Photos by Regina Cherry.
Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 105 in 2002.
BACK in 1951, a then 29 year old Barney Rosset bought a small publishing concern on Grove St.
By the end of that decade, he had firmly established himself as one of the most important and influential men, not only in American publishing, but in terms of American culture as well.He introduced American readers to Beckett, Ionesco, Harold Pinter and Jean Genet. He brought national attention to the Beats long before they were called "Beats." In 1959, he fought for and won the right to publish the long-banned Lady Chatterly's Lover. He did the same for Naked Lunch and about half of everything Henry Miller wrote. Grove's literary journal Evergreen Review (also edited by Rosset) published everyone from Jean-Paul Sartre to Terry Southern. And throughout the 60s, Rosset was even involved in the film distribution business - focusing mostly on then - shocking European, um, "art" films like I Am Curious(Yellow). He was an iconoclast from the start - but he wasn't simply out to shock and disturb people (though he often did). Things that people found shocking at the time were things he recognized as valuable, important and honest works of art - and the passage of time has proven him right.
The three of us worked our way back through the crowd and took a seat on what turned out to be the world's most comfortable sofa. Then we stayed there a while, wondering if we'd ever find out what happened to Barney Rosset in Fresno, CA, in 1970.