This past Sunday morning I heard an NPR interview with Barney Rosset, the former publisher and founder of Grove Press and Evergreen Review magazine (cover above by Paul Davis), who aggressively challenged the puritanical mores of 1960s America.
As Chip McGrath in the New York Times wrote:
“In its heyday during the 1960s, Grove Press was famous for publishing books nobody else would touch. The Grove list included writers like Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, William S. Burroughs, Che Guevara, and Malcolm X (his autobiography), and the books, with their distinctive black and white covers, were reliably ahead of their time and often fascinated by sex.
The same was, and is, true of Grove’s maverick publisher, Barney
Rosset, who loved highbrow literature but also brought out a very
profitable line of Victorian spanking porn.”
When I was 16 years old, I did everything imaginable to get my drawings printed in Evergreen Review, which already published Robert Grossman, Brad Holland, Tomi Ungerer, Edward Sorel,
and others. By the time I was 19, I was briefly its art director (the
cover of one of my issues–the one with the lion–is below). I met with
Rosset a few times during my tenure, and once was when he told me he
lost all the mechanicals for a book I designed for him about the film Last Tango in Paris. Fortunately I made photostats of all the layouts and we printed from that (needless to say, the typography was a mess).
Tomorrow Mr. Rosset will receive a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation to honor his groundbreaking legal battles to defy the censors and publish uncensored versions of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, among other important literary events. He is also the subject of a documentary titled Obscene.
Mr. Rosset is still editing Evergreen Review, this time online.