By John Ostapkovich

By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In this age of the anything-goes internet, it may seem quaint to think of a time when someone could go to jail for publishing naughty books. But a man who actually did that helped loosen the moral strings on society.

For better or worse, there’s a lot more sexual content in media today than in the mid-20th century, and one of the main reasons is Samuel Roth, who won an obscenity case before the Supreme Court. More than that, though, he was a complicated guy, says Philadelphia-born biographer Jay Gertzman, poet, publisher, booklegger (that’s right) and seamy catalog merchant.

“Advertising books that were sometimes not as erotic, and he sent this by mail order, through the Post Office, through very clever circulars. The Post Office often told him to stop and when they would not distribute any more of his circulars under a certain name he’d just change the name and continued.”

Gertzman’s book Samuel Roth: Infamous Modernist began as a request from Roth’s grandchildren to repair his reputation which included publishing books like Lady Chatterley’s Lover without the author’s consent.

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