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The Sporadic Beaver

My Father’s Special Rack

How ironic is it that Beaver Street opens on a riff about banned books and then was, itself, “banned” for a period of time by a monolithic corporation for reasons both mysterious and nonsensical? Oh, I’d say it’s ironic in that heavy-handed sort of way that if I were to tell such a story in a work of fiction, it would be considered unbelievable and too heavy-handed.

But that is, indeed, the case. In the first paragraph of Beaver Street, I talk about some of the books my father displayed on a “special rack” in the back of his Brooklyn candy store in the early 1960s. “They included,” I write, “My Secret Life, by Anonymous; My Life and Loves, by Frank Harris; The Autobiography of a Flea, also by the ever prolific Anonymous; Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller; and Last Exit to Brooklyn, by Hubert Selby.” Then, on page two, I say, “Though I was far too young to fully grasp what these books were about or to realize that many of them had made it to the rack only after having survived a protracted censorship battle, the pleasure they gave my father and his friends was unmistakable. It was clear to me even in 1961 that these books mattered—a lot—and that if I were going to write books, which I thought even then I’d like to do, then these were the kinds of books I wanted to someday write.”

It so happens that every one of the above titles was banned, at one time or another, in either the U.S. or the U.K. (As far as I remember, my father did not carry two of the most famous banned titles: Ulysses, by James Joyce—which I’ve been going on about here for weeks—and Lady Chatterly’s Lover, by D. H. Lawrence. These books were simply not the sort of literature that guys who hung around Brooklyn candy stores were interested in reading. Ulysses is impenetrable to the casual reader and Lady Chatterly’s Lover is closer to a romance novel than a work of pornography.)

Overlooking my despair at the sales I lost while the paperback edition of Beaver Street remained unavailable to the majority of the American reading public, I can now take some pride in the fact that I’ve achieved my childhood ambition—I’ve written a book that, had it been published in the early 1960s, would have earned a well-deserved slot in my father’s special rack.

And with those hard-won credentials, I will begin, come July, the Beaver Street reboot, and somehow find a way to promote a book that, for reasons known only to them, a corporation tried to kill.
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