Tribute to Barney Rosset


Everett Frost


The Beckett Festival of Radio Plays would have been impossible without Barney’s encouragement and assistance.  At a crucial moment when he could ill afford it he gave us the cassette rights to the plays for a pittance, extending their reach astronomically.  It is also probably the case that if, as a college freshman, I hadn’t bought (for $1.45) a copy of Grove’s “Waiting for Godot” and decided by the end of the first or second page that whatever that was about, it was what I meant when I said I wanted to study literature and drama that I might never have known that Bekett’s radio plays were worth producing.

Long before the radio project Samuel Beckett was gratefully aware of his enormous debt to Barney as his American publisher.  Each of the few meetings I had with Beckett in Paris while doing the radio plays began with his inquiring, “How’s my American rogue?”, and he would not be satisfied until the question was fully answered.

In the interview accompanying the production of “Words and Music” Morton Feldman notes that without Barney Rosset and Grove Press, we would not have had Beckett in the influential way we did; and that we all owed him an enormous debt of gratitude.  Yes, and not for Beckett only but for so many authors and the ground-breaking court cases that loosened the grip of Law and Censorship from around the throat of American letters.

As he once quipped, other publishers got rid of the authors and lost money; Grove got rid of the money and made authors.  Without him American literature and literature in America would have been and be a much less better thing than it is, thanks to his efforts.

But in the end the thing I most remember is Barney as a warm, lively, scrappy, unpredictable friend. Whom I adored.