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Flatbush Flashback

Little Shoppe of Beaver

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. Read More 
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A Well-Targeted Review

If you happen to run a sex shop or "intimate apparel" store, then you're probably familiar with the trade magazine StorErotica. This is a serious publication that gets into nuts-and-bolts retailing issues like maximizing profits, store security, and hot new products. Well, I'm tickled pink to report that in the magazine's Hot Products section, among the James Deen endorsed dildos, they've listed Beaver Street, describing it as "an interesting and witty look at pornography from the early '70s through late '90s."

Considering chains like Barnes & Nobel have been less than eager to stock Beaver Street in their remaining brick-and-mortar stores, I couldn't think of a better place for my "intriguing" (as StorErotica calls it) investigative memoir to be sold. I mean why should Fifty Shades of Grey, which I noticed is in the window of my local Pleasure Chest, have all the fun? Isn't it possible that people who buy Doc Johnson vibrators are also interested in quality, thought-provoking literature?

So, I’d encourage all erotic products entrepreneurs to take StorErotica’s advice and order Beaver Street today. It’s the book that carries both the Vanity Fair and Erotic Review seal of approval. How can you go wrong? Read More 
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Back to Business

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. Read More 
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On the Responsibility of the Critic

 

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. Read More 

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What Hath Publicity Wrought?

A good question, if I say so myself. I mean why am I devoting all this time to blogging and tweeting and Facebooking and doing live events and answering in detail probing questions from websites that I’d never heard of a couple of months ago? The short answer is: I believe in Beaver Street; I think it’s a book that’s worth bringing to the attention of a wider audience beyond those who might normally be counted on to buy a book about the pornography industry. If this wasn’t the case, I couldn’t have written Beaver Street in the first place. And if I want to survive as a writer, then I really have no choice. This is what has to be done.

It is, of course, a very different media environment now than it was in 1999 and 2000, when I began promoting Nowhere Man. There was no social media then and I didn’t know what a blog was. And everything was less fragmented; if somebody wrote an article about Nowhere Man or reviewed it, a lot more people would see it, and it would invariably lead to more coverage. That rarely happens anymore. With Beaver Street, even a major article in a high-profile magazine will lead to a couple of sales, a burst of online activity for a day, and then it’s forgotten, washed away by the incoming tide of the 24-hour news cycle.

So what have I accomplished in the 18 months that I’ve been promoting Beaver Street in two countries? Well, in the U.K., where the book was published in 2011, Beaver Street does appear to be firmly entrenched on Amazon, taking up permanent residence in their top 20 books on pornography, and making regular forays to the #1 spot in that category, which includes such heavy hitters as Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star.

As for the U.S., despite a recent blizzard of rave reviews, the struggle continues. But I’ve not yet begun to fight. Read More 
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Rew's World

Robert Rosen, Rew Starr, and the “Who,” Outlaw Bobby Steel.


Yesterday, I returned to ReW & WhO? for my second dose of Rew's Warholian "15 minutes of fame." I talked about Beaver Street. I talked about Nowhere Man and John Lennon. I talked about Holocaust deniers and conspiracy theorists. I talked about Bobby in Naziland. I talked about a skeleton in my closet that may surprise even some of you who think you know me well. And I had a blast. But enough talk. Let's go to the videotape! Read More 
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October 9

Normally, I'd never intentionally post a link that that takes you Nowhere. But I'm making an exception today. If you're reading this before 2 P.M. Eastern Time, the following link to a site called Indies Unlimited will take you to a blank page. But if you're reading it after 2 P.M., then it will take you to my essay on how Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, a book that was rejected by everybody before it was finally published by a tiny independent press that operated out of tenement basement on New York's Lower East Side, became an international bestseller. Why is Indies Unlimited running this piece today? Because it's October 9, John Lennon's birthday. The former Beatle would have been 72.

Which is also why tomorrow, October 10, at 4 P.M. Eastern Time, I'll be returning to ReW & WhO?, the internet TV show that’s broadcast live from Otto's Shrunken Head in New York City. Rew and I will be talking about Lennon, Beaver Street, and skeletons in my closet. It's a lot to jam in to the "15 minutes of fame" that Rew bestows upon each guest. But Rew and I are pretty good at jamming. So, if you find yourself in front of a computer, please tune in. Or, if you find yourself in New York, please join us in the back room of Otto's, and help us celebrate the life of John Lennon. Read More 
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Return to ReW

Tomorrow, October 9, is John Lennon's birthday; he would have been 72, a numerologically significant number for the ex-Beatle: 7+2=9. (If you need further explanation, please refer to my Lennon biography, Nowhere Man, specifically the chapter titled "The Book of Numbers.")

