Dimensions: 432 pages, 9.5 × 6.5 × 1.4 in
Published: June 12, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 1594203369
ISBN - 13: 9781594203367
Read from the Book
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof*** Copyright © 2014 Kevin Birmingham I N T R O D U C T I O N When you open a book, you are already at the end of a long journey. It began with an author whose first challenge was to imagine the readers who would turn the unwritten pages. The author wanted to meet the audience’s expectations and draw the reader in. The book would have a voice, a perspective and a consistent style. It would be accessible. If the book has characters—be they simple or complex, sympathetic or repugnant—the author would make them believable. They would stay in character and speak in a consistent idiom. The spoken words would be in quotation marks. The characters’ thoughts and the story’s action would be clearly distinguishable, and when the author began writing, the story’s elements were sharpened. Clear boundaries staked out the pathways for the journey. A publisher signed a contract with the author. The publisher researched the marketplace and weighed costs and risks against potential profits and demand. The publisher knew the trade. The publisher had published books before. The book had an editor who pruned and revised, who offered perspective and who sometimes said no. The book was probably advertised in various markets. The first copies were printed and bound months before publication day, and they were delivered without incident by the post office or private carriers. They were displayed openl
From the Publisher
"A great story—how modernism brought down the regime of censorship—told as a great story. Kevin Birmingham''s imaginative scholarship brings Joyce and his world to life. There is a fresh detail on nearly every page."—Louis Menand, Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Metaphysical Club
For more than a decade, the book that literary critics now consider the most important novel in the English language was illegal to own, sell, advertise or purchase in most of the English-speaking world. James Joyce’s big blue book, Ulysses, ushered in the modernist era and changed the novel for all time. But the genius of Ulysses was also its danger: it omitted absolutely nothing. All of the minutiae of Leopold Bloom’s day, including its unspeakable details, unfold with careful precision in its pages. The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice immediately banned the novel as “obscene, lewd, and lascivious.” Joyce, along with some of the most important publishers and writers of his era, had to fight for years to win the freedom to publish it. The Most Dangerous Book tells the remarkable story surrounding Ulysses, from the first stirrings of Joyce’s inspiration in 1904 to its landmark federal obscenity trial in 1933.
Literary historian Kevin Birmingham follows Joyce’s years as a young writer, his feverish work on his literary masterpiece, and his ardent love affair with Nora Barnacle, the model for Molly Bloom. Joyce and Nora socialized with literary greats like Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Eliot and Sylvia Beach. Their support helped Joyce fight an array of anti-vice crusaders while his book was disguised and smuggled, pirated and burned in the United States and Britain. The long struggle for publication added to the growing pressures of Joyce’s deteriorating eyesight, finances and home life.
Salvation finally came from the partnership of Bennett Cerf, the cofounder of Random House, and Morris Ernst, a dogged civil liberties lawyer. With their stewardship, the case ultimately rested on the literary merit of Joyce’s master work. The sixty-year-old judicial practices governing obscenity in the United States were overturned because a federal judge could get inside Molly Bloom’s head.
Birmingham’s archival work brings to light new information about both Joyce and the story surrounding Ulysses. Written for ardent Joyceans as well as novices who want to get to the heart of the greatest novel of the twentieth century, The Most Dangerous Book is a gripping examination of how the world came to say yes to Ulysses.
About the Author
Kevin Birmingham received his PhD in English from Harvard, where he is a lecturer in History & Literature and an instructor in the university’s writing program. His research focuses on twentieth-century fiction and culture, literary obscenity and the avant-garde. He was a bartender in a Dublin pub featured in Ulysses for one day before he was unceremoniously fired. This is his first book.
Dwight Garner, The New York Times : "Kevin Birmingham’s new book about the long censorship fight over James Joyce’s Ulysses braids eight or nine good stories into one mighty strand... The best story that’s told… may be that of the arrival of a significant young nonfiction writer. Mr. Birmingham, a lecturer in history and literature at Harvard, appears fully formed in this, his first book. The historian and the writer in him are utterly in sync. He marches through this material with authority and grace, an instinct for detail and smacking quotation and a fair amount of wit. It’s a measured yet bravura performance." Rachel Shteir, The New York Times Book Review : “So it is all the more impressive that this young Harvard Ph.D. in English has written a grand, readable adventure story about the novel’s legal troubles… Birmingham spent years sifting through archives. It shows. He has read Ulysses deeply, borrowing its organizing principles, telescoping some moments, amplifying others, jumping from character to character, continent to continent, subject to subject, text analysis to literary history. This all makes The Most Dangerous Book dynamic.” Michael Dirda, The Washington Post : “Birmingham has produced an excellent work of consolidation…. [A] lively history …. The Most Dangerous Book is impressively researched and especially useful for its meticulous accounts of various legal battles. It is meant to be fun