The Sporadic Beaver

I Saw a Film and Read the News

March 18, 2013

Tags: writing, The New York Times, Janet W. Hardy

Amour, a movie about getting old, getting sick, and dying.

I saw Amour this weekend, and this is what I learned from it: Even if you're wealthy and live in a fabulous apartment in a country with universal healthcare, getting old, getting sick, and dying is still a major drag. If you find this kind of subject matter appealing, Amour presents it artistically and with subtitles.

I was also keeping up with people I know who were all over the news--like my mother, who was interviewed in the Florida Sun Sentinel about her volunteer work as an ombudsman protecting the rights of people who live in nursing homes. Having read this article soon after seeing Amour, it occurred to me that the U.S. should change the slogan on its currency from "E Pluribus Unum" to "Get Rich or Die."

Then another mother, my friend’s daughter, Gloria Malone, had an op-ed piece in The New York Times about being a teenage mother. Most impressive, Gloria. Can a book deal be far behind?

Not to be overlooked in this media frenzy was Janet Hardy, an author I met at the BEA last year, whose book Girlfag I wrote about here. Janet had a piece in Salon about her extraordinary tantric orgasm—an orgasm she described as feeling like “an orgasm times 100.”

A bit of comic relief was in order after processing this information, so I picked up a recent copy of The Spectator, which appeared on my coffee table the other day, presumably beamed in from another universe. The full-page ad on the back cover, for a Bentley Continental GT, with a top speed of 205 mph, tipped me off that I was not the intended audience for this magazine. Who is the intended audience? They appear to be moneyed, titled, ultra-conservative Brits, who enjoy reading people like Taki. A quote from his regular column, “High Life,” tells you all you need to know about The Spectator. “One checks into a hotel for the first time and the concierge calls you by your Christian name,” the Greek journalist complains. “Travel is now an exercise in being among slobs. Tracksuits, trainers, loud dirty children, fat people drinking out of bottles with wires hanging from their ears, they are the best excuse I know of for paying through the nose and flying private.”

Isn’t it time for this guy to check into a nursing home?

It's Time to Play "The Next Big Thing"

January 28, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Janet W. Hardy

Janet Hardy, whose latest book, Girlfag, I wrote about the other week, told me about this Internet "thing" that's currently making the rounds among authors. It sounded like fun, especially the question about casting the movie version of your book. So, I did it.

It's called "The Next Big Thing" and here's how it works: I post and promote a blog entry that answers ten questions about a work in progress. I then "tag" five authors who answer the questions in their own post and tag me along with five other authors. And so on.

Here are the questions and my answers.

1) What is the working title of your book?
I’m calling Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography a work in progress because foreign rights and film rights remain untapped, and I’m putting as much effort into promoting Beaver Street as I am into writing my next book, Bobby in Naziland.

2) Where did the idea for the book come from?
From working as an editor of “men’s sophisticate” magazines (as they’re euphemistically called) for 16 years and realizing from my first day on the job at High Society, in 1983, that I was witnessing something extraordinary: the dawn of the age of digital, or modern, pornography.

3) What genre does it fall under?
I call Beaver Street an investigative memoir, meaning it’s a combination of investigative reporting and autobiography.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
An incomplete cast in order of appearance:
Bobby Paradise: Garrett Hedlund
Joe Angleini: James Franco
Maria Bellanari: Michelle Pfeiffer
Ellen Badner: Janeane Garofalo
Carl Ruderman: Gary Oldman
Irwin Fast: William Shatner
Chip Goodman: Wallace Shawn
Susan Netter: Jane Lynch
Ralph Rubinstein: Shia LaBeouf
Izzy Singer: Paul Giametti
Henry Dorfman: Paul Slimak
Arnold Shapiro: Steve Carell
Pamela Katz: Scarlett Johansson
Sonja Wagner: Sigourney Weaver
Annie Sprinkle: Kat Dennings
Georgina Kelly: Courtney Love
Georgette Kelly: Ashley Hinshaw
Bill Bottiggi: Jackie Earle Haley
Al Goldstein: Byron Nilsson
Ron Jeremy: Himself
Buck Henry: Himself
Roberta Goodman: Agnes Herrmann

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
An investigative memoir about pornography in the age of the computer, from the birth of phone sex to the skin mag in cyberspace.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
After two agents failed to sell Beaver Street, I sold it myself to Headpress, a London-based indie.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?
About three years.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller. Beaver Street has been called “a Tropic of Capricorn for the digital age.”