This year, to celebrate Lennon, on Wednesday, October 10, I'll be returning to ReW & WhO?, the internet TV show with the Warholian premise that each guest receives 15 minutes of fame. The New York Times describes the show as a quirky blend of "live musical performances and interviews" featuring guests who are "a broad spectrum of East Village talent ranging from drag queens to lounge acts to published authors to museum curators."

In addition to talking about how, more than 30 years ago, I was given Lennon’s personal diaries to transcribe and edit, I’ll also be talking about my new book, Beaver Street, and Rew will be asking me about skeletons in my closet, because that’s what Rew does. Last year I told her that I don’t have any skeletons in my closet. “I put them all in my books,” I said. When she insisted that I divulge something, I told her about my “experiment in participatory journalism” that I describe in Beaver Street: posing for an X-rated photo shoot. So I guess I better do some research and find another good skeleton.

You can watch the live broadcast, from 4-6 P.M. Eastern Time, here. Or, if you’re in the New York area, you’re welcome to join the studio audience in the back room of Otto’s Shrunken Head at 538 East 14th Street. Read More 
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Banned Books and Bloodsprayer

 

October has always been a good month for me, publicity-wise. It was in October, 13 years ago, that the first item about my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, appeared in Entertainment Weekly magazine, and ignited a firestorm of publicity that put the book on best-seller lists in five countries.

Judging by what happened yesterday, this October appears to be keeping true to form. The day began with an excellent piece in Adult Video News about banned books in general and the Banned Book Week event I'll be participating in tonight, at 8:00, in New York City, at 2A in the East Village. I've never before taken part in a group reading with a porn star, so this should be both interesting and raucous. The porn star, Lisa Ann, best known for playing "Serra Paylin" in the Hustler video series, will be reading from Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James. I'll be reading from The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger. And it's FREE. See the full lineup here.

Then the day ended with The Bloodsprayer posting part 2 of my epic Beaver Street interview. If you’re undecided about whether or not to come tonight, allow me, as I did with part 1, to boil down part 2 to the top 5 pull quotes.

“In the 60-odd pages Traci Lords devotes to porn in her book, in virtually every case she leaves out the Five Ws—who, what, where, when, and why—saying she was drunk and stoned the whole time and forgot everything that happened.”

“A normal company would have put Mario Puzo’s and Stan Lee’s typewriters in a glass case and employees would have been required to genuflect every time they walked by. But at Swank, it appeared as if the Goodman family didn’t want Martin Goodman’s sacred name sullied by the stench of his son’s smut.”

“The amateur exhibitionists are putting the professional studs and starlets out of business.”

“I say in the Beaver Street prologue that I wrote the book ‘to understand the cumulative psychic effect of having spent 192 months immersed in XXX and wondering if I’d ever get out alive.’ So, yes, writing it was cathartic.”

With any luck at all, I’ll be equally provocative tonight. Hope to see you at 2A. Read More 

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The Art of the Interview


A classic interview with Kate Copstick and Jamie Maclean of the Erotic Review.

In my career as an author, I've been fortunate that a lot of journalists have wanted to ask me questions about the books I've written. With Nowhere Man alone, I've done approximately 300 interviews since the book was published in 2000. I found that after the first 50 or so, I was rarely asked a question that I'd never been asked before.

I'm still in the early stages of this process with Beaver Street; I've done about 20 interviews so far, and still find myself surprised by questions. What I like about interviews, especially with writers who've actually read the book, is that their questions give me a precise sense of what people are most interested in. Their questions provoke me and make me think about things in news ways. For me, this kind of communication is the entire point of writing books.

Last week, a writer who goes by the pen name J. D. Malinger posted on The Bloodsprayer a very positive Beaver Street review, “Memoirs of an Editor of Pleasure.” He was so taken with the book that he’s now in the process of interviewing me. Malinger, who in his real life is a trained historian, has been asking me the kind of questions that don’t lend themselves to glib, offhand answers—questions about such things as misanthropy and misogyny in the porn biz. This interview, in fact, has been taking up most of my time the past couple of days, and I’m sure the end result will be epic. So consider this advance notice. Someday soon, there’s going to be one hell of an interview posted on The Bloodsprayer. Look for it. Read More 
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On the Radio with Shu

Over the past two weeks, Bryan "Shu" Schuessler has been paying a lot of attention to Beaver Street on his site, Shu-Izmz, which, as he delicately puts it, has an affinity for "boobs, blood, and bush." Apparently, my investigative memoir about the porn industry is just what he's been looking for. He gave Beaver Street his highest recommendation, calling it in his review "a fascinating peek inside a world of sex, indulgence, and exhibitionism."

