The clandestine aspects of publishing a book likely to be nominated for
impoundment cannot, after 39 years, be emphasized without a disbelieving
shudder. Thirteen months earlier, at the Asphodel Book Shop, the police
had demonstrated a nice grasp of the community's moral standards and the
finer distinctions of unredeemable literature, on their way out the door with
their shelf-side selections piled into honest cardboard. A mimeograph was
subsequently confiscated from a certain apartment in East Cleveland,
at approximately the same time as 40 cartons of paper were being delivered to
an unfurnished apartment across town on Broadway at the edge of the
The ground-floor apartment lay in the rear of a restaurant which closed daily
at six, and its entrance, accessible through an alley, was naturally endowed with
a location that would have made it all but invisible from the street. A sense of
sneaking into one's own apartment to commit a criminal act quickly ensued.
No sooner were the boxes of paper arranged in the shape of an auxiliary wall
on the uncarpeted floorboards, mimeograph set up on card table, can opener
and hot plate purchased in anticipation of stores, mattress dragged up steps
through foyer, than one of the two leasees was required to leave for an anticipated
stay of several months at the workhouse. The remaining occupant of the
apartment stayed behind, quite happily, and guarded the paper, skimming
controlled amounts for the publication of less exasperating books, putting the
machine and silkscreen supplies through various paces.
It was learned that the optimum hours for production were between the time he
came back from work, early evening, to well before midnight. Upstairs tenants
were thus spared undue inconvenience and attention deflected, carefully,
noiselessly if it could be managed, from the endeavor at hand. If only the
typewriter could have been re-fitted with soft, miniature mallets.
On Sundays there were excursions by bus to the workhouse where the two
characters sat on opposite sides of the screen. Were there any instructions?
Move the boxes away from the windows, perhaps, where they would be less
obvious to anyone finding himself in the alley. Upon release from the
obligation to society, publication of the large book commenced with the typing
of stencils, usually off premise, at the library downtown, the book's author
supplying fresh, relevant, and up-to-the-minute material, necessitating the
purchase of additional stencils. The book, in stencil, grew by the week. A
larger, reconditioned mimeograph had been purchased; the old machine, once
new, but now faltering, thrown out. Drying serigraphs began to fill up the
sinks, the bathtub, windowsills, clear space on the wainscot. Printed paper
flew from the mimeograph and was packed back into boxes marked on
the outside "North American Book of the Dead," "Cleveland Undercovers,"
"Rectal Eye Visions," "etc."
Long planks were located, brought in, and set up on bricks to serve as collation
tables. The author made unannounced appearances, late at night, to roam the
boards, slapping together the books, but silently, like big, happy sandwiches, and
carried advance copies away with him, under his coat. It was past midnight
when the plainclothes detectives finally arrived. A flashlight was shone into
the window, on the other side of which one of the suspects sat at the table,
resting his head on his arms. Badges were produced. "May we come in and
"Yes, of course."
Detectives disappear around the door jamb, into production area; return holding
a complete edition of the collected works. "May we have a copy of this?"
"Thanks. We like poetry."
"Good night, gentlemen."