The Sporadic Beaver

Forbidden Opinions: John Lennon Edition

January 5, 2016

Tags: Huffington Post, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Beatles, Fred Seaman, Yoko Ono

It shouldn't take any courage to compile a list of "Great Books" about John Lennon. But the American rock establishment live in mortal dread of offending the wrong rock star (What if they never grant me another interview?), record company (What if they never give me another backstage pass?), or magazine (What if they never give me another assignment?), so that, for professional rock 'n' roll scribblers (and those who hope to be), it requires a great deal of courage to publish a wide range of "forbidden" opinions about the extensive body of John Lennon literature.

Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon has been included on its share of “best” lists. Among them are: Christianity Today’s “10 Best Books of 2000” (which also includes The Human Stain, by Philip Roth); iLeon’s “10 Essential Music Biographies of All Time”; “The Top 20 Beatle Books,” a chapter in The Beatles: Having Read the Book, by Greg Sterlace; and The Examiner’s “Top 3 Conspiracy Theories Revolving Around the Death of John Lennon” (a bizarre list that I share with J. D. Salinger and Stephen King).

Obviously, none of these publications and Websites can be considered mainstream sources of rock-establishment opinion, and, it’s safe to say, none of the writers who assembled these lists harbor any ambitions of working for Rolling Stone or interviewing Yoko Ono.

That’s why I was astonished to wake up one morning last month and find Nowhere Man on The Huffington Post’s list of “12 Great Books About John Lennon.” Dennis Miller (the author, not the right-wing comedian) wrote the piece, in which he calls Nowhere Man a “cult classic.” Though Miller is not a card-carrying member of the rock establishment, The Huffington Post is well within the mainstream.

Miller’s list contains several of the usual suspects, like John Lennon: The Life, by Philip Norman; Tune In: The Beatles, by Mark Lewisohn; and The Love You Make, by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines. But, in addition to Nowhere Man, Miller includes what is arguably the most radioactive book in the Lennon canon: The Last Days of John Lennon, by Frederic Seaman.

Suffice it to say that Seaman, Lennon’s former personal assistant, gave me Lennon’s diaries, which enabled me to write Nowhere Man. (I tell the story of our relationship in the intro.) And Yoko Ono so hated The Last Days of John Lennon, she was finally able to force Seaman to withdraw the book a decade after it was published, thus making it the only banned book on the list. (Copies are still available on the Internet.)

Though I’m no fan of Seaman’s book, I was still happy to see it on the Huffington Post list—because I hate the idea of anybody having the power to repress any book. The Last Days of John Lennon is a fascinating combination of flattering and unflattering truths about Lennon, unflattering truths about Ono, and a liberal smattering of overt lies about everybody involved, including me. It’s also a book that’s well worth reading, especially if you read it alongside Nowhere Man.

So, I’d like to commend Dennis Miller for putting together this unorthodox list, though I may never know if it was a product of bravery in the face of the rock establishment, charming naïveté, or simply a dozen books that he happened to like very much.

Lennon: Naked, Flawed, Mean, and Beautiful

November 30, 2015

Tags: Huffington Post, Michael Lee Nirenberg, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, reviews

There’s nothing more I can add to Michael Nirenberg's essay, "Rock n Roll Watergate," that ran on The Huffington Post last week. Nirenberg, a filmmaker, best known for his Hustler magazine documentary, Back Issues, simply expressed the passion he felt for Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, which was released last month as a 15th anniversary e-book edition.

Nirenberg said that the book made him feel as if he were “inside the Dakota with John Lennon and Yoko Ono,” and that Lennon came across as “naked—flawed, mean, and beautiful.”

So, yes, all these years after publication, the book continues to affect people and inspire them to communicate their feelings about what they’ve read. This is what every writer wants his or her books to do.

To me, this is especially satisfying because for 18 years nobody would publish Nowhere Man—editors had deemed it “unpublishable.”

I think it’s now safe to say that they were wrong. Nowhere Man is the book that refused to die. And in this season of thanksgiving I can only give thanks to all the people who’ve read Nowhere Man and made up their own minds about it.

