28 February 2011

Three Centuries of Piracy

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Mark Twain
Toronto: Rose-Belford, 1873

The Governess [The English Governess]
Miles Underwood [pseud. John Glassco]
Coniva, CA: Collectors Publications, 1967

Under the Hill
Aubrey Beardsley/John Glassco
n.p.: Kessinger, 2010

24 February 2011

22 February 2011

21 February 2011

Freedom to Read Week – Monday

Lt.-Col. John Merner (Ret'd)

Some chilling words from "Censorship Canada" by Hawley Black, published in the December 1980 edition of Saturday Night:
Like the Vatican in the old days, Canada has an index of forbidden material. Ours is a filing cabinet of index cards, kept by Customs and Excise officials on the sixth floor of the Connaught Building just around the corner from the Château Laurier. The keeper of the index, in effect the chief of Censorship Canada, is Lt.-Col. John Merner, a sixty-two-year-old retired army officer who bears the official title Head, Prohibited Importation Section. Along with a departmental lawyer and a couple of clerks, Merner protects Canada from books, films, videotapes, and other materials that he believes (as Section 99201-1 of Schedule C of the Canada Customs Tariff puts it) "treasonable or seditious or of an immoral or indecent character."


If a customs decision goes against you, you can appeal. But you may find yourself catalogued among the 100,000 names contained in the Customs Intelligence File. If your appeal fails, the government can destroy the material and you lose your court costs. If your appeal succeeds, the government returns the material to you – and you lose your court costs anyway. Not many people appeal.


When I visited the office recently, the Head, Prohibited Importation Section, and his helpers were busily keeping Canada free of material that might subvert the civil order or endanger morals. They were doing so in something close to secrecy, protected by a bureaucratic wall that can be penetrated neither by parliament nor by the press, or even by the minister of revenue himself. Other censors – such as the Ontario film censors – find themselves regularly embroiled in headline-making conflicts, but all is quiet in the Connaught Building. So far as an outsider can determine, there are not even internal struggles over what to censor. Only once in ten years, Merner recalls, has the minister of revenue – it was Robert Stanbury – actually fought one of his decisions. And, says Merner, "He lost."
Funny he never married.

20 February 2011

Freedom to Read Week – Sunday

The Cambridge Public Library's copy of Censorship Goes to School by David Booth (Markham, ON: Pembroke, 1992).

19 February 2011

Father Dowling Meets the Strange Sisters

Such is My Beloved [Wind Woman]
Carol Hales
New York: Berkley, 1958

The Such is My Beloved they don't teach in school.

Such is My Beloved
Morley Callaghan
New York: Scribner, 1934

The one they do.

17 February 2011

15 February 2011

The Erotic Brian Moore

I Am Mary Dunne
Brian Moore
New York: Bantam, 1969

Brian Moore's masterpiece sold as "A NOVEL OF SEXUAL TORMENT".

"AUTHOR OF THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE" – which has nothing to do with self-love.

13 February 2011

A Moment of Love, Health and Fertility

A Moment of Love [The Feast of Lupercal]
Brian Moore
London: Panther, 1970

Because, I suppose, so few of us still celebrate Lupercalia.

It begins today.


11 February 2011

Silent, but Deadly

Death Wind [The Last Canadian]
William C. Heine
New York: Pyramid, 1976

William C. Heine's Canadian bestseller, rechristened for the American market. The new title is the sort of thing that can send one's inner ten-year-old into a fit of giggles.


Stop, you're killing me.

Related post: At Long Last Lunacy

09 February 2011

Richler Retitled

Another deadline approacheth. Tradition dictates that things here become a little less wordy and a bit more visual. There'll be no great theme this time – just a few uncommon covers that I find odd, silly or terribly amusant.

Popular Library's 1955 edition of The Acrobats, retitled Wicked We Love, leads the parade. The sexy substitution will come as no surprise to those familiar with the paperback publisher. Mordecai Richler received no special treatment – look what they did with Casino Royale.

I can't think of any other Canadian writer who experienced so many title changes at the hands of American publishers. In 1963, The Incomparable Atuk was fine with André Deutsch and McClelland & Stewart, but not Simon & Schuster.

The New York publisher not only replaced the title, but got rid of Len Deighton's wonderfully whimsical cover.

Yes, Len Deighton.

Canadian and British publishers seem to have been happy with Shovelling Trouble, as a title for Richler's 1972 collection of essays, but not the folks at Knopf down in New York.

Here, I cheat a bit. Shovelling Trouble and Notes on an Endangered Species and Others aren't exactly one and the same. Published in 1974, the latter scrambles the contents, and drops nine essays while adding nine others.

And finally, from 1983, this reflection of a great cultural divide. The Knopf cover – need I point to the right? – is by Lawrence Ratzkin, the very same man who twenty years earlier designed Stick Your Neck Out.

My thanks to John W. MacDonald for the image of Wicked We Love. His entertaining and informative essay on this surprisingly rare edition is highly recommended.

07 February 2011

NCL: Devolution, Evolution and Lateral Moves

New Canadian Library series designs as reflected in the work of Sinclair Ross, beginning way back in 1958 with NCL 4.






02 February 2011

Robert McAlmon's Service to Canada

Recognition of Robert Menzies McAlmon, who died fifty-five years ago today. Though not a Canadian, his contributions to this country's literature were not insignificant. He was an early champion of Morley Callaghan, and more importantly, a great supporter of John Glassco. It was McAlmon who placed Glassco's "Extract from an Autobiography" in the Spring 1929 number of This Quarter, and it was through his encouragement that the Montreal writer returned to print, after a fourteen-year silence, in the pages of The Canadian Forum.

McAlmon had other links to this country. His Irish-born father immigrated to Canada as a youth and eventually married a girl from Chatham, Ontario. They were living in Clifton, Kansas when the future expat was born.

In Memoirs of Montparnasse, Glassco tells us that on the evening he first met McAlmon the writer revealed that he'd deserted the Canadian Army during the Great War. William Carlos Williams reports the same story in his accurately titled The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams. For decades McAlmon scholars took this to be a fanciful fabrication. I did, too... until I found his records while researching A Gentleman of Pleasure.

Should I have been surprised? Perhaps not. After all, McAlmon's fiction relied so very heavily on his life. This, Glassco felt, was the writer's greatest weakness. He once dismissed McAlmon's novels and short stories as "literal transcriptions of things set down simply because they had happened and were vividly recollected. There was neither invention nor subterfuge; when the recollection stopped, so did the story."

McAlmon did have his own champions – Ezra Pound and Kay Boyle come first to mind – but he was never a man who was much read. While his work may be unfamiliar, his influence is evident – not only with Callaghan and Glassco, but in the careers of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and others who benefitted from his generous spirit.

Unrecognized, neglected and weakened by illness, McAlmon lived his final years in near-poverty. He remains much as he was at death: a forgotten man.

Even a deserter deserves better.

Robert McAlmon
Mariette Mills
c. 1923

Crossposted at A Gentleman of Pleasure.

01 February 2011

The Elusive Diane Bataille

I intend no pun in writing that "DIRT" just about covers this 2001 bind-up (again, no pun intended) of Marcus Huttning's Linda's Strange Vacation and The Whip Angels by our own Diane Bataille. The latter novel is without a doubt the filthiest piece of porn I've encountered in writing this blog.

For two years now I've been keeping an eye out for something – anything – relating to Mme Bataille. The return has been so slight that this amusing cover image, stumbled over yesterday, ranks as a major find.

And so I ask: The daughter of a Russian prince, the wife of Georges Bataille, a model for Alberto Giacometti, how is it that so little has been recorded about this dear lady?