Selected Works

The life of a man of various personae: religious poet, erotica dealer, jailbird, and scapegoat.
"Absorbing account of an often overlooked corner of American publishing history. . . . Only by understanding the quintessentially American nature of the business, [Gertzman] argues, can we understand the eroticized culture we inhabit today.” Publishers Weekly, May 3, 1999

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"A fascinating look at the Jewish experience, censorship, government repression and conflicts between Christianity, Jewish religion and the American dream."--Huffington Post.

"Makes a very valuable contribution to the history of censorship in twentieth-century America, to the publishing history of modernism and indeed to book history more generally."--Literature & History

"A fascinating and highly detailed biography of one of the strangest characters in American literary history."--Journal of American Culture

Samuel Roth is known to most literary scholars as a bold literary "pirate" for issuing unauthorized editions of modernist sensations, including Ulysses and Lady Chatterley's Lover. Those publications provoked an unprecedented international protest of writers, publishers, and intellectuals, who eventually vilified Roth on two continents.

Roth was a man with an uncanny ability to recognize good contemporary writing and make it accessible to popular audiences. Ultimately, his dedication to the publication of these works broke down many of the censorship laws of the time, though he suffered greatly for his efforts. His story portrays a struggle with literary censorship in the mid-twentieth century while providing insights into how modernism was marketed in America.

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I compare Sam Roth's image-breaking independence and Charlie Hebdo's purpose of making people think instead of just being "offended." Both Roth and Charlie take chances. Both need to make enemies, but they want above all to really "enjoy" freedom of expression as a life blood.

Freedom of Expression -- in your face.

I have been interviewed eight times in the last three weeks, on networks from NPR to Armed Forces Radio. Some locations of the broadcasts were Philadelphia; Youngstown, Ohio; Little Falls, MN; Hartford, CT; Minneapolis; Carbondale, IL; Shenandoah, Iowa; Columbia, MO . Sorry I cannot direct you to any archived transcriptions, but the company with which I contracted for the interviews has
posted sample interviewers' questions and my replies:


The interviewers have asked some very good questions, especially considering many of the 10-15 minute interviews were to morning drive shows (others were NPR outlets). How did standards about what is obscene change so much? When did censorship “stop”? Would Sam Roth have spent a day in jail if he were publishing today? What one question would you ask Sam Roth if you could meet up with him? Why did you choose to write about a guy who stole books by famous authors, and who spent so many years in prison? Why do you say that the obscenity laws (1873) were especially hard on women? Why was _Ulysses_ banned when it is almost impossible to read? Why did a guy with his reputation thank he was the man to reconcile the Jewish and Christian religion?

These questions were hard to answer in about a minute each. I couldn’t in some cases. So it was an exercise in trying to make people want more. But boy, were they right up my alley.

Since the book is available on the E-book format now for $12 to $19, I hope I will get increased and varied readers. There may be a paperback next year.

It’s great just to think that I can get some people to think about what Roth’s story tells us about sexual imagination, immigration, the American Dream, censorship, and the Jewish faith before there was a nation-state and its wars. As one of Philip Roth’s characters said, “Life is and.”

I have scheduled a set of brief radio interviews about my book. If you are in the following areas, I have listed below some *live* broadcasts. I have also appeared, or will soon appear, on some taped shows, for example, one on KYW radio Philadelphia with John Ostapkovich. I will let you know when these interviews are to be aired.
Monday August 25 8:40-8:50 a.m. Hartford, CT
WICH-AM Mark Wayne News/​Talk
Monday August 25 11:00-11:15 am Carbondale, IL
WSIU-FM (NPR Affiliate) Jeff Williams News/​Talk
Thursday August 28 7:20-7:30 a.m. Youngstown, OH
WKBN-AM “Dan Rivers Show” News/​Talk
Thursday, September 4 7:10-7:20 a.m. Little Falls, MN
WYRQ-FM Al Windsperger News/​Talk



I have been interviewed eight times in the last three weeks, on networks from NPR to Armed Forces Radio. Some locations of the broadcasts were Philadelphia; Youngstown, Ohio; Little Falls, MN; Hartford, CT; Minneapolis; Carbondale, IL; Shenandoah, Iowa; Columbia, MO . Sorry I cannot direct you to any archived transcriptions, but the company with which I contracted for the interviews has posted some very good topics to guide interviewers:
I spoke at a panel on Personalities in Post-war Publishing with Loren Glass and Boris Kachka at the Book History Colloquium at Columbia on December 11, 2013. The session has been posted on YouTube. If you would like to see it, the URL is
My interview with John Ostapkovich on KYW radio will be aired this Saturday, August 30. However, I do not know the time when it would be on.

Samuel Roth, Infamous Modernist is now available as an EBook at the following links:

Kindle edition ($9.99)

Nook edition ($11.99)

from KOBO ($12.99)

iBook Edition format (apple ID and password needed)--go to iTunes store and enter my name or the title. It's $19.95 here, but from 7 to 10 dollars less in the other Ebook formats.

A review of my book, of which I am very proud, has appeared in _The Jewish Daily Forward_. It was written by Richard Kostelanetz, a long-time writer on American publishing and a critic of contemporary literature. He is also a leading experimental poet. His publication list is as extensive as his reputation.


The way I figure it, this means I will not have to fast next Yom Kippur. Or does it?


That's right--this is the title of a set of interviews by Richard Godwin, a philosophical novelist who works brilliantly in the combined genres of noir and horror fiction. He has interviewed me, and his questions were the most difficult I have had to answer.


"Ulysses’ Gaze: With the publication of purportedly obscene work by authors such as James Joyce (above), Samuel Roth won a reputation as a renegade. "

Leopold Bloom, perhaps contemplating Sam Roth's piracy of the novel that immortalized him. I like to think he would have recognized in SR a comrade soul. "Hypocritish reader, — my fellow, — my brother ."

1. By Woody Haut, author of _Heartbreak and Vine_ and _Pulp Culture_:

2. By Steven J. Gertz, author of _Dope Menace: The Sensational World of Drug Paperbacks, 1900-1975_


The Roth family on the Lower East Side in 1905. Samuel, age 11, appears over the right shoulder of Jay Gertzman

When the grandchildren of Samuel Roth contacted me in 2006 about writing his biography, I remembered how much I had enjoyed talking to their mother in her apartment on Central Park West. Those meetings were 15 years previously, when I was still teaching in a college in north central Pennsylvania. After or before our talks, I would sit in the park and wonder how the ambiance, with the same air, sun, clouds, grass, and trees, could be so different than that of the rural "hub of scenic trails" where I lived. It was what I thought about Samuel Roth also: how different--in the sense of pious, strong-willed, yet dubious, double-tongued, and contemptuous of critics--from other publishers of literary magazines, distributors of banned books, compulsive writers, and wrestlers with Jewish identity. Whatever else he was, he was an image-breaker, a "character," a luftmensch.

I wasn't, but maybe because of that, I had thought and written about other "characters," or people who could fight through the routines that destroy self-awareness and reward sloth: Robert Herrick (the 17th-century lyric poet with the perfect "ear" for word music), the "priest of love" D. H. Lawrence, the "thriller" crime novelist David Goodis, the publisher Lyle Stuart, the Weimar clairvoyant Eric Hanussen (who knew almost to the day when the Nazis would eliminate him), the noir crime writers of the 40s and 50s, and the East Village novelists and poets whose "horror porn" of the 60s showed that pornography was the most political form of fiction.
Samuel Roth, target in "Vice War"

"It takes a single murder to destroy an individual. It takes a war to destroy a nation." --attributed to Nietzsche (by Samuel Roth)

"Life is AND." --Philip Roth

"Never before did I see /​ The Shadows that live in the Sun" -- D. H. Lawrence

Do roadways lift themselves toward the sky?
Do stones roll passionately into brooks?
And have you ever seen a hillside lift up arms
And reach out to the passing clouds for love?
You are a road, a stone, a hillside, brother.”
-- "Yahrzeit," Samuel Roth