The Sporadic Beaver

Mistress Pussycat

April 19, 2015

Tags: Mistress Pussycat, Joyce Snyder, Pam Katz, literature, Swank Publications, Headpress, Fifty Shades of Grey

If you read Beaver Street, then you probably took note of a character I called "Pam Katz," whom I've often written about on this blog. (I used pseudonyms for all the non-public figures in the book.) Now Pam Katz, who is really Joyce Snyder, has written her own book, Mistress Pussycat: Adventures With Submissive Men In The World of Femdom, which Headpress is publishing on September 7. You can preorder the book on Amazon. (The cover you see here will be the actual cover.) And you can get more information about it on her under-construction but still-worth-checking-out Website.

I worked with Joyce for 15 years at Swank Publications. She was one of the rare people at that company who was a total professional and always conducted herself with the utmost integrity. So when she asked me to review Mistress Pussycat, which you’ll be hearing a lot about here and elsewhere in the months to come, I was happy to do so. This is what I had to say:

Mistress Pussycat is a disturbingly honest, highly arousing, laugh-out-loud-funny memoir by cat-loving career pornographer Joyce Snyder. At age 60, after half a lifetime spent cranking out low-rent stroke books and X-rated films, she embarks on a madcap journey of erotic self-discovery and learns the true nature of her own sexuality—she’s a “femdom,” a woman who wants to enslave men. Her quest for the perfect, obediently worshipful male is an eye-opening tour through the demented demimonde of BDSM, a secret world barred to the “vanilla”—anybody not into BDSM—featuring “adult babies,” “pony parties,” “pain sluts,” “pay pigs,” human furniture, masochists begging to be publicly humiliated, dominatrices expert in the art of testicular torture, and men who want only to suffer forevermore as naked “slave beasts,” their penises caged in diabolical chastity devices. Snyder’s sharply drawn portraits of the more than a dozen torment-craving “subs” who audition for her ministrations are frighteningly real, well written, and well researched, and because she experienced or witnessed everything she so skillfully describes, it’s hotter than Fifty Shades of Grey. Reading Mistress Pussycat is a literary pussy-whipping… and you’ll learn a lot about cats, too.

Daddy Porn

January 7, 2013

Tags: StorErotica, The Pleasure Chest, Fifty Shades of Grey, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Mommy Porn, Daddy Porn

The first story I ever wrote for my local newspaper, The Villager, was about The Pleasure Chest, an upscale sex shop that's been at the same Greenwich Village location for 42 years. It was the summer of 1976--the Bi-centennial Summer, as The Pleasure Chest staff preferred to call it--and my assignment was to spend an entire shift in the store and describe what went on.

What went on was that a lot of well-dressed and decidedly non-sleazy men and women came into the store and bought some very expensive fashion accessories, most of them made of luxuriously soft black leather--S&M hoods, corsets, bras, etc. The Pleasure Chest, I thought, was more akin to a clothing store than a sex shop.

When I walked by The Pleasure Chest a few weeks ago, the stark and simple window display stopped me dead in my tracks. It consisted of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and a riding crop.

For those of you who’ve somehow missed the news, Fifty Shades of Grey is an overtly pornographic S&M epic and one of the best-selling books of all time. As I recently learned, an entire industry has grown up around it. Walk into any sex shop in the world and you can not only buy the complete trilogy, but you can buy any product mentioned in the books—ben wa balls, handcuffs, whips, you name it. The trilogy has made porn so respectable, it’s now being advertised on the sides of New York City bus shelters.

Because Fifty Shades of Grey is, essentially, a Harlequin Romance with explicit sex, it’s been dubbed “Mommy Porn.” And though it is an undeniable commercial mega-success, I’m unaware of any men who have read the book—probably because the average male is interested in reading something grittier and more sophisticated.

Perhaps, then, it’s time to offer an alternative to Mommy Porn. Let’s call it “Daddy Porn.” In fact, let’s call it Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, a book that’s dedicated to my father and that opens in his Brooklyn candy store, in 1961, with a bunch of the “neighborhood regulars” hanging out and deconstructing the latest volume to appear in his “special rack,” a display of sophisticated pornographic literature that featured such classics as Tropic of Cancer and Last Exit to Brooklyn.

Or Daddy Porn, if you will.

I have a dream. Next Christmas, when I walk by The Pleasure Chest, I want to see Beaver Street in the window, alongside some of the products I mention in the book, like a “plug-in vibrator the size of a small baseball bat” or maybe a cat o’ nine tails, to name but two.

