RARA-AVIS: _Nightmare Alley_: expurgated?

From: Jay Gertzman ( jgertzma@earthlink.net)
Date: 03 Sep 2007

A mail order publisher named Sam Roth bought remainder copies of
_Nightmare Alley_ about 1950. It seems that the book had been on the list of the NY Vice Society or the National Organization for Decent Lit., so he would have trouble sending it through the mails.There are memos and a copy of the Rhinehart ed. in Roth's files that suggest that he tried to expurgate it. The only editions I know of (on WorldCat) from the period are the Rhinehart in 1946 and the Sun Dial Press in 1948
(both 275pp) , the Triangle Books (246pp, 1948), and the New American Library, also 1948, 222pp.

Roth wrote a letter to the Post Office Examiner in 1951 or 1952, saying that the PO had given Rhinehart, or the famous First Amendment law firm Greenbaum, Wolff and Ernst, a list of words that had to be excised before the book could be sent through the mails. Otherwise, despite positive reviews and the book's selection by the Book of the Month Club, they would not allow it to be mailed, for they had decided it was "lewd, obscene, lascivious, and indecent." Roth knew of this requirement, and was trying to get the PO to rescind it. Fat chance.

If any edition was expurgated, "bankers that take it up the ass" would be changed to "bankers with fishy eyes" (on p.168 of the Rhinehart ed.), and on p.14 the 2nd part of the 3rd paragraph, describing Dad and the Lady "bounc[ing] up and down on the bed" would probably have been excised.

Roth's advertising copy was to read: "a novel about the circus and circus people who do all the things our primitive instincts want us to do--to do which would be to break all man-made laws--but which we do not have to do once we have witnessed them done by others in a book." A bit wordy, but clever not only as a titillating come-on but as a defense of the book's effect on the general reader.

  Has anyone seen any edition that seems to be abridged?

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