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Michael Chabon’s best-selling 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay is about the business of writing and publishing of comic books, and beyond that about the joy and tsouris [trouble] involved in the creation of an American art form. The heroes, late in the story, are concerned about the 1954 Kefauver Hearings on Comic Books, at which Samuel Roth begged off testifying concerning his attempt to solicit from Alex Segal, a distributor of comic books, a list of names of children who sent in coupons advertised therein. In addition, there was one “sex book” advertised in one of Segal’s comics.

Segal did not say who had solicited his list or placed the ad. Kefauver wanted to know, and subpoenaed Roth, who did not take the Fifth, but who could not testify unless given immunity, because he was under indictment. Here is Chabon’s observation about Roth: “A wall eyed loser;” “pornographer”; “comically shifty looking,” who sweated profusely.

Chabon is not a reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper but a super-engaging writer. He has delivered an über-comic book in the form of a novel. He has drawn Roth seamlessly into his web, making another cartoon character out of him. . Read More 
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Note that the great detective work by the grad student, J. C. Cloutier, includes his restraint in discussing Roth with the NY Times journalist. It is true that Roth published "work without permission," and he was a kind of "literary pariah" (and so was the man who fought Lady Chatterley's Lover through the courts in the late 1950s, Barney Rosset) . Both Roth and Rosset might well have been proud of being literary pariahs.

What J.C. Cloutier did not say--and I bet the Times would have been glad to report otherwise--is that Roth was a pirate. This is more than a formality, b/c neither Ulysses or Chatterley were copyright in this country. Read More 
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