Recently, Shu interviewed me for Shu-Izmz Radio. Our extensive conversation, originally broadcast on Core of Destruction Radio, is now available as a podcast, which you can download here. We talk about pornography, politics, John Lennon, Nazis, and writing.

It takes me about a half hour to warm up to Shu, and to relax. But once I do, listening to this interview is like listening to a couple of old friends talking on the telephone. It’s very cool, so please check it out. Read More 
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What Price Beaver?

About a month ago, I noted that Amazon U.S. had reduced the price of the paperback edition of Beaver Street to $13.57 from its usual $19.95. This discount lasted all of four hours before Beaver Street returned to being one of the very few books on Amazon not discounted at all, not even by a penny. Why Amazon is doing this is hard to say. To call the decision-making process at this Internet monolith "opaque" would be an understatement. Most likely, they're trying to drive consumers to buy the Kindle edition, which is usually available for around $9.98, half off the cover price.

I also noticed that another significant discount briefly kicked in about a week ago, to coincide with my appearance at the Book House, in Albany. Perhaps this is Amazon's way of insuring that if anybody buys a copy of Beaver Street, it's not going to be from a brick-and-mortar store, where the book always sells for the full price.

I am aware that in these absurd economic times, a lot of people simply don’t want to spend $19.95 (plus tax) on any book, even one that they really want to read. So, if you’re one of those people who’ve been hesitating to buy Beaver Street due to the price, let this serve as a reminder that Amazon does occasionally offer the book at a significant discount, but the sale never lasts very long. All I can suggest is check the Amazon page often, and if you see Beaver Street marked down, grab it.

And if twenty bucks isn’t a big deal to you, please buy your Beaver at a real store, like Shakespeare’s or McNally Jackson in New York City, Powell’s in Portland, Left Bank or Apop in St. Louis, Quimby’s in Chicago, or the aforementioned Book House. Read More 
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Memoirs of an Editor of Pleasure

The positive Beaver Street reviews keep coming from all sectors of the cultural spectrum, and the latest one, "Memoirs of an Editor of Pleasure," from The Bloodprayer, by (ahem) J.D. Malinger, can best be described as "intellectual lowbrow." The site's slogan is "all the filth that’s fit to publish" (lowbrow). But Malinger describes himself as "a historian by training" (intellectual).

Malinger says that I tell my story with "charisma and charm" and that Beaver Street is "incredibly thoughtful, engaging and entertaining." His only quibble, and he makes clear that it's simply a matter of taste, is my distaste for editing "plumper" mags. Malinger, you see, is a "chubby chaser," and he's glad that the porn industry has at long last acknowledged the existence of such women.

(Note to Malinger: in celebration of Banned Book Week, I’ll be reading from The Catcher in the Rye on Thursday, October 4, 8:00 P.M. at the 2A Bar, 25 Avenue A, in New York City. Thought you might be interested.)

In other Beaver Street news, this Sunday, September 23, at 1 P.M. Eastern Time, Bryan “Shu” Schuessler will be talking to me on Core of Destruction Radio about such things as pornography, politics, John Lennon, Nazis, and writing. Hope you can tune in. Read More 
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24 Hours

Here's a brief rundown of the events of the past day:

Last night, I talked to Bryan Schuessler, who'd recently posted an enthusiastic Beaver Street review on his site Shu-Izmz. In the course of our extensive conversation, we covered a slew of topics that included pornography, politics, John Lennon, Nazis, and writing. The interview will be broadcast this Sunday, September 23, on Core of Destruction Radio and will also be available as a podcast. Check their site for details.

The review of About Cherry that I posted here yesterday came to the attention of a number of people on Twitter, including the film's co-writer, porn star Lorelei Lee, who retweeted the last line: "Guaranteed to piss off Gail Dines." Among other things, I said that About Cherry was the best movie about the porn industry since Boogie Nights. Then, out of curiosity, I read a few other critiques, and was surprised to see how savagely critics had trashed the film. The Hollywood Reporter, for example, called About Cherry "dramatically feeble and fraudulent." Well, obviously I disagree, and I can say with some authority that this particular critic doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. Bring on the controversy, baby!

A site called Indies Unlimited asked me to write a guest blog about how my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, became an international bestseller. My essay will run on Lennon’s 72nd birthday, October 9, and you can read it here after it goes live at 2 P.M. Eastern time.

