The Sporadic Beaver

Top 5 Blurbs of the Beaver Street Autumn Offensive

December 21, 2012

Tags: reviews, Little Shoppe of Horrors, Bloodsprayer, Shu-Izmz, Neil A. Chesanow, Review 31

Just in case the world ends today, on this first day of winter in the northern hemisphere, I'm going out with the "Top 5 Blurbs of the Beaver Street Autumn Offensive."

In the event that the world doesn't end today, the Autumn Offensive will be followed by the Winter Assault and Spring Siege, the latter climaxing, of course, with the Second Annual Bloomsday on Beaver Street. (Make your plans today!)

Optimist that I am, I'm planning on taking off for St. Louis for the holidays, which is where the Beaver Street Spring Offensive of 2012 began in April. So, this will probably be my last posting of the year (if not forever). Here's wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Hope to see you in 2013!

And here are my fave blurbs and the reasons I chose them:

5. “Rosen excluded female pornographers entirely from his history. I suspect he was too caught up in his own juvenile dabbling to notice their existence.” —Kate Gould, Review 31
What does a review look like when it’s written by a reviewer who’s made up her mind that she’s going to trash a book before reading the first word? It looks like this. I include this classic hatchet job because of the backlash it inspired, which ended up bringing more attention to Beaver Street than if the reviewer had read the entire book and written an honest critique.

4. “Tender and tawdry all at once.” —Neil A. Chesanow, Review 31
This eloquent point-by-point takedown of the above hatchet job does what Gould’s review should have done in the first place: It provides an accurate and insightful picture of what Beaver Street is about.

3. “A fascinating peek inside a world of sex, indulgence, and exhibitionism.” —Shu-Izmz
Horror mags love Beaver Street, and Shu-Izmz, a site overseen by Bryan Schuessler, is one of three such sites that gave the book a rave review. Schuessler writes from the perspective of a regular guy whose mind is in the gutter; he loves porn, death metal, and gore. Also, this review led to a very cool interview on Core of Destruction Radio.

2. “Incredibly thoughtful, engaging and entertaining.” —The Bloodsprayer
Written by a chubby chaser who also happens to be a trained historian, the critic “J. D. Malinger” (as he calls himself) offers an intellectual lowbrow take on Beaver Street. The review resulted in an epic two-part interview, which allowed me to elaborate on a number of themes I touched upon in the book, such as the contempt with which many porn publishers treat their employees.

1. “A gem of a read… You will find yourself fascinated by the cast of characters.” — Richard Klemensen, Little Shoppe of Horrors
Even if LSoH editor and publisher Richard Klemensen hadn’t said in a comment on this blog that Beaver Street was one of his “favorite reads,” I’d still have chosen the above blurb as my favorite of the Autumn Offensive. Klemensen, who’s celebrating the 40th anniversary of his venerable publication, gets to the heart of the matter in his critique, which serves as yet another direct repudiation of the Review 31 hatchet job. Beaver Street is indeed a character-driven page-turner, whose vibrant cast will defy your expectations of what kind of people work behind the scenes in pornography. Since LSoH is only available in a print edition, if you’d like to read the entire review (and a whole bunch of stories about Dr. Phibes), you’ll have to buy a copy. Happy anniversary, Richard, and here’s to many more!

Little Shoppe of Beaver

November 14, 2012

Tags: reviews, Little Shoppe of Horrors, The Bloodsprayer, Shu-Izmz, Review 31, Beaver Street

It's interesting that a number of sites primarily devoted to horror, like The Bloodsprayer and Shu-Izmz, have taken such a liking to Beaver Street. Now you can add Little Shoppe of Horrors to that group. The venerable film mag--they've been around for 40 years--has run a delightful review of my investigative memoir in their latest issue, #29. It almost sounds as if it could be yet another rebuke to the hatchet job posted on Review 31 last month. That rather unpleasant critique put forth the opinion that, though Beaver Street was basically an anti-feminist piece of shit, certain low-minded individuals might find it "titillating."

Since the LSoH review is not available online, I'll take the liberty of quoting the last paragraph in full:

“If you are looking for some titillation, this isn’t the book for you. If you want to read about people, situations, a time and place in an industry that was looked down upon by many people (while many secretly gobbled up the magazines), this is a gem of a read. You won’t find yourself embarrassed reading it. You will find yourself fascinated by the cast of characters. This is a book both men and women would enjoy (even if the women were only trying to find out why men would even have been interested in that crap!)”

