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27.2.12

Barney Rosset 1922-2012

Pioneering American publisher passes away, aged 89
Barney Rosset
It is with sadness that A Piece of Monologue announces the death of Barney Rosset, the groundbreaking American publisher. What follows is a small selection of tributes and obituaries. The first is by David Hudson (with thanks to Volker Frick, for the link):
From John Gall, art director for Vintage and Anchor Books, comes word that legendary publisher and film distributor Barney Rosset has passed away at the age of 89. Gall points us to a lively profile by Louisa Thomas that ran in Newsweek in late 2008: "Rosset's publishing house, Grove Press, was a tiny company operating out of the ground floor of Rosset's brownstone when it published an obscure play called Waiting for Godot in 1954. By the time Beckett had won the Nobel Prize in 1969, Grove had become a force that challenged and changed literature and American culture in deep and lasting ways. Its impact is still evident — from the Che Guevara posters adorning college dorms to the canonical status of the house's once controversial authors. Rosset is less well known — but late in his life he is achieving some wider recognition. Last month, a black-tie crowd gave Rosset a standing ovation when the National Book Foundation awarded him the Literarian Award for 'outstanding service' to American letters. This fall, Rosset was also the subject of a documentary, Obscene, directed by Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O'Connor, which featured a host of literary luminaries, former colleagues and footage from a particularly hilarious interview with Al Goldstein, the porn king. High literature and low — Rosset pushed and published it all." [Read More]
George Hunka has also paid tribute over at Superfluities Redux:
It is hard, if not impossible, to overestimate the role that Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset, who died on Tuesday at the age of 89, played in revolutionizing both the American theatre and the American literary consciousness. From the time he bought the small company in 1951 to the time he sold it to Ann Getty and George Weidenfeld in 1985, Rosset championed and published — at great personal cost — magazines, plays, and books that exploded the comfortable ease of the American literary scene. His publication of the unexpurgated Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, and Naked Lunch led to dozens of obscenity trials, almost all of which Rosset won, but just as importantly, the Grove Press drama backlist reads like a curriculum of experimental and international theatre of the second half of the twentieth century. Grove Press published extensive lists of almost every significant European playwright of the era, from Arrabal and Artaud to Charles Wood, with Beckett, Brecht, Havel, Ionesco, Pinter, and countless others in between. Nor did Grove Press neglect radical politics; both The Autobiography of Malcolm X and books by Che Guevara were issued by the house. [Read More]
Finally, Douglas Martin wrote the following in the New York Times:
Barney Rosset, the flamboyant, provocative publisher who helped change the course of publishing in the United States, bringing masters like Samuel Beckett to Americans’ attention under his Grove Press imprint and winning celebrated First Amendment slugfests against censorship, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 89. [Read More]
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