Finally, please remember to visit Talk Story TV tonight at 9 P.M. Eastern Time for my live chat with Julia Widdop about Beaver Street. The technical problems we experienced last week appear to have been solved. Read More 
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On the Road Again

Since I tend not to write anything more substantial than a tweet when I'm traveling, this will be my last blog post until Monday. I'm leaving for Albany, NY, on the Megabus (who could resist the price?) tomorrow morning for my Beaver Street event at the Book House, on Friday, September 14, at 7 P.M. So, if you're in the Albany area and in the mood for a provocative discussion about pornography, please do drop by. I see that according to the "What's Happening in Literary Circles" listings in the Albany Times Union, I'm up against Vijay Prashad, at the Oakwood Community Center, where he'll be discussing his book Uncle Swami. He's charging five bucks. My event is free. It's a tough choice, I know, but I really do hope to see you at the Book House.

For those of you not in the Albany area, one more reminder about tonight: At 9 P.M. Eastern Time, I’ll be available for a live Internet chat hosted by Julia Widdop, of Talk Story TV. AMA, as they say, especially if you’ve read one or both of my books. Read More 
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Brushfire in the Blogosphere

I knew from the outset that if Beaver Street was going to find an audience that went beyond the literary "underground," then I was going to have to bring it to people's attention reader by reader, blog by blog, event by event. And this is exactly what I've been doing since the book was first published in the U.K., in April 2011.

I'm happy to say that the past couple of weeks this strategy has been bearing fruit. A series of interviews and reviews have, indeed, sprung up in cyberspace, and today the deluge continues. Allow me to bring your attention to the two latest Beaver Street reviews.

The first is on a site called, appropriately enough, Bookgasm, the brainchild of Rod Lott, an Oklahoma City-based journalist who also writes for the alt-weekly there, the Oklahoma Gazette. In his appreciative critique, Lott, who says he’s fascinated by the porno world, calls Beaver Street “a smart book on a really sleazy venture.” I will vouch for the accuracy of that statement.

The second review can be found on Shu-Izmz, a site that takes you deep inside the id of its creator, Bryan Schuessler. Though Schuessler is primarily devoted to horror films, he’s also a fan of adult entertainment, and his enthusiasm for Beaver Street is infectious. The book, he says, is “a fascinating peek inside a world of sex, indulgence, and exhibitionism.” From the outset, I prayed that Beaver Street would find its way into the hands of a reader like Schuessler.

Before I go, let me again remind you to please join me for a live chat with Julia Widdop on Talk Story TV on Wednesday, September 12, 9 P.M. Eastern Time; and for a Beaver Street reading and signing at the Book House in Albany, NY, on Friday, September 14, at 7 P.M. Read More 
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On Vicious Hacks and Conspiracy Theorists

Even more common than the practice of authors paying for rave reviews, which I discussed yesterday, is the practice of authors anonymously trashing competitors' books. My John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man, seems to be a magnet for such attacks, probably because, for the most part, I'm competing with a collection of vicious hacks.

One such review, titled "Worst Book Ever!" was posted on Amazon U.K. soon after Nowhere Man was published. "This book is just a bunch of lies," the anonymous critic (whose identity is transparent) wrote. "If I could rate this book 0 stars I would, but the computer makes you rate it 1 star and up. I think Robert Rosen should read [name redacted]'s books. Maybe he will get some sense knoked (sic) into him." He then posted a similar review on Amazon U.S., this time referring to his own book as "masterful."

I learned a long time ago that such critiques can help sell a book, provided that there are enough positive reviews to balance them out. Hatchet jobs make books seem interesting and controversial. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, has 3,800 one-star reviews to go along with its 4,700 five-star reviews.

Yesterday, I also said that I never have and never will pay for a review. On one occasion, though, I have gone over to the dark side and anonymously trashed another author’s book. But it wasn’t a competing author and it was a special case, the first of its kind: A high-profile conspiracy theorist published a book implicating me in a CIA-backed plot to murder John Lennon.

I remember standing in a bookstore in Chicago, the week that Nowhere Man was scheduled to be published, reading this book in a state of shock and horror, and wondering how anybody who called himself a journalist could a) believe such a thing, and b) publish it without speaking to me first.

A few months later I got the brilliant idea to post an anonymous one-star review of this book on Amazon. What I wrote, though, was completely true: “Not only is this book so murkily written that it borders on unreadable, but the author offers not a shred of concrete evidence to support his paranoid fantasy—that the CIA was behind the death of every one of the [10 rock stars mentioned in the subtitle]. This is trash fiction masquerading as investigative journalism.”

