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Archive for the 'Detroit' Category

June 3rd, 2013 • Posted in Detroit, Windsor

First Copies of Joyce’s Ulysses smuggled into U.S. via Windsor, Ontario

The SS Lansdowne was a railroad car ferry built in 1884 by the Wyandotte Shipyard of the Detroit Dry Dock Company. It was used from 1884 until 1956 between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario across the Detroit River,

The first copies of James Joyce’s Ulysses to enter the U.S. came via Windsor, Ontario.

The books were printed in Paris and mailed by Ernest Hemingway to a friend in Windsor who worked for the Curtis Publishing in Detroit.
The friend, a reporter named Barney Braverman whom Hemingway had met during his days either in Toronto or Chicago (found references citing both),commuted from Detroit to Windsor each day on the ferry. Braverman apparently lived on Chatham Street in a house kitty-corner to the back of what is today The Windsor Star building. Once the smuggling plan was devised, 40 copies of the novel, published by Sylvia Beach owner of the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, were sent over from Paris.

Every morning Braverman set off with a package under his arm containing copies (I’m guessing no more than one or two at a time) of Joyce’s novel, strolled downtown past the border guards and onto the ferry. This was the only way to cross the river back then. At the time construction of the Ambassador Bridge had only just begun.

These were in fact interesting times.  Prohibition was in full swing. All sorts of people used to smuggle bottles of fine Canadian whisky across the border tucking them away in their trouser pants and underwear. Booze wasn’t the only thing banned.  The authorities were also pretty uptight about ‘immoral’ ‘pornographic’ literature.  Though this really wasn’t what the guards were on the lookout for.

Each day for what must have been several weeks on-end, this innocent looking publishing salesman crossed the river, went to the Detroit Post Office and fired off first editions of what is now considered by many to be the greatest novel of the 20th Century, to friends and contacts, including Alfred Knopf and Sherwood Anderson, throughout the U.S.

Today a copy fetches $65,000.

January 26th, 2013 • Posted in Detroit

Morning Smile

Cadillac Assembly Plant, 1910 Detroit: wikipedia

Courtesy of Paul Smith’s post on Journey to the End of the Night by Louis Ferdinand Celine:

“We are all heading to the end of the night; it is only a matter of time before we reach our destination. People will betray you and leave you, and if, by some small miracle, they don’t, they’ll die on you anyway. Your youth will desert you, leaving you old and infirm, and then you’ll really be in the shit. When it is all that remains, you’ll love your misery, cradle it close like some phantom lover, convince yourself it is more special than all the other misery that surrounds you. Like Ferdinand says, “that’s what we look for all our lives, the worst possible grief, to make us truly ourselves before we die.” In the end, as somnambulists sleepwalking through our lives with nothing but misery and our regrets, we are ultimately an “old lamppost with memories on a street that hardly anyone passes anymore”. That is the pathetic truth of existence; you either face up to it or lie to yourself like everybody else.”

Literary Tourist angle: the novel’s protagonist Ferdinand Bradamu, in his search for personal fulfillment visits the auto factories in Detroit.