Well said, LSoH! Now I’ve got to go out and track down a copy.

Back to Business

November 8, 2012

Tags: Review 31, reviews, book promotion, Beaver Street

Before Hurricane Sandy plunged me into 104 hours of pre-industrial living, and a certain election restored the tiniest glimmer of hope in American democracy's ability to function, I was, as I recall, writing about the vagaries of the book business.

On the British site Review 31, a critic that one of my more eloquent defenders described as "a tyro reviewer with a political ax to grind" had subjected Beaver Street to its first hatchet job. What I never got around to talking about is the upside of having your book trashed in an inaccurate and inherently dishonest manner: It sparked an online debate that ended up bringing more attention to Beaver Street than another rave review would have. It's the kind of debate that you just don’t see often enough these days--one that demonstrates the passion for books that still exists in this age of social media.

Also, the day the power came back on, a far more friendly British site, Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog, posted an essay I wrote a few months ago titled “My Book Promotion Philosophy.” The gist of that philosophy can be boiled down to one sentence: “Talk to anybody who wants to talk to you about your book for as long as they want to talk about it, and go anywhere people are interested in your work.”

In other words, I’m happy to report that the Beaver Street Autumn Offensive, though suspended for a week due to inclement weather, remains an ongoing operation.

On the Responsibility of the Critic

October 24, 2012

Tags: Review 31, reviews, Beaver Street, Neil A. Chesanow

The other day I responded to a review of Beaver Street, by Kate Gould, posted on a British site, Review 31. I took Gould to task for what was essentially a dishonest review, but limited my criticism to the review's most blatant and verifiable misstatement: "Rosen excluded female pornographers entirely from his history." Female pornographers, I said, are one of the book's main subjects.

Another critic, Neil Chesanow, has now taken this one step further, posting on the Review 31 site a detailed deconstruction of the review's inherent dishonesty. Chesanow's critique, in my opinion, is far more interesting and informative than the review itself. In fact, it does what Gould's review should have done in the first place: It provides an accurate picture of what
Beaver Street is about.

Since Chesanow's piece might get lost among the other comments, I'm posting it here in its entirety.


By Neil Chesanow
It is a pity that a tyro reviewer with a political ax to grind saw fit to trash a funny, witty, engaging, informative history/memoir of the modern pornography industry because it wasn’t the feminist screed she had absolutely no right to hope it would be. As a result, her review is much more about her than it is about the book: a mark of rank amateurism.

Ms. Gould announces her misgivings about the porno industry early on. That alone should have disqualified her from reviewing the book; she lacks the objectivity necessary to write a bona fide review. She writes, for example, that she had hoped “Rosen’s account of the industry might engage intelligently with such issues” as “consent and the way in which porn teaches boys to view and treat women.”

If Ms. Gould knew a little bit more about feminist history, however, she would know that such a book—in fact, a whole flock of them—has already been written, primarily by feminists in the 1970s and 1980s, by women (and some men) who were mainly members of the radical feminist group Women Against Pornography. They included Susan Brownmiller, Adrienne Rich, Grace Paley, Gloria Steinham, Shere Hite, Lois Gould, Robin Morgan, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and the incomparable Andrea Dworkin, who maintained, among other bizarre notions, that all sex is rape.

There is no need for yet another of these books, and Mr. Rosen’s publisher, Headpress, would surely have rejected a manuscript along the lines that Ms. Gould would have liked to see because it has been done (and done, and done), and the desire for such a book today, even among the pathetically small number of women left who still consider themselves card-carrying feminists, is next to nil.

The subtitle of Mr. Rosen’s book, A History of Modern Pornography, Ms. Gould insists on taking literally in order to score her own points. In fact, Beaver Street is a memoir through which history is interwoven, and this is evident on the very first page. Ms. Gould writes that Mr. Rosen is “heavily biased” and “unable or unwilling to consider the existence or validity of any opinion other than his own.” Well, yes, because, you see, that is what a memoir is. Ironically, the same could be said of Ms. Gould’s review.