Naturally, the author guessed who was behind this review and accused me on his blog of viciously attacking and ridiculing him.

Beaver Street has yet to be anonymously trashed by a competing author. Perhaps that’s because it’s usually porn stars who write books about pornography, and your average porn star has more integrity than your average conspiracy theorist or Beatles biographer. Or maybe porn stars just have better things to do. Read More 
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My Book Promotion Philosophy

It happens to the best of them. Herman Melville, for example. Moby Dick, published to mixed reviews in 1851, didn't find a lot of readers in Melville's lifetime and wasn't recognized as a great book till long after Melville was dead. I've heard writers say (though not recently) that they're writing for future generations.

I was never much into the idea of "making it big" after I was dead. I mean really, what's the point in spending years writing a book that nobody reads when you're alive? Yes, I write for money, but the thing that keeps me going day after day, especially during those long stretches between fat (and not so fat) paychecks, is a primal need to communicate, which I'm not counting on being able to do from beyond the grave.

That's why I've always done everything possible to bring my books to the attention of people who might enjoy reading them while I’m still here. My philosophy has always been: 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. I’m the only American writer I know who’s traveled to Chile to do book promotion, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself.

Since 2000, when my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, was published, I’ve done more than 300 interviews, treating journalists from the most obscure websites as if they were Oprah. Cause you just never know. In fact, I’ve turned down only one interview request ever—from a Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist who believes I’m the Zionist-funded CIA spymaster who gave the order to whack Lennon.

But there’s one thing I’ve never done and never will do to sell books: Pay for a positive review. A recent article in The New York Times pointed out that Amazon has been flooded with bogus five-star reviews written by critics who don’t read the books they’re reviewing and which authors are paying for: one review for $99, 50 for $999.

I wouldn’t do it because fake reviews sound fake; few people believe the reviews they read on Amazon; and even real five-star reviews (or rave reviews anywhere) don’t help much when it comes to selling books. (If they did, Beaver Street would be selling a lot better than it is.)

Which is to say, if I’m going to get more people to read Beaver Street while I’m alive, then I’m going to continue doing it the old fashion way—speak to anybody who wants to speak to me and go anywhere I’m invited.

So, I hope to see you next week on Talk Story TV and in the Book House in Albany, NY. Read More 
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Fifty Shades of Beaver

 

Say what you will about the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Call it bloated. Call it amateurish. Call it Ishmael. The bottom line--and it's literally a bottom line--is that this series of S&M novels has sold nearly 50 million copies, and in so doing has made the book world safe for smut.

If it weren't for E. L. James, the British TV executive and mother of two, who began writing Fifty Shades as online fan fiction, I doubt that I'd have been invited to participate in a live Internet chat about Beaver Street on Talk Story TV on September 12 or to read from and sign my investigative memoir at the Book House, in Albany, NY, on September 14.

Fifty Shades of Grey and Beaver Street are both entertaining books about sex that contain explicitly pornographic passages. And there are, indeed, a number of S&M scenes in Beaver Street. But the similarities end there. Fifty Shades is fiction. Beaver Street is nonfiction that reads like fiction. Fifty Shades was written to arouse. Beaver Street, though arousing in many parts, was written to inform—to show the history of the late 20th century through a pornographic lens.

Ironically, critics have panned Fifty Shades of Grey and acclaimed Beaver Street across the cultural spectrum, from highbrow to lowbrow—which only goes to show that nobody cares what critics say. Which is to say, if, over the course of my lifetime, I can sell 1/100 of the number of books that James has sold, I’ll be a very happy author. Read More 

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Autumn Offensive


My first appearance on ReW & WhO?


As the Labor Day weekend and the official beginning of the Beaver Street Autumn Offensive approaches, I'm posting a schedule of all the upcoming events that I'll be participating in over the next several weeks. This is as much for my own reference as for everybody who'd like to meet me, either virtually or in person.

Wednesday, September 12, 9 P.M. Eastern Time: Join me online for a live chat with Talk Story TV host Julia Widdop. I’ll be answering questions about Beaver Street, Nowhere Man, and pretty much anything else you want to ask me about.

Friday, September 14, 7 P.M.: I’ll be reading from and signing Beaver Street at the Book House, 1475 Western Avenue, in Albany, New York.

Thursday, October 4, 8:00 P.M.: In celebration of Banned Book Week, I, along with several other authors, will be reading passages from banned books at the 2A Bar, 25 Avenue A, in New York City. My passage, which I’ve not yet chosen, is from The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, a book I discuss in detail in Nowhere Man. I’ll post a link to this event as soon as one is available.