And I believe I’ve taken the first step to achieving this “dream.” The December issue of StorErotica, a glossy trade mag that goes out to every sex shop in the US and Canada (and will soon be available online), features an extensive interview with me, in which I discuss Beaver Street and the sex-novelty business in general.

Let’s call it the first shot of the Beaver Street Winter Assault. In fact, let’s call it a direct hit.

A Well-Targeted Review

November 12, 2012

Tags: reviews, Beaver Street, Fifty Shades of Grey

If you happen to run a sex shop or "intimate apparel" store, then you're probably familiar with the trade magazine StorErotica. This is a serious publication that gets into nuts-and-bolts retailing issues like maximizing profits, store security, and hot new products. Well, I'm tickled pink to report that in the magazine's Hot Products section, among the James Deen endorsed dildos, they've listed Beaver Street, describing it as "an interesting and witty look at pornography from the early '70s through late '90s."

Considering chains like Barnes & Nobel have been less than eager to stock Beaver Street in their remaining brick-and-mortar stores, I couldn't think of a better place for my "intriguing" (as StorErotica calls it) investigative memoir to be sold. I mean why should Fifty Shades of Grey, which I noticed is in the window of my local Pleasure Chest, have all the fun? Isn't it possible that people who buy Doc Johnson vibrators are also interested in quality, thought-provoking literature?

So, I’d encourage all erotic products entrepreneurs to take StorErotica’s advice and order Beaver Street today. It’s the book that carries both the Vanity Fair and Erotic Review seal of approval. How can you go wrong?

Banned Books and Bloodsprayer

October 4, 2012

Tags: banned books, Bloodsprayer, Adult Video News, Beaver Street, The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger, Fifty Shades of Grey

October has always been a good month for me, publicity-wise. It was in October, 13 years ago, that the first item about my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, appeared in Entertainment Weekly magazine, and ignited a firestorm of publicity that put the book on best-seller lists in five countries.

Judging by what happened yesterday, this October appears to be keeping true to form. The day began with an excellent piece in Adult Video News about banned books in general and the Banned Book Week event I'll be participating in tonight, at 8:00, in New York City, at 2A in the East Village. I've never before taken part in a group reading with a porn star, so this should be both interesting and raucous. The porn star, Lisa Ann, best known for playing "Serra Paylin" in the Hustler video series, will be reading from Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James. I'll be reading from The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger. And it's FREE. See the full lineup here.

Then the day ended with The Bloodsprayer posting part 2 of my epic Beaver Street interview. If you’re undecided about whether or not to come tonight, allow me, as I did with part 1, to boil down part 2 to the top 5 pull quotes.

“In the 60-odd pages Traci Lords devotes to porn in her book, in virtually every case she leaves out the Five Ws—who, what, where, when, and why—saying she was drunk and stoned the whole time and forgot everything that happened.”

“A normal company would have put Mario Puzo’s and Stan Lee’s typewriters in a glass case and employees would have been required to genuflect every time they walked by. But at Swank, it appeared as if the Goodman family didn’t want Martin Goodman’s sacred name sullied by the stench of his son’s smut.”

“The amateur exhibitionists are putting the professional studs and starlets out of business.”

“I say in the Beaver Street prologue that I wrote the book ‘to understand the cumulative psychic effect of having spent 192 months immersed in XXX and wondering if I’d ever get out alive.’ So, yes, writing it was cathartic.”

With any luck at all, I’ll be equally provocative tonight. Hope to see you at 2A.

On Vicious Hacks and Conspiracy Theorists

September 7, 2012

Tags: reviews, Amazon, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, Beaver Street, Fifty Shades of Grey, conspiracy theories

Even more common than the practice of authors paying for rave reviews, which I discussed yesterday, is the practice of authors anonymously trashing competitors' books. My John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man, seems to be a magnet for such attacks, probably because, for the most part, I'm competing with a collection of vicious hacks.

One such review, titled "Worst Book Ever!" was posted on Amazon U.K. soon after Nowhere Man was published. "This book is just a bunch of lies," the anonymous critic (whose identity is transparent) wrote. "If I could rate this book 0 stars I would, but the computer makes you rate it 1 star and up. I think Robert Rosen should read [name redacted]'s books. Maybe he will get some sense knoked (sic) into him." He then posted a similar review on Amazon U.S., this time referring to his own book as "masterful."

