NPR Podcast: For Publisher Barney Rosset, Risk Has It’s Rewards

This interview was originally broadcast on Apr. 9, 1991. Featured on on November 21, 2008 and subsequently featured in The Evergreen Review Issue 116 in November, 2008.

So what is fit to print? For Barney Rosset, the answer is an invariable "anything."

His Grove Press published some of drama's most famous names — including Samuel Beckett and Anton Chekhov — was known for printing books that other publishers wouldn't touch — from uncensored versions of Lady Chatterley's Lover and Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer to a highly profitable line of Victorian spanking porn.

To publish them, he became a crusader against American censorship laws, challenging postal service confiscations and fighting obscenity charges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. His landmark legal cases opened doors for other publishers when he won.

Earlier this week, at the National Book Awards ceremony, Rosset received the Literarian Award for his service to the literary community.

As he walked to the podium, the 86-year-old Rosset, always an iconoclast and a supporter of President-elect Barack Obama, declared: "For the first time in recent memory, I am not thinking of renouncing my American passport."

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