Wednesday, October 10, 4:00-6:00 P.M. Eastern Time: Rew Starr has invited me to join her again on ReW & WhO?, her long-running Internet TV show broadcast in front of a live studio audience at Otto’s Shrunken Head, 538 East 14th Street in New York City. I’ll be talking about John Lennon (October 9 is his birthday), Nowhere Man, Beaver Street, and possibly even my work in progress, Bobby in Naziland.

Here’s wishing everybody a great holiday weekend! I hope to see you somewhere soon! Read More 

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Summer Reading

Though more stuff about Beaver Street continues to pop up daily on the Internet, the latest being a questionnaire-type interview on author Pat Bertram’s site, I’d like to take a day off from promoting my investigative memoir and bring your attention to a book I just finished reading. Dublinesque (New Directions), by Enrique Vila-Matas (translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean and Rosalind Harvey), is a novel that I began on a train on the first day of my summer vacation, and I couldn’t put it down. Here's a capsule review:

A retired publisher of “serious literature,” who’s a recovering alcoholic about to turn 60, travels from his home in Barcelona to Dublin on Bloomsday to hold a funeral for the “Guttenberg Galaxy,” as he calls the age of printed books. Well done and deeply troubling, especially if you happen to be a writer who, a month before his 60th birthday, threw a launch party called Bloomsday on Beaver Street for his latest book. Read More 
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The Beaver in Autumn


Julia Widdop interviews Robert Rosen on Talk Story TV.


The Beaver Street autumn offensive is in full swing, and there's so much going on, I'm having a hard time keeping track of it all. So, let me start by sharing a video and two articles that have popped up in the past 24 hours.

The above interview, with Talk Story TV host Julia Widdop, will be broadcast Wednesday, September 12, at 9:00 P.M. Eastern Time. Click here to join Julia and me live in the chat room.

Author Benjamin Wallace is kind enough to devote a portion of his site to asking guest authors “20 Questions” that are more or less in the same vein as Vanity Fair’s “Proust Questionnaire.” These sometimes absurd inquires give writers an opportunity to show off their wit. You may decide for yourself how much wit I have.

Finally, here’s a great Beaver Street review by Marv Montag on his Magnificent Echo Chamber blog. Montag, who writes mostly about porn, had this to say about my book: “An excellent account of the author’s nearly two decades in the adult industry…. An intriguing and dirty [story] that’s well worth a read.”

And remember, if you’re in the Albany, NY area on September 14, come meet me at the Book HouseRead More 
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Their Prices Are Insane!

It's been quite some time since Amazon finally overcame their "computer glitches" and made the paperback edition of Beaver Street available to the reading public. But in the entire time the book has been for sale, Amazon had never offered it at a significant discount, as they do with virtually every other book they sell. Well, that's changed. Suddenly and for no apparent reason, Amazon has gone all Crazy Eddie on Beaver Street.

Those of you who once lived in the New York area and are of a certain age will remember Crazy Eddie as the stereo discount store whose omnipresent radio and TV commercials ended with the pitchman, Crazy Eddie Antar, screaming, “Our prices are insane!”

Though I wouldn’t call a 32 percent discount on the $19.95 cover price certifiably crazy, by Amazon standards, this is pretty nuts. Yes, it's true, you can now buy a paperback copy of Beaver Street for the unbeatably low price of $13.57, and if you’re an Amazon Prime member, shipping is free.

So, if you’ve been hesitant to buy Beaver Street because of the price, now’s your chance to act. And keep in mind that Crazy Eddie’s prices were so insane, he finally went bankrupt. Read More 
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Tumblr Loves Beaver

I found this post on Tumbler last night and it's the kind of thing that always gives me a much-needed jolt of inspiration. A complete stranger, who's obsessed with sex, loves Beaver Street. In other words, Kelly from Leicester is my perfect reader. Well, thank you, Kelly!

If you click on the picture, it takes you to a page that also includes a posting that went viral a few months ago--an excerpt from my other book, Nowhere Man: the Final Days of John LennonRead More 
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For Adults Only


In May, I discussed Beaver Street with Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn on their Sirius XM radio show, You Porn. It was one of the most entertaining hours of radio I've ever participated in. Recently I came across this video of Christy in action as she discusses penis size with porn star Nikki Hunter on another Sirius XM show, Night Calls. This is totally filthy stuff, and though I can't say my interview with Christy got quite this down and dirty, it is a good example of Ms. Canyon's superior journalistic skills. Read More 
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Let Us Now Praise Interesting Porn Books

Penny Antine, whose nom de porn is Raven Touchstone, has written the screenplays for nearly 400 X-rated films. In short, she's an industry veteran who knows the business inside out, and is currently working on her own book about pornography. Antine wrote to me a few weeks ago to say that she'd read Beaver Street, and "enjoyed it immensely."

