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Flatbush Flashback

It Was 110 Years Ago Today

James Joyce, a writer banned in America for obscenity.
Happy Bloomsday to all those who are celebrating the 110th anniversary of the day that James Joyce's Ulysses takes place. Joyce chose June 16, 1904 because that was the day he had his first date with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle. The novel, in part, depicts protagonist Leopold Bloom's--hence Bloomsday--activities in Dublin, which include such things as voyeurism and public masturbation. That's why Ulysses was banned in America, and that's why, two years ago, I chose June 16 to celebrate the U.S. publication of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, at the Killarney Rose, an Irish bar on Beaver Street in downtown Manhattan.

At the time, Amazon had refused to make the print edition of Beaver Street available, and it was only after they got wind of the fact that the book-launch party was turning into a public demonstration against Amazon censorship that they managed to fix the “computer glitches” and “bureaucratic snafus” that had already cost me all pre-orders and three months of sales. “We would never censor a book,” an Amazon spokesman told me. (I’m pleased to report that sales have since recovered, and Beaver Street now routinely ranks among Amazon’s best-selling books on pornography.)

Bloomsday on Beaver Street was such a success that I decided to do it again last year, when June 16 fell on Father’s Day, and that, too, went rather well. It looked as if my literary celebration, featuring readings, music, porn stars, and theatrical performances, was going to become a New York City tradition.

This year, unfortunately, life (and a new job in magazines after a 14-year hiatus from the workforce) interfered with mounting Bloomsday on Beaver Street III. As much as I would have liked to, I just didn’t have the time to put together what’s become the equivalent of an Off-Off Broadway revue. This evening, however, I will raise a glass of something alcoholic (perhaps Guinness) and join in spirit all those who would have liked to gather in the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street and celebrate great books that were once denounced as obscene.
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