I learned a long time ago that such critiques can help sell a book, provided that there are enough positive reviews to balance them out. Hatchet jobs make books seem interesting and controversial. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, has 3,800 one-star reviews to go along with its 4,700 five-star reviews.

Yesterday, I also said that I never have and never will pay for a review. On one occasion, though, I have gone over to the dark side and anonymously trashed another author’s book. But it wasn’t a competing author and it was a special case, the first of its kind: A high-profile conspiracy theorist published a book implicating me in a CIA-backed plot to murder John Lennon.

I remember standing in a bookstore in Chicago, the week that Nowhere Man was scheduled to be published, reading this book in a state of shock and horror, and wondering how anybody who called himself a journalist could a) believe such a thing, and b) publish it without speaking to me first.

A few months later I got the brilliant idea to post an anonymous one-star review of this book on Amazon. What I wrote, though, was completely true: “Not only is this book so murkily written that it borders on unreadable, but the author offers not a shred of concrete evidence to support his paranoid fantasy—that the CIA was behind the death of every one of the [10 rock stars mentioned in the subtitle]. This is trash fiction masquerading as investigative journalism.”

Naturally, the author guessed who was behind this review and accused me on his blog of viciously attacking and ridiculing him.

Beaver Street has yet to be anonymously trashed by a competing author. Perhaps that’s because it’s usually porn stars who write books about pornography, and your average porn star has more integrity than your average conspiracy theorist or Beatles biographer. Or maybe porn stars just have better things to do.

Fifty Shades of Beaver

September 5, 2012

Tags: Fifty Shades of Grey, E. L. James, Beaver Street, pornography, S&M, Book House, Talk Story TV

Say what you will about the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Call it bloated. Call it amateurish. Call it Ishmael. The bottom line--and it's literally a bottom line--is that this series of S&M novels has sold nearly 50 million copies, and in so doing has made the book world safe for smut.

If it weren't for E. L. James, the British TV executive and mother of two, who began writing Fifty Shades as online fan fiction, I doubt that I'd have been invited to participate in a live Internet chat about Beaver Street on Talk Story TV on September 12 or to read from and sign my investigative memoir at the Book House, in Albany, NY, on September 14.

Fifty Shades of Grey and Beaver Street are both entertaining books about sex that contain explicitly pornographic passages. And there are, indeed, a number of S&M scenes in Beaver Street. But the similarities end there. Fifty Shades is fiction. Beaver Street is nonfiction that reads like fiction. Fifty Shades was written to arouse. Beaver Street, though arousing in many parts, was written to inform—to show the history of the late 20th century through a pornographic lens.

Ironically, critics have panned Fifty Shades of Grey and acclaimed Beaver Street across the cultural spectrum, from highbrow to lowbrow—which only goes to show that nobody cares what critics say. Which is to say, if, over the course of my lifetime, I can sell 1/100 of the number of books that James has sold, I’ll be a very happy author.

The Beaver Is Back

August 21, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Book House, E. L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Maine, Jonesport

Rosen at rest in Maine with a martini. That’s the multitalented Mistress of Syntax, Mary Lyn Maiscott, playing the guitar. Photo © Cindy Perry Rosen.
I took the summer off to concentrate on the new book I’m writing, Bobby in Naziland, and to recover from my exhausting battle with Amazon to make the print edition of Beaver Street available. For the past ten days I've been chilling with my family in Jonesport, Maine, in a house on the ocean, doing little more than eating too much lobster and blueberry pie as I watched the gothic fog roll in every day, and thought that if I stayed there long enough I'd start to write horror stories. But I wrote nothing while I was there, not even a postcard, and let me tell you, it feels good to go ten days and write absolutely nothing. Now that I'm home and feeling fully recovered, I'm more than ready to launch the Beaver Street autumn offensive, which I'll kick off by getting back in the blogging groove (though not necessarily every day just yet) and preparing for the first event since Bloomsday on Beaver Street.

On Friday, September 14, at 7 P.M., I’ll be reading and signing Beaver Street at the Book House in Albany, New York. And I can thank none other than E. L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, for this opportunity. Ms. James’s mega-blockbusting trilogy has made filth, especially of the S&M variety, palatable to the masses. In tribute to Fifty Shades, I will consider reading an S&M scene from my book. Though I’d like to point out that there is at least one major difference between James’s S&M and my S&M—Beaver Street is nonfiction. So, you 50 million S&M fans, if you’re in the Albany area and you like your S&M real, I hope to see you in September. I suspect you can all use a little literary discipline, if not necessarily a little bondage.