She then posted on Facebook’s Adult Films 1968-1988 page a brief review, which I’d like to share with you:

I read a very interesting book, Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography. It’s not about the adult film industry but about the history of magazines like Swank, what they called “men’s” magazines back in the day. It was written by a terrific writer who worked in that biz for 16 years and tells it like it was. Lots of interesting tidbits in this book, i.e.—the man who created Swank and other such mags also created Marvel Comics. True. And Mario Puzo worked in that field while he was writing The Godfather. Yes. So anyone interested in this subject would enjoy this book. I got it through AmazonRead More 
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The Beaver Is Back

Rosen at rest in Maine with a martini. That’s the multitalented Mistress of Syntax, Mary Lyn Maiscott, playing the guitar. Photo © Cindy Perry Rosen.

 

I took the summer off to concentrate on the new book I’m writing, Bobby in Naziland, and to recover from my exhausting battle with Amazon to make the print edition of Beaver Street available. For the past ten days I've been chilling with my family in Jonesport, Maine, in a house on the ocean, doing little more than eating too much lobster and blueberry pie as I watched the gothic fog roll in every day, and thought that if I stayed there long enough I'd start to write horror stories. But I wrote nothing while I was there, not even a postcard, and let me tell you, it feels good to go ten days and write absolutely nothing. Now that I'm home and feeling fully recovered, I'm more than ready to launch the Beaver Street autumn offensive, which I'll kick off by getting back in the blogging groove (though not necessarily every day just yet) and preparing for the first event since Bloomsday on Beaver Street.

On Friday, September 14, at 7 P.M., I’ll be reading and signing Beaver Street at the Book House in Albany, New York. And I can thank none other than E. L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, for this opportunity. Ms. James’s mega-blockbusting trilogy has made filth, especially of the S&M variety, palatable to the masses. In tribute to Fifty Shades, I will consider reading an S&M scene from my book. Though I’d like to point out that there is at least one major difference between James’s S&M and my S&M—Beaver Street is nonfiction. So, you 50 million S&M fans, if you’re in the Albany area and you like your S&M real, I hope to see you in September. I suspect you can all use a little literary discipline, if not necessarily a little bondage. Read More 

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Bloomsday on Beaver Street Video Clips

Intro


Until the official Bloomsday on Beaver Street video is available, these clips, shot by Bette Yee on her iPhone, will serve as a record of what happened at the Killarney Rose, on Beaver Street, in New York City, on the extraordinary night of June 16, 2012, at the launch party for my investigative memoir Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography.

The MC (or “MC Supreme,” as I’ve come to call him) is Byron Nilsson. The videos above and below are in chronological order. If you were there, chances are you’re in one of these videos.

Byron Nilsson Reads from Beaver Street



Introduction of the Author



Robert Rosen Greets the Crowd



Robert Rosen Reads from Beaver Street

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“The Best Behind-the-Scenes Expose Since Hell’s Angels”

After reading Neil A. Chesanow’s Beaver Street review, Skip Slavic, a reader in Ohio, posted the following “comment” on Facebook. One can only hope that others agree.

Thanks to Mr. Chesanow’s fine review, this is a good place to say a few words: Beaver Street is indeed “splendid: elegantly written; well researched”—a completely enjoyable book. It does for the porn industry what Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels did for biker gangs, and that’s meant as a high compliment: the best personal, behind-the-scenes expose I’ve read since Hell’s Angels. The parts of the book that dealt with the comings (pardon the pun) and goings of the day-to-day travails of a working pornographer remind me very favorably of Henry Miller’s portrayal of life at the “Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company” [in Tropic of Capricorn]—the kind of giddy despair that comes through is disturbing… and brilliant. The discussion centering on the Lockhart Commission, Ed Meese, and Traci Lords should be required reading for anyone concerned about the lengths to which government will go to interfere in the personal lives of its citizens. In a nutshell, a really fine book, a remarkable story and an essential piece of history as well. Read More 

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The Literature of Porn, Part 2

Yesterday I published a review of Beaver Street by Neil A. Chesanow that he’d posted on Amazon. I’d gotten in contact with Chesanow after reading the review, and the e-mail below is his response to some of my questions about his background and his expertise in writing about sex. It offers a good deal of insight into sex journalism, magazine publishing, and book publishing.

