to get you high and hitting on you, albeit in an awkward indirect way, if that’s what he was even really doing, I could see dragging him through the dirt. But he was simply a misfit, a generally innocuous misfit who was a victim of murder. A murder that you off-handedly say was never solved. [Murder theory redacted.] That plausible and grim theory is every bit a shitty story to tell, and thankfully left out, but if you don’t know one way or the other. why suggest anything? It seems you had something against him or just couldn’t resist including a juicy tidbit and the chance to include a salacious tale of sex, drugs, and murder. Which is it? You couldn't get the picture of his carved-up corpse out of your mind? Really? Well, me neither. I mourn for him and still raise a Bloody Mary in remembrance each Thanksgiving morning. I hope you rest easy knowing you’ve scandalized him in such an exploitive way. Yet you fail to mention genuine scum like [name of non-public figure redacted] (the coke-head art director of Swank), [name of non-public figure redacted], that other creep editor Chip brought in from Puritan. These were true pornographers in every deviant definition of the word, who were more over-paid than you to raise the bar of distaste.

So summing up, nice research, some nice writing, a peek into a time gone by but overall rather self-aggrandizing. I’m not too surprised but none-the-less disappointed you had to go down that road. Good luck with the sales anyway. I do admire your dedication and success. —Alan

Tomorrow, my response…