Welcome to this cyberplace, set up as a space for news and reviews of A Gentleman of Pleasure and occasional jottings about John Glassco. Five years have now passed since publication, and I've moved on to other projects, but I'm leaving this up with the thought that those drawn to Glassco's writing will find something of interest.

29 May 2011

So Good They Had to Print It Twice

Anne Chudobiak's recent Gazette review, reprinted in today's Edmonton Journal:
You may be forgiven for not knowing who John Glassco was, or why biographer Brian Busby has written such a big book about him. He was, in no particular order, a writer at a time when writers still joked about who would be the first to write the first great Canadian novel; a pornographer at a time when obscenity laws were still a major impediment to publication; a poet whose career overlapped with Leonard Cohen's and Irving Layton's; and a literary translator whose first major effort, the groundbreaking Poetry of French Canada, came out in 1970, the same year as the October Crisis, when enthusiasm among francophone poets for communication with the other solitude was perhaps at its lowest ebb.

If you have heard of him at all, it might be because the Literary Translators' Association of Canada has named a prize in his honour.

Even so, it's not immediately obvious why A Gentleman of Pleasure is such an important book. But it is, so much so that the writer in me envies Busby his choice of topic: Somebody had to write this book, and it was smart of him to do it first.
The entire review can be found here. Sadly, the review is no longer available online.

21 May 2011

Glassco sans permission

A passing comment concerning piracy made during my McGill lecture - available online - has brought a few queries.

John Glassco's problems with pirates began with the appearance of a cheap, two-volume edition of The English Governess, a product of Taiwanese scoundrels. When exactly this bastard book appeared is lost to history, but evidence indicates that it was very close in following the June 1960 Ophilia Press first edition. While it's likely Glassco never knew of this illegitimate publication, he was very much aware of the one pictured above. Published in 1967 by Collector's Publications of Covina, California, The Governess was a transparent attempt to cash in Grove's newly published Harriet Marwood, Governess, the original version of the romance. Glassco, who was greatly offended by the pirated edition, fought as best he could, but publisher Marvin Miller was an elusive figure, and was far beyond the grasping hands of a poet located in Foster, Quebec.

Not coincidentally, Collector's Publications pirated another Canadian-penned Olympia Press book: Bottoms Up by Jock Carroll. In this case, the claim, "FIRST AMERICAN PRINTING" is not at all true. As The Shy Photographer, the novel had already been published in hardcover by Stein & Day and as a mass market Bantam paperback.

Others have followed the late Mr Miller, the most notable being England's AKS Books, whose catalogue lists Glassco's erotic classic under the confusing catch-all title The English Governess: Harriet Marwood. The publisher also offers his long flagellantine poem Squire Hardman as part of an anthology titled Punitive Poetry.

With the advent of Print On Demand technology and ebooks, piracy has flourished. Kessinger Publishing offers Glassco's completion of Aubrey Beardsley's Under the Hill, but the most egregious firm has been olympiapress.com. An imprint of appropriately-named Disruptive Publishing, olympiabooks.com is not to be confused with Maurice Girodias' Olympia Press. That said, it does issue works that once found home with the legendary publisher. In Glassco's case, we find Under the Hill. The website misinforms:
Anyway, in '59, Glassco, author of The English Governess, joins Beardsley's illustrations with the deceased author's unfinished manuscripts of the story. Adding in his own bits here and there, voila [sic], we have "Under the Hill," a kind of fairy tale for adults, featuring Tannhauser [sic], a German hero of myth and the Venus, goddess of love, some wild parties, and sex without repercussion.
The most beautiful and elaborate Olympia Press book, olympiapress.com has reduced Under the Hill to this:

Also on offer is Glassco's pseudonymous The English Governess, which Girodias first published under his Ophelia imprint. It can be purchased as a "5 x 8 Perfect Bound" or as a download for your Sony Reader. Cost: US$8.96.

There's more: olympiapress.com lists pornographic works that Glassco published with other houses. Fetish Girl, which which appeared in 1972 as a Venus Library book under the pseudonym Sylvia Bayer, is worthy of note, but the most interesting to me is The Temple of Pederasty (North Hollywood, CA: Hanover House, 1970). In pitching the download (only), the olympiapress.com again misinforms:
Based on source tales from the same Saikaku material that Tuttle Publishing derived its "Comrade Loves of the Samurai" from. This peculiar edition supposedly derives more immediately from a hilariously bad, clandestine publication of a 1928 translation, largely of Saikaku's "Glorious Tales of Pederasty." However, in view of Glassco's unique talents, as poet and author of the Victorian-fake extraordinary The English Governess and Fetish Girl, it's quite likely the book emerged more from the pen of Glassco himself, than from anything Saikaku wrote. Owing to the extreme difficulty people have had in finding the title, the Olympia Press is proud to offer this work of gay erotica for all the scholars out there.
"Banned By Amazon", trumpets olympiapress.com, to which I add that in 1970 The Temple of Pederasty was also banned by Customs and Excise Canada in a decision that would most certainly stand if revisited.

