Barney Rosset, one of the most important publishers in American history, passed away Tuesday. Rosset bought Grove Press in 1951 for $3,000 and managed it for 35 years, steering the publishing house through some of the nation's key literary publications and legal trials, including Lady Chatterley's Lover, Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch.
A short list of only some of the authors who had key works published by Grove Press: Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Genet, Eugène Ionesco, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Samuel Beckett, Allen Ginsberg, D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Malcolm X, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz and Kenzaburo Oe.
The Los Angeles Times writes, "In 1959, [Rosset] published Lady Chatterley's Lover, which had been banned by the postmaster general for promoting 'indecent and lascivious thoughts,' but in 1960 a federal appeals court found that its frank descriptions of sexual intercourse did not violate anti-pornography laws. In 1961, Rosset published Tropic of Cancer, which was blocked by more than 60 court cases in 21 states. In a landmark 1964 ruling, however, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it had 'redeeming social value' and was thus not obscene."
Rosset had first read Tropic of Cancer (which was initially published in Paris, but not in the U.S.) 21 years earlier as a freshman in college. He is quoted in Wall Street Journal: 'The district attorney said, 'Do you realize that members of the grand jury have children who are buying that book at newsstands right near their school?'' Rosset recalled. "And I looked at him and said, 'If that's true and they buy it and read it all the way through, you as parents are to be commended.'"