Phew. He made it.
Barnet Braverman, 34, former radical newspaper editor turned boring advertising guy, has just crossed the border from Canada into the United States carrying one copy of the recently published novel Ulysses by Irishman James Joyce, 40, which has been banned in this country for being obscene.
If he’d been caught, he faced a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
Earlier this year Barnet had been contacted by the publisher of the controversial novel, American Sylvia Beach, 35, who operates a bookstore in Paris, Shakespeare and Company. One of the young aspiring novelists who hangs out in her store, Ernest Hemingway, 23, had suggested Braverman, whom he’d known when they both worked in advertising in Chicago.
Braverman is excited and proud to take part in this international literary smuggling ring. He wants to stick it to the short-sighted American publishers who refused to publish Ulysses and also put one over on the censors he refers to as “Methodist smut hounds.”
So far everything has gone to plan. For $35 a month Braverman rented a small room near the office where he works in Windsor, Ontario. He told the landlord that he’s in the publishing business.
Sylvia then shipped 40 copies of the book to his Canadian address. That’s when he had to deal with the Canadian customs officials.
Canada hasn’t gotten around to banning Ulysses yet. But their duty is 25% of the value of any printed material, which would mean $300. With some fast talking, Braverman convinced the customs officer that these 700-page books, printed on fine paper, are only worth 50 cents each. So he only had to pay $6.50 for the lot and then stored the books in his rented room.
Once he gets them into the States, Braverman will send Ulysses to American customers COD so that the private express messenger company has to deliver them to get paid. And this plan avoids sending “obscene” material through the U. S. mail.
After work today, Braverman picked up one copy, wrapped it, and carried it under his arm onto the ferry. When he got off in Detroit, he unwrapped it for the border officer there, who waved him through with no problem.
Now Barnet just has to do that 39 more times.
Windsor Ferry Landing
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.