As a completist, sadly, I help support these characters.

Update: A pirate responds!

12 May 2011

John Glassco, Ghostwriter

Bibliographer M. Clark Chambers lists Relations and Complications as Kay Boyle's first book. Although I take exception, we would at the very least agree that it is not the work of the Dayang Muda of Sarawak.

Née Gladys Milton Palmer, of the Huntley & Palmer biscuit empire, Her Highness led the most extraordinary life. Oscar Wilde, Alphonse Daudet and John Ruskin dined at her family's table, as did her godfather George Meredith.

George Meredith with the Dayang Muda's mother, undated.

A woman of amazonian beauty, in 1904 she married Bertram Brooke, whose grandfather, having wrestled approximately 125,000 square kilometres of Borneo from the Sultan of Brunei, was the first White Rajah of Sarawaki.

It is not at all difficult to see what encouraged publisher John Lane to draw up a contract for the Dayang Muda's biography. Unforeseen was the sad fact the lady was anything but a memoirist. As Boyle describes it, “her valiant attempts to relive the memories of all she had been, or had not been, served no purpose except to stun her into silence.” And so, the Dayang Muda hired Boyle as a ghostwriter.

Just how many of these words rightfully belong to the American author is a matter to be debated. In her revised – bastardized, really – edition of Robert McAlmon's Being Geniuses Together, Boyle writes that the then-18-year-old Glassco, hired to type the manuscript, "inserted in the mouths of the long-dead great additional flights of repartee and far more brilliant bon mots than I had managed to invent alone.”

Robert McAlmon tells all through his roman à clef The Nightinghouls of Paris, in which Sudge Galbraith (Buffy Glassco) works with Dale Burke (Kay Boyle) on the final draft of the Princess of Faraway's story:
The new script of the memoirs was beautiful, for Sudge typed well and got the manuscript up with professional competence. Later, when the book appeared it had a slight success, but anybody knowing the Princess knew that all the dainty wit and bright malice in the book were Sudge’s. Dale had furnished Irish gaiety and wit here and there, but she admitted that Sudge slipped in the best cracks. He had a talent for drawing old dames and gents with cruel caricature, and while his contributions to the book were trivial, the memoirs were so trivial that Sudge’s contribution took on profundity.
Late in life, Boyle wrote Chambers that of the seventeen chapters, she had had nothing to do with the final two, believing that these had been written by Glassco and forgotten poet Archibald Craig, the Dayang Muda's cousin.

In his own Memoirs of Montparnasse, Glassco claims to have been nothing more than the typist. Typical of a man given to humility and self-abasement; typical also of one who took delight in literary subterfuge.

Cross-posted with additional information on the book and its availability at The Dusty Bookcase.

11 May 2011

Another Errant Edel

An annex, of sorts, to an earlier post on Glassco, Leon Edel and Henry James. A Montreal collector was kind enough to send me these images of another Edel title that was not included in the sale of Glassco's library.

The warm inscription, typical of Edel, is made particularly interesting with it's mention of Montparnasse and Nice:
Buffy Glassco

his contrite (in not having given you this book) copain of the yesteryears, of Montparnasse and Nice — with nostalgia and affection.

Leon Edel
Honolulu 1973
The first in Edel's five-volume biography, Henry James: The Untried Years 1843-1870 was published in 1953, during the long decades in which the two copains had no contact. The place of inscription is curious – it wasn't until later in the 'seventies that Glassco first travelled to Honolulu.

05 May 2011

Souvenirs of Baie d'Urfé

Returning home from Montreal this past Sunday, I took the opportunity to pass by the Baie d'Urfé house that Glassco and Graeme Taylor rented in the warmer months of 1934 and 1935. Though the exterior had remained virtually unchanged in the seven decades since, I was saddened to discover that an ill-considered extension has been recently added. The grounds upon which Glassco sat writing "The Way Back", the earliest version of "The Black Helmet", is now taken up by a two-car garage.

01 May 2011

John Glassco and the Other Montreal

John Glassco and the Other Montreal, a new collection of the poet's verse, selected with a provocative 5500-word introduction by Carmine Starnino.

Limited to 110 numbered copies – forty copies in red silk Japanese bookcloth-over-boards with a further seventy Smyth sewn into a cover of bespoke Saint-Armand mould-made paper – its publication marks the first fine press Glassco work in thirty-five years.

Ordering information can be found at the Frog Hollow Press website.