Hot Off the Press

Friday, November 14, 2008


In 1951, Grove Press was a tiny, almost-defunct publisher with just three titles in its catalogue. But then Barney Rosset took over and, with a few choice books, helped push America past its Puritanical roots and into the sexual revolution. Rosset, who will be honored by the National Book Foundation on November 19th, spoke with us at his home in Greenwich Village.

Comments [5]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

In the performance, the actor playing Malcolm dropped the speech and the action proceeded directly to the ritual slaughter heralded by rousing cheers from the audience. Elvis left the building.

As a long-lapsed Catholic, I’ve never taken to orthodoxy but I have maintained a deep respect for spiritual faith and justice. I always admired Malcolm’s thirst for justice and was breath-taken by his spiritual evolution or, as some would prefer to view it, his enlightenment and both were harshly disrespected by the production in which I was duