Latest News: Posts Tagged ‘rosset’

“Unpacking the latest round of book banning in America” — ROSSET author Barney Rosset featured on On the Media

Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

“In 1951, Grove Press was a tiny, almost-defunct independent publisher, with just three titles in its catalog, including Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man. But then Barney Rosset took over and, with a few choice books, helped push America past its Puritanical roots and into the sexual revolution. He died in 2012 and we are re-airing this interview I did with him many years back, to set up this week’s show in which we’ll be trying to unpack the latest round of book banning in America. ”

Listen to the full episode here.

“John Oakes on Grove Press Publisher Barney Rosset” — ROSSET editor and OR Books cofounder interviewed on the Biblio File

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

Barnet Lee “Barney” Rosset, Jr. (1922 – 2012) was owner of Grove Press publishing house and publisher and editor-in-chief at the Evergreen Review. He led a successful legal battle to publish the uncensored version of D. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and later was the American publisher of Henry Miller’s controversial novel Tropic of Cancer. The right to publish and distribute Miller’s novel in the United States was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1964, in a landmark ruling for free speech and the First Amendment. Under Rosset  Grove introduced American readers to European avant-garde literature and theatre, publishing, among others, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Genet, and Eugène Ionesco. Most importantly, in 1954, Grove started publishing Samuel Beckett.

John Oakes is the co-founder and 50% owner of OR Books, and publisher of the Evergreen Review, an online revival of the venerable counter-cultural literary magazine originally published by Grove Press under Barney Rosset, whose memoir Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship OR Books published in 2017.


Monday, September 10th, 2018

Last year I had the pleasure of reading Barney Rosset’s fascinating memoir, Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship (OR Books, 2017). I knew him, as most readers do, as the founder of Grove Press and Evergreen Review, the man who published D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer amid landmark court cases, and even as a man who distributed landmark films like Vilgot Sjöman’s I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967) and I Am Curious (Blue) (1968)..

Read the full article here.

James Joyce Literary Supplement calls ROSSET “Laudatory and revealing . . . compelling reading.”

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

View their website here.

“Essential reading for any observer of the scene”: ROSSET reviewed in Beat Scene

Monday, March 27th, 2017

It’s difficult to encapsulate the life of such a driven man. He had ideas all day long and he brought many of them to pass [in books], theatre, film. One could write a book on just those two aspects of his existence. He shook up the cosy world of American publishing, made some enemies, made some friends. Curiously he has some admiration for the French renegade publisher Maurice Girodias, a man he had many dealings with. It pointed to his own maverick heart. Essential reading for any observer of the scene.

To read more, pick up a copy of Beat Scene.

“The legendary publisher.” ROSSET in NATIONAL POST

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

“When Rosset was growing up in Chicago under the Hoover administration, John Dillinger was a hero of his – much like the Russian Communists. In fact, Rosset and some of his classmates petitioned the government to replace President Hoover with Dillinger. Rosset’s family lived close to the movie theatre where Dillinger was shot and killed by the FBI. This was not Rosset’s closest brush with the Bureau, which would investigate him thoroughly, all the way back to his school years.”

Get the full story here.

“Dale Peck, A.M. Homes, Lev Grossman, and Emily Gould on the late Barney Rosset’s legacy.”

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Video here.

“Once language was liberated, and ideas along with it, along came the “liberation” of almost everything else we now take for granted.”: ROSSET in Buffalo News

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

No “serious student of American culture from the post-World War II era right up into the 1970s” ever doubted “that were it not for the indefatigable Rosset, our lives would be very different. That one person fundamentally reshaped the way we think, perhaps more than any other, in the modern era: he unleashed upon us “Lady Chatterly’s Lover,’ the intellectual puzzles of Beckett, Genet, Pinter, Oe, Robbe-Grillet, Ionesco and Stoppard; The ‘Tropics’ of Miller, the outrages of Burroughs and Rechy and so much more … that is the last century, the idea of ‘normal’ sexuality has changed owes not a little to Rosset’s exploration of such concepts.”

And that’s not all. Once language was liberated, and ideas along with it, along came the “liberation” of almost everything else we now take for granted.

For Rosset, says Oakes, “every book was a battle and he was the pirate exhorting his crew to slaughter. In fact, the list of censorship obstacles overcome by Grove Press under his tenure is so extensive it might be argued that the company was more likely to publish a book because it was ‘forbidden.’ ”

Read the full piece here.

“An inspiring account of a difficult figure”: ROSSET in Tears in the Fence

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Rosset worked closely with international publishers, such as John Calder in London and Maurice Girodias in Paris. Sylvia Beach, owner of Shakespeare and Co., introduced him to Samuel Beckett. His unswerving dedication to publishing what he wanted combined with great critical awareness and a wide internationalism saw him publish Artaud, Behan, Genet, Ionesco, Lorca, Neruda, Paz, Pinter in the early years, and subsequently Brecht, Orton, Borges, Stoppard, Kenaburō Ōe, Havel, Mamet, and much more Beckett. He emerges as an impatient, unpredictable, passionate, spiky and intractable figure with a feverish desire to challenge accepted views and authorises. This is an inspiring account of a difficult figure, shows the importance of alternative publishing, and will surely be the basis for subsequent biographies and feature in critical studies of those he published.

Read the full piece here.

“The editors have produced a book that has the charm and some of the truculence of the man himself.”: ROSSET in The New Yorker

Monday, December 5th, 2016

A new memoir, “Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship” (OR Books), is the work of several hands. Rosset had planned an autobiography, and he enlisted many helpers, but he was never satisfied, and, when he died, in 2012, the book was unfinished. The editors have managed to pull together a memoir using material in Rosset’s papers, and have produced a book that has the charm and some of the truculence of the man himself.

Rosset’s first great accomplishment after acquiring Grove was to become Beckett’s American publisher. Beckett was an elusive and problematic prize. He lived in Paris; he wrote in French; and he was fanatical about the integrity of his art. There are differing accounts of how Rosset heard about Beckett, but it’s undisputed that when they met, in Paris, they hit it off. Maybe it was the Irish ancestry. But it was sound business sense. Rosset recognized Beckett’s potential at a time when he was barely a coterie author. He must also have realized that he had a melodramatically self-abnegating prima donna on his hands, and he patiently walked Beckett through the steps necessary for his books to be published in the United States, starting with persuading him to translate them into English himself, which Beckett did only after making a tremendous fuss.

Read the full article here.

“Intimately intriguing”: ROSSET reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books

Monday, October 31st, 2016

OPINIONATED, IRASCIBLE, BRAZEN but smart, a gutsy dynamo of American alternative publishing, Barney Rosset was a 130-pound bantamweight on amphetamines with a bear’s loyal heart and stubbornness, a rum-and-coke man who often forgot about the need for food to accompany his drinks at lunch. His memoir My Life in Publishing tells the story of the press he founded and how it would forever change American culture.

His mother was a descendant of Irish tenant farmers whose land was mostly peat bog that served as low-grade fuel. The Tansley family used Gaelic as code and was involved in a clandestine struggle in 19th-century Ireland, part of an underclass exploited by Anglo-Irish aristocrats who actually owned the land. Rosset’s red-headed mother, working as a bank teller in Chicago, met and married Barnet Rosset, the son of Russian Jews from Moscow, who so excelled at accounting that he administered a series of small banks.

Rosset was an indulged only child, sent to progressive schools, and, despite the ravages of the Great Depression, the first kid in his fancy high school to own his own automobile. In 1940, he spent his freshman year of college at Swarthmore, not because of any commitment to the Quaker values stressed at that institution, but because he wanted to stay close to a girl he had fallen in love with in high school. He felt stultified as a student, but describes compensating for his boredom with academic proprieties in an autodidactic manner:
I had always been drawn to books that were considered risky. When I was at Swarthmore in 1940, I asked my parents to send me 50 books, all of which were published by New Directions or the Modern Library. And before that, when I was in Chicago attending high school, I went to Marshall Field & Co. to get books by John Steinbeck, James Farrell, and other writers considered too daring to read.
One of the books that most intrigued him was Henry Miller’s short prose collection The Cosmological Eye, which had been just published by James Laughlin at New Directions. This was where Rosset first learned about Miller’s banned novel, Tropic of Cancer. He discovered a copy of a pirated edition in Frances Steloff’s Gotham Book Mart in Manhattan — she sold him a copy that she kept under the counter. Rosset was drawn to Miller’s attacks on conformity and wrote a paper for his English class, “Henry Miller Versus Our Way of Life.” His professor, the distinguished literary historian Robert Spiller, rewarded him with a B minus. Probably speaking for the entire country at the time, Spiller pronounced that Miller was jaundiced, but the impact of Tropic of Cancer would linger.

Read the full article here.

“I believe . . . that I should be thought of as the publisher who broke the cultural barrier raised like a Berlin Wall between the public and free expression in literature, film and drama”: ROSSET is reviewed by the New York Times

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Read the full reivew here.

“A heroic counterculture figure” ROSSET excerpted in The Talkhouse

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

“One of the actors was Hervé Villechaize, who became quite famous later when he appeared on the TV show Fantasy Island. One night, after the film crew had left my house, my mother-in-law stepped outside and came back screaming, “There’s a midget in the pool!” And there was Hervé floating on his back, unconscious. My wife Cristina and I fished him out, placed him on the side, and raced to Bridgehampton, where Norman was, and said “Go get your midget!” And he did, and took Hervé to get his stomach pumped.”

Read the full article here.

“Required reading” ROSSET in the Los Angeles Review of Books

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

“How is the finished product? Rosset has many riveting passages, and will certainly be required reading for anyone interested in postwar American publishing.”

Read the full article here.

“Glittering prose”: Publishers Weekly reviews ROSSET

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Publishers Weekly reviews Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship.


“Rosset’s life and career are essential parts of American literary history, and being able to read the story in his own glittering prose is invaluable..”


Read the full review on Publishers Weekly here.