A Taste of Publicity

June 4, 2015

Tags: Bobby in Naziland, Michael Lee Nirenberg, Back Issues, Huffington Post, book promotion

Despite a lack of Harry Potter-like sales and the absence of my name on celebrity A-lists, I've still managed to publish two critically acclaimed books.

That's yesterday’s news.

In 2015, in order for me to get another deal, an agent must submit my book pre-reviewed and pre-publicized.

Recently, filmmaker Michael Nirenberg, best known for his Hustler magazine documentary, Back Issues, asked if he could read my just-completed novel, Bobby in Naziland. The book is about growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s, in the aftermath of World War II and in the shadow of the Holocaust.

Nirenberg liked it enough to interview me for The Huffington Post. It’s Bobby in Naziland’s first taste of publicity.

Thus begins the long journey to publication. Glad you’re along for the ride.

I Don't Wanna Face It

April 22, 2013

Tags: Huffington Post, writing

Face this: Anybody who begins a blog post, essay, or op-ed piece with "Let's face it" is a hack. Frankly, you have to look no further than the celebrity-infested Huffington Post, a money-making site where people blog for exposure rather than money. Honestly, I don't want to pick on Huff Po, as I agree with their politics for the most part. But, to tell you the truth, the quality of their writing is so dreary, I often can't read beyond the first three words of any given post before I'm overcome by boredom. But let's face it, a search of Huff Po for the phrase "let's face it" delivers 81,500 results. Speaking candidly, that's probably the number of new blog posts that appear on Huff Po on any given day.

In my opinion, the reason bad writing is epidemic on Huff Po is because celebrities, movie stars, and "beautiful people" of all stripes believe they are compelling writers because when they speak, the well-scrubbed masses gather around them and hang on their every word. But don't kid yourself: Publishing transcripts of what amounts to cocktail-party blather is a recipe for ridicule.

Truthfully, it was a post by Marlo Thomas (107 million Huff Po results) about the Boston bombings that I started reading the other day that provoked this post. I’m not going to lie, it began, “I love the New York Yankees, but I’ll be honest with you…”

I’ll be honest with you, Marlo: I think you’re a fine lady, but your blog posts really suck.

The Rabbi, the Weiner, and the Porn Industry

June 23, 2011

Tags: Anthony Weiner, Rabbi Irving Kula, pornography, Beaver Street, Huffington Post

I’d like to share with you two paragraphs from an essay published on The Huffington Post about Congressman Anthony Weiner, by Rabbi Irving Kula, titled “The Roasting of Weiner and the Public Good.” The rabbi makes the same point here about the porn industry that I make in Beaver Street. But it’s a point that can’t be made often enough.

“Tweeting sexually suggestive texts, including highly inappropriate images, to seven women was stupid, tasteless, and crude as well as narcissistic and sexually immature. But Weiner is a teeny issue that we have blown up to avoid confronting something deeply wrong in contemporary America. We pounced on Weiner for lying about his tweets, which he did out of a justified sense of embarrassment, all the while that we lie about the sexual eccentricities/pathologies of our own culture, which surely embarrass us. Weiner is the tip of the iceberg of our sexual issues. Estimates are that the porn industry in this country is a fourteen billion dollar industry that reaches into our finest corporations. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company pulls in more than 50 million dollars from adult programming. You will not read in it their annual reports but all the nation’s top cable operators, from Time Warner to Cablevision, distribute sexually explicit material to their subscribers. Same with satellite providers like EchoStar and DirecTV, which may make as much as five hundred million dollars off of the adult entertainment business. Then there are our big hotel chains: Hilton, Marriot, Hyatt, Sheraton and Holiday Inn, which all offer adult films on in-room pay-per-view television systems. And they are purchased by a whopping 50 percent of their guests, accounting for nearly 70 percent of their in-room profits.

“But wait there is more. According to a CBS News 60 Minutes report 89% of porn is created in the U.S. $2.84 billion in revenue was generated from U.S. Internet porn sites in 2006. $89/second is spent on porn. 72% of porn viewers are men and 260 new porn sites go online daily.”