Ms. Gould unfairly takes Mr. Rosen to task for asserting that porn actress Traci Lords transformed “the ‘young girl’ into an object of such intense fascination, it’s now the single most profitable sector of the porno-industrial complex.” Mr. Rosen has scapegoated Ms. Lords, Ms. Gould contends, because “paedophilia is as old as time.” Yes, yes, but the porno-industrial complex, about which Mr. Rosen writes, is not as old as time, it is a recent invention, and its emergence roughly coincides with Mr. Rosen’s entry into it, which is precisely what makes his perspective on that industry valuable. It would be lovely to have a reviewer who could get such basic facts straight.

Ms. Gould snarkily sums up that “if you're looking for a dude’s take on smut mags, Beaver Street might be quite titillating.” Unfortunately, though, it seems she does not understand what the word titillating means: pleasantly stimulating, exciting, and erotic. Beaver Street is none of these things. Mr. Rosen’s deep ambivalence and frequent disgust with what he was doing during his porno years precludes that. Yes, the book mentions gangbangs and all manner of sexual acts, but none of these are lovingly described in salacious detail, not even Mr. Rosen’s account of his brief romantic relationship with a porno actress, which is tender and tawdry all at once—fascinating, yes, but erotic, no.

Ms. Gould is free to dislike Mr. Rosen’s book, but when one reviews a book for a public audience, one has a responsibility to review the work fairly on its own terms, not on a completely different set of purely solipsistic and irrelevant terms idiosyncratic to the reviewer. Ms. Gould fails to live up to this responsibility. Instead of serving us, the readers, she uses her review as opportunity to serve herself. Her review is titled “Masturbation Fodder.” And that is exactly what it is: not the book, the review.

Intellectual Masturbation Fodder

October 22, 2012

Tags: Review 31, reviews

It was inevitable. After 18 months of positive reviews, including some of the best reviews I’ve ever received for anything I’ve ever written, a critic has come along and trashed Beaver Street.

As a rule, I don’t argue with critics, because there’s no winning. Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. However, in my opinion, if you’re going to trash a book, then stick to the facts. Do not make up shit that’s demonstrably false, and then base your opinion on these misrepresentations. Because, inevitably, somebody’s going to call you on it. And when your misrepresentations or “lies,” as some might describe them, are brought to light, it’s going to undercut the credibility of the review, the publication it ran in, and you, the critic. This is especially true if you’re writing for a publication that’s generally perceived as “credible.”

The review in question, “Masturbation Fodder,” was posted this weekend on a British site called Review 31, which describes itself as a provider of “intelligent, nuanced reviews of the most interesting new books,” and describes its contributors as “a diverse mix of accomplished intellectuals.”

The intellectual in question, Kate Gould, of Edinburgh, Scotland, is the author of a book on flashers. This is what she said about Beaver Street: “Rosen excluded female pornographers entirely from his history. I suspect he was too caught up in his own juvenile dabbling to notice their existence.”

That’s quite a blurb! But anybody who has read Beaver Street in its entirety (rather than, say, select portions of two or three chapters) is aware that “female pornographers” are one of the book’s main subjects. I pointed this out on the Review 31 site, where another critic, Rich Flannagan, agreed that Gould “could have gotten her facts right” and suggested that she should have read the book thoroughly. But he also said that, in his opinion, the subtitle, A History of Modern Pornography, was “a little misleading.” He thought Beaver Street was more of a memoir.

“That’s why I called it ‘A History’ rather than ‘The History,’” I told Flannagan.

This was Gould’s response to the above comments: “I did read the book thoroughly. A very small number of female pornographers were listed in the index and a few made brief appearances in the book. That doesn’t come close to a representation of the work done by female pornographers even for ‘A’ history.”

To which I said: “Kate, you wrote that ‘Rosen excluded female pornographers entirely.’ Now you’re saying ‘a very small number of female pornographers were listed in the index.’ There are approximately a dozen female pornographers listed in the index, both by real name and pseudonym. In the High Society chapters, I describe in detail both Gloria Leonard’s and ‘Maria Belanari’s’ work. In the Swank chapters I talk about Dian Hanson and describe in detail the work of ‘Pam Katz’ (real name Joyce Snyder), who wrote and produced 4 classic X-rated films, and ‘Georgina Kelly.’ I could go on, but my point is that in your review you misrepresented an important aspect of the book.”

And that is where the first international Beaver Street literary dustup stands as of this morning. May I encourage you to go to Review 31, and weigh in with your opinion. In my opinion, the critic in question is crying out for attention.