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My experiences working in the pornography industry.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The political angle: the fact that historically, the biggest crooks have always cried, “Ban pornography!” the loudest, and that the four greatest anti-porn warriors of the 20th century—Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Edwin Meese, and Charles Keating—are either convicted felons or where forced to resign their offices in disgrace or face criminal prosecution.

And here are the five authors I’m tagging: Irv O. Neil, Eric Danville, David Comfort, Joe Diamond, and Antony Hitchin.

Climaxing Prose

January 17, 2013

Tags: Girlfag, Janet W. Hardy

I spent the better part of the summer dipping into a book called Girlfag, and I wanted to say a few words about it before it got buried in the onslaught of printed matter that accumulates in this house.

Though Girlfag (Beyond Binary Books) is not the kind of book I'd normally read, I met the author, Janet W. Hardy, at the BEA last year. She was (wo)manning the booth of our mutual distributor, SCB, and our books were on display, side-by-side. We got to talking, and Hardy, who's best known for her book The Ethical Slut, explained that girlfags--a term I’d never heard before--are women, like herself, who love, are attracted to, and identify with gay men.

Episodic and diary-like, Girlfag is a poetically rendered memoir, and Hardy is at her uninhibited best, or at least her most entertaining, when she’s writing about sex. Tossing around words like “cunt” and phrases like “mass of pussy hair,” her prose climaxes in such amusing passages as:

While cocksucking is not on my top-ten list of ways to while away the time—well, let’s face it, not even on the top-100 list—a cock is discernibly an appendage and not a giblet, and it is possible to suck a cock without getting pubic hair up your nose. I suffer, it seems, from cunniclaustrophobia.

So, yes, Girlfag is also erotica of sorts, but at its heart is the story of a courageous woman’s search for an unconventional identity.

My Encounter with a Girlfag

June 8, 2012

Tags: BEA, SCB, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, Ulysses, Girlfag, Janet W. Hardy

For the past four days I've been wandering the aisles of Bookexpo America, and the experience has often left me feeling as if I were an invisible man exploring an exotic city in a forbidden country. With rare exceptions, I felt no connection to anything. I saw nobody I knew. Sometimes I wondered what I was doing there.

Happily, those feelings were alleviated when I strolled over to booth 4214—SCB Distributors. SCB is the company that gets Beaver Street into bookstores in the U.S. And there was Beaver Street, prominently displayed on their rack, nestled between a Gram Parsons bio, God’s Own Singer, by Jason Walker, and book called Girlfag, by Janet W. Hardy.

I was standing outside the booth, trying to draw some psychic energy from the sight of the Beaver Street cover, when a woman with a punky blonde haircut asked if she could be of any assistance.

“No,” I said, pointing to Beaver Street, “I just stopped by to take another look at my book. I wanted to make sure I still existed.”

The woman was Janet W. Hardy, author of Girlfag.

“Well, aren’t you smart,” I said. “You write the book and you work for the company that distributes it.”

“I’ve only been doing this for 18 years,” she replied, pointing out that Girlfag’s publisher, Beyond Binary Books, was her company as well.

I was impressed. Here was a woman who’d totally embraced the demands of modern-day book publishing—she was doing everything herself, leaving nothing to chance.

I told Hardy that I’d never heard the expression “girlfag.”

She explained that girlfags are not fag hags. They are, rather, women, like herself, who love, are attracted to, and identify with gay men. “But the title seems to make a lot of people angry.”

I liked Hardy’s vibe and invited her to Bloomsday on Beaver Street, on June 16. “I think it’s your kind of event,” I said, explaining that it was a celebration of literature, like Ulysses and Beaver Street, that had been branded pornographic.

I told her the story of how, when excerpts of Ulysses were published in the U.S. in 1920, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice went to court, had the book declared obscene, and managed to have it banned it for 13 years.

“There’s one paragraph where Joyce describes Bloom masturbating. It’s probably the most poetic description of jerking off in the English language. But that’s the paragraph that did it.”

Laughing, Hardy said she that had to go home, to Eugene, Oregon, and would, regrettably, be unable to attend Bloomsday on Beaver Street. But she did give me a copy of Girlfag, which I plan to discuss in more detail in some future posting.

She also left me wondering if I should go to Eugene and do an event there. Oregon, after all, is the Beaver State.