Hi Bob,

Since it’s late, I’ll save my excursion into the literature of porn for a future email. But I thought I might provide some perspective.

I wrote for the major women’s magazines from 1972 to 1996. My very first article, for Cosmo, was on sexual surrogates. I interviewed one on West End Avenue. I thought she had the hots for me. Sexual surrogates, by definition, are highly sexual irrespective of partners, but she wasn’t really my type and even though I was a tyro journalist, I felt it would be a gross violation of professional ethics to have sex with an interviewee.

But I have always been interested in writing about sex because it’s so difficult to write about. (That you made it seem so effortless is a big part of the brilliance of your book. It’s easy to take for granted, but writing about sex “in an acceptable way” is no mean feat.)

To flesh out my journalistic assignments, I started to contribute personal essays in, oh, the mid-1980s. I’m a self-abnegating person. The women’s magazines found that a man who could write about masculine issues of intense interest to women in a self-abnegating way was, I don’t know, aphrodisiacal, and I inadvertently found myself cast as a “man who could write for women.” It was a new thing, and for about two years, I owned it.

In that capacity, I wrote about a multitude of subjects, but most especially sex. If a man has sexual fantasies involving other women during sex, is it cheating? Do married men masturbate? (When Ellen Levine, whom you mentioned in a footnote in your book, who was then the editor of Redbook, suggested this to me, I just looked at her. I couldn’t believe she was serious. It turned out to be one of my best-read articles).

But I’ve always found sex to be the most fascinating area of journalistic inquiry because so much of it is unspeakable, when journalism is about telling all. And this is the perfect time to be writing about sex. Online pornography has driven a stake into the heart of normality as a concept and it was a stake that needed driving. Sex surveys on our sexual habits conducted by the University of Chicago and other august institutions are about as accurate as a tip from a racetrack tout.

I could not help but notice that you were published by a British publisher. That a book of this quality wasn’t published by an American publisher is a scandal. Maybe you’ll get a reverse sale—you deserve one—but still! And that’s because there are a half-dozen middle-class suburban matrons who do all the sex book buying in this country, and if they find something offensive, which they regularly do, bang: no one will publish you here.

In 1992, I sold Redbook (via articles editor Diane Salvatore, an up-and-coming lesbian novelist, with Ellen Levine’s blessing) an article on sexual swingers. I said I would take an objective anthropological approach and they agreed. On their dime, I visited swing clubs in Florida and California, attended parties (fully clothed, but with no notepad permitted), and did a great many interviews.

I came away with a lot of good stuff that I hadn’t seen before and haven’t seen since. A majority of male swingers experience erectile dysfunction for up to a year (after which they either get over it or drop out of the lifestyle) because of their inhibitions about performing in public.

A majority of women, upwards of 90 percent, most of whom have never had a lesbian encounter before, regularly if not primarily engage in girl-girl sex.

The whole idea of swinging is to recognize that people a) have a need for a stable relationship with a significant other; and b) have pansexual desires despite this commitment, and to enable the latter without destroying the former. Most of the time it doesn’t work. But once in a while it does work. Because I said that in the article, and refused to retract it, I was fired, after working for the magazine for 10 years.

So I wrote the research up in a book proposal. I do a very nice book proposal. In fact, this was the only book proposal of mine that found no buyer. It was the six suburban dowagers who control everything. AIDS was efflorescing. They found the subject repugnant and, given the current epidemiological climate, irresponsible.

That left me with your alternative: sell it in Britain (or Germany) and hope for a reverse sale. I considered it. But the advance I was offered was less than I made writing a single magazine article, and there was much expensive research left to be done, all, apparently, out of pocket. It wasn’t financially feasible. So I passed and continued on with my life.

Due to the lateness of the hour, I’ll respond to your literature inquiry at another time. However, while I’ve read some porn star biographies, I mainly read scholarly investigations, and those tend to be thin in metanoic insight. That’s why your book is so valuable: it humanizes the enterprise. Love it, hate it, or somewhere in between, this is something human beings do for the delectation of other human beings, and the financial scale of the enterprise strongly suggests that if we are to come up with an accurate definition of sexual normality (not normalcy—that term was introduced by Calvin Coolidge and never exceeded its political context), the quaint Victorian meaning of that must be entirely scrapped. Kinsey said, “If it feels good, it’s normal.” That seems to be about the size of it.

We’ll talk books in a future email.

Neil Chesanow Read More 

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