Thomas Arthur Schaefer

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pulse Called Due To Pronounced Clearing

Just got my vintage set of EROS in the mail today. This is the full set too, in pretty great condition. Volume One, Number One was issued on Valentine’s Day 1962.

In 1962, Ralph Ginzburg began publication of his first major work, Eros, which was a quarterly hardbound periodical containing articles and photo-essays on love and sex. Herb Lubalin was the art director and second on the masthead. Only four issues of Eros were published, largely because Ginzburg was indicted under federal obscenity laws for the fourth issue.

No. 1 (Spring, 1962)
The cover was mustard-coloured and featured "an embossed playing card of Bluebeard and one of his maids". The issue included short stories by Ray Bradbury and Guy de Maupassant, an extract from Eric Partridge's "vulgar dictionary" and poems by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester.

No. 2 (Summer, 1962)
The cover of No. 2 pictured a young couple in swimsuits, kissing passionately; it was printed in two colors, black and greenish-yellow, with a red-orange logo. The inside covers repeated the theme in red (front) and blue (back). It featured photo essays about John F Kennedy, French prostitutes and erotic statues in India, the first publication in a magazine of Mark Twain's short story "1601" and "an antique patent submission for a male chastity belt"

No. 3 (Autumn, 1962)
Issue no. 3 was centred on an 18-page photo shoot of the recently deceased Marilyn Monroe (the pictures were taken by Bert Stern six weeks before her passing). It also featured a piece by Bonnie Prudden, an extract from Fanny Hill and an article on Samuel Roth.

No. 4 (Winter, 1962)
This issue published a letter by Allen Ginsberg, a profile of Frank Harris, and 'an eight-page "photographic tone poem"' titled "Black and White in Color" featuring a nude interracial couple.

Some pages from Marilyn's last studio photo shoot, also her last nude shoot. These layouts are great. The scratches and orange crosses on many of the photographs are not defects. They were made by Marilyn Monroe herself, her own reactions to various shots that showed a strand of hair out of place or a pose she felt was somehow awkward. The publishers thought her markings were so interesting that they decided to leave them in.

U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy indicted Ginzburg for distributing obscene literature through the mails, in violation of federal anti-obscenity laws. The indictment, although full of counts, really comprised three allegations of obscenity: First, publication of Volume I, No. 1, of Eros; second, publication of his newsletter Liaison; and third, that although The Housewife's Handbook on Selective Promiscuity, published by Ginzburg, was not itself obscene because of its inherent artistic value, Ginzburg has mailed advertisements for the book which accentuated the erotic content of the book in such as way as to appeal to "prurient interests". The advertising emphasized their sexual imagery, and included a guarantee of a full refund "if the book fails to reach you because of U.S. Post Office censorship interference."

The following were the portions of the advertisements that the district court found to "pander to prurient interests":

"Eros is a child of its times. . . . [It] is the result of recent court decisions that have realistically interpreted America's obscenity laws and that have given to this country a new breadth of freedom of expression. . . . EROS takes full advantage of this new freedom of expression. It is the magazine of sexual candor."

"EROS is a new quarterly devoted to the subjects of Love and Sex. In the few short weeks since its birth, EROS has established itself as the rave of the American intellectual community - and the rage of prudes everywhere! And it's no wonder: EROS handles the subjects of Love and Sex with complete candor. The publication of this magazine - which is frankly and avowedly concerned with erotica - has been enabled by recent court decisions ruling that a literary piece or painting, though explicitly sexual in content, has a right to be published if it is a genuine work of art. EROS is a genuine work of art. . . ."

The outer envelopes of the Liaison flyers asked, "Are you among the chosen few?"

The first line of the Liaison advertisement: "Are you a member of the sexual elite?" . . . "That is, are you among the few happy and enlightened individuals who believe that a man and woman can make love without feeling pangs of conscience? Can you read about love and sex and discuss them without blushing and stammering? If so, you ought to know about an important new periodical called Liaison. . . ."

"In short, Liaison is Cupid's Chronicle. . . . Though Liaison handles the subjects of love and sex with complete candor, I wish to make it clear that it is not a scandal sheet and it is not written for the man in the street. Liaison is aimed at intelligent, educated adults who can accept love and sex as part of life. . . I'll venture to say that after you've read your first bi-weekly issue, Liaison will be your most eagerly awaited piece of mail."

The defendants sought mailing privileges from the postmasters of Intercourse and Blue Ball, Pennsylvania, before settling upon Middlesex, New Jersey, as a mailing point.

Inserted in each book advertisement was a slip labeled "GUARANTEE" and reading, "Documentary Books, Inc. unconditionally guarantees full refund of the price of THE HOUSEWIFE'S HANDBOOK ON SELECTIVE PROMISCUITY if the book fails to reach you because of U.S. Post Office censorship interference."

It was this last act which was most important to the legal community, because it established new law: although neither the book nor the advertising mailer were themselves obscene, the advertisement attempted to sell the book by characterising it as obscene, which violated the federal law (and was permissible under the First Amendment). Writing for a 5-4 majority, Justice Brennan held that in a close case, evidence that a defendant deliberately represented the materials in question as appealing to customers' erotic interest could support a finding that the materials are obscene. He wrote: "Where the purveyor's sole emphasis is on the sexually provocative aspects of his publications, that fact may be decisive in the determination of obscenity" even if the publications examined out of context might not be deemed obscene. Ginzburg was sentenced to five years in prison but ultimately served only eight months.

The case was clearly a troubling one for the Supreme Court. Even the prosecutors feared that all three publications had enough intrinsic artistic and social value to pass the Roth test, which was at that time the standard by which the Court decided criminal obscenity cases.

After a brief trial in June, 1963, Ginzburg was convicted in Philadelphia by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the conviction in 1964, and two years later the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision, also affirming the conviction, in Ginzburg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463 (March 21, 1966). The same day, the Court announced its decision in Memoirs v. Massachusetts (commonly known as the "Fanny Hill case" after the informal title of the John Cleland novel at the heart of the judgment). This case declared that the First Amendment would not allow a work to be banned unless it was "utterly without redeeming social value"—a legal proviso that troubled some commentators, who felt that Ginzburg had been convicted for three works they deemed more "socially valuable" than Cleland's antique work of unvarnished erotica.

Immediately after the Supreme Court decision was announced, the public and mainstream press were heavily supportive of the decision. One person who had no problem supporting Ginzburg was Allen Ginsberg, who traveled to Washington and picketed the Supreme Court building.

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