Joycean Saga With a Cast Of Un-Joycean Characters

The New York Times, Books, May 1996

This is a New York story about a rare book dealer, a Teamsters boss and James Joyce. It includes anxious moments at an auction at Christie’s, corruption at the powerful teamsters’ union Local 810 near Union Square and brief appearances by Carter Burden, the politician and socialite, as well as Steve Forbes, the publishing heir and short-time presidential candidate.

The story is about greed and pretension, and about the seemingly genetic predisposition of certain people to collect, be it campaign buttons or modern art. It is also about the belief that book collecting is the highest order of acquisitiveness because books, unlike paintings, are tucked discreetly away on shelves yet contain the universe of human experience.

Tonight, a chapter of the story comes to a close when the rare book dealer Glenn Horowitz holds an opening-night party in his East Side shop to celebrate a $2.4 million exhibit of first-edition works by Joyce, including two copies of “Ulysses” signed by the author. In the rare book world, this is of great interest.

“It is a major, major Joyce offering,” said Thomas F. Staley, the director of the Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas and a leading Joyce scholar.

Of additional interest is that Mr. Horowitz acquired the bulk of the collection from his longtime client, Dennis M. Silverman, the former president of Local 810.

In 1993, Mr. Silverman was ousted by the teamsters’ general president, Ron Carey, on international union charges that Mr. Silverman misappropriated Local 810 funds and that the money paid for, among other things, a cabinet stocked with 330 bottles of expensive liquor and wine and a chauffeured Lincoln Town Car for Mr. Silverman’s father. In addition, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said, Mr. Silverman and other family members employed by the local received compensation totaling nearly $500,000. Over the years Mr. Silverman made so much money that he was able to assemble one of the finest private collections of first edition works by Joyce in the world.

“He was a collector,” Mr. Horowitz said of Mr. Silverman, who amassed comic books and baseball cards as a child. “He smelled the object of his desire, and he came in pursuit of it.”

Mr. Horowitz, 40, has a look vaguely reminiscent of an erudite teddy bear and has an aggressive business style that is far different from his colleagues in the genteel world of rare books. His clients find him winning; some book dealers are less enamored. Mr. Horowitz is considered one of the half-dozen major dealers in the United States of 20th-century first editions, and he has sold Winston Churchill first editions and manuscripts to Mr. Forbes. In his East Hampton shop, he has sold early English and American gardening books to Martha Stewart, the life style doyenne.

The Prelude Of Players, Investors And Thrill-Seekers

Mr. Horowitz said he knew nothing of Mr. Silverman’s activities at the local for hospital employees and light industry workers until he read of Mr. Silverman’s troubles in the newspapers in the early 1990’s. Although rare books are some of the world’s most portable, negotiable commodities, Mr. Horowitz said he had no reason to believe that Mr. Silverman acquired the books for any purpose other than thrill and investment.

Joseph Padellaro, the trustee appointed by Mr. Carey to clean up Local 810, said Mr. Silverman’s Joyce collection was kept at home and was beyond the scope of his investigation that turned up, for example, $2,000 in tickets for a Whoopi Goldberg concert bought with union funds. “I couldn’t say that he bought the books with union money,” Mr. Padellaro said. “But we knew they were very costly.”

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