The story of Grove Theater: HAROLD PINTER and other playwrights

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Read the story of Harold Pinter’s time in New York—and a little-known account of his Broadway debut

Barney Rosset’s championing of new theater at Grove Press in the late 1950s, including work by such playwrights as Eugène Ionesco, Tom Stoppard, Amiri Baraka, and Bertolt Brecht, would influence modern drama internationally for decades to come.



Of the many accomplishments of Barney Rosset at Grove Press—introducing such writers as Kenzaburō Ōe, Samuel Beckett, and Marguerite Duras to North America, battling American obscenity laws to publish unexpurgated editions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, championing such legendary films as I Am Curious (Yellow) and Norman Mailer’s Maidstone—the production of new theater in the United States in the late 1950s would influence modern drama internationally for decades to come. The stable of playwrights Rosset developed—Jean Genet, Eugène Ionesco, Tom Stoppard, David Mamet, Amiri Baraka, William Inge, Václav Havel, Bertolt Brecht, and Harold Pinter—rendered Grove an estimable force in theater, perhaps more influential than any other publisher of the century. What follows is an account from Rosset’s long-awaited autobiography of the Broadway debut of Harold Pinter, and his time in New York with his publisher.


An excerpt from Rosset:

When we signed up Pinter, I remember very well that we had not yet seen one of his plays performed, but his scripts clearly showed his writing was brilliant. The way he used silence was reminiscent, to me, of Beckett—but different. There was an all-pervading sense of menace. The Dumb Waiter was a good example. Pure menace, terrifying, brilliant theater charged with a silent danger.

Pinter’s agent was Jimmy Wax. He and Harold were close friends. In New York they premiered The Homecoming on Broadway, but opening night was less than triumphant with many in the audience hating it. I remember asking Jimmy, “Who the hell did you invite to this opening?” I mean, at an opening when an author is already very well known, you can pick and choose whom you’re inviting—and you’re giving away many tickets. At least you ought to get people who might like the play. But on that first night one woman in the audience stood up and shouted in the middle of the first act: “Let’s get out of here, this is terrible!”

Pinter always talked and even acted as if he were a character in one of his plays. During the New York blackout of 1965, Cristina and I were in a Greenwich Village restaurant with Harold and my wife’s sister. Initially, when the lights went out, we thought that the blackout was confined to the restaurant and its immediate vicinity. I got my car from our nearby house, parked it facing the restaurant, and turned on the headlights so we could see to eat. The restaurant staff did not object. We slowly realized there was a total blackout extending as far as we could see uptown. Harold sat there silently for a long time, then suddenly said, “Does this happen very often here?” I waited for about three minutes before answering, as if we were in one of his plays, and then said, “Not often. Every twenty years or so.” Finally, Harold asked us to go back with him to his room at the luxurious, blacked-out Carlyle Hotel. We did and a city police officer carrying a flashlight escorted us up a back stairway. Back in his room, Harold read to us by candlelight a poem he had recently written. It was a memorable evening.

Pinter asked Beckett to critique everything he wrote, and Beckett liked Pinter both as a friend and as a writer, and paid him and his work close attention. The reverse was equally true.


Further Reading


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seventeen and j cover

A star deserves a star: Kirkus Reviews gives ROSSET a starred review

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

A self-portrait of the man who reshaped how we think about language, literature and sex

The renegade of 20th-century publishing, Barney Rosset, began work on his autobiography a decade before his death in 2012. Several publishers and editors later, it finally sees the light of day.



… a must for anyone interested in 20th-century American publishing and culture.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


This “candid self-portrait” (Publishers Weekly) of “the one-in-a-million Barney Rosset, America’s bravest publisher” (Paul Auster) tells “a colorful and rollicking history” (Publishers Weekly) of the one person of whom it could be said he “represents the literary world of the latter half of the 20th century” (Kenzaburō Ōe).



Rosset is now shipping: only direct from OR Books. Not available on Amazon or in stores until January.

Further Reading

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“Vivid and informative” BARNEY ROSSET reviewed by Kirkus

Monday, June 20th, 2016

“Presented by the Rosset estate with a memoir that had been “pruned to death,” OR Books founder John Oakes, who worked at Grove in the 1980s, went back to the archives and added material that better represented the boss he describes as “either brooding, laughing, or raging.” That charismatic man practically leaps off the pages of these salty reminiscences, which begin with a tribute by Rosset to his gamekeeper-assassinating Irish great-grandfather and the assertion, “Rebellion runs in my family’s blood.”

To hear more, visit Kirkus Reviews

“A candid self portrait.” BARNEY ROSSET in Publishers Weekly

Monday, April 18th, 2016

OR Books co-publisher Oakes, whose first boss in publishing was Rosset at Grove, said, “Young people don’t know this is the guy who changed the publishing world. They should. A case can be made that Barney changed worldwide culture, but it is incontrovertible that he changed American culture. From early on he was determined that a person should have the right to read whatever he wanted and publish whatever he wanted.”

But Rosset is more than a history of First Amendment litigation—it is a (characteristically) candid self-portrait by America’s foremost maverick publisher, as well as a colorful and rollicking history of Grove.

To hear more, visit Publisher’s Weekly.

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