American Booksellers Federation for Free Expression
ABFFE has made my biography their "Pick of the Month" for May 2013
Interview on Doug Lain's Diet Soap program
In which I bloviate about Sam Roth and James Joyce, Leopold Bloom and Sam Roth, modernism, prison writing, and vicarious satisfaction of erotic desires.
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Woody Haut is a leading writer about noir crime fiction and about the stresses and confusion in American consciousness from the Depression period to our oil-driven wars
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Stephen Gertz is an essayist, bookseller, and critic.
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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.