VENUS BOUND by John de St. Jorre


The Erotic Voyages of the Olympia Press
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 A between-the-covers look at the Parisian Olympia Press of Maurice Girodias, the man Vladimir Nabokov (whom he published) called the ``Olympian Pornologist.'' De St. Jorre labels him ``the Mr. Micawber of publishing.'' Facing a dizzying array of eccentrics, scandals, feuds, and conflicting testimonies, journalist de St. Jorre (The Marines, not reviewed) admirably sorts out the evidence from accounts already put to paper, adding his own interviews with surviving employees and authors. The resulting narrative is a highly readable, colorful picaresque of publishing. The tale begins with the Obelisk Press, founded by Girodias's father, an Englishman named Jack Kahane. In the 1930s Obelisk published Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and Lawrence Durrell's first novel, as well as risquÇ potboilers. After the war, Girodias launched the Olympia Press with the hard-core ``Traveller's Companion'' series of ``D.B.'s'' (Dirty Books), featuring titles like Whips Incorporated and Lust, written by assorted flamboyant English and American bohemians. Girodias became even more notorious when he issued the translation of The Story of O (de St. Jorre unravels the true story of the book's genesis with aplomb). As a doubtful haven for ``unpublishable'' writers, the Olympia Press ironically attracted notable work from Nabokov (Lolita) and William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch). But despite his writers' notoriety, the groundbreaking censorship cases were fought and won by others. Girodias's questionable business practices--such as verbal contracts and irregular royalties--landed him more often in lawsuits with his authors than with the censors. The crowning feud surrounded The Ginger Man: Girodias and J.P. Donleavy spent 20 years suing each other over US and British publishing rights, until Donleavy's wife dramatically bought the bankrupt press at auction in 1970, effectively ending the dispute and sending Girodias into publishing exile. De St. Jorre shows the mercurial Girodias in all his guises- -debonair publisher, avant-garde patron, and unscrupulous opportunist. (b&w photos and sketches, not seen)

Pub Date: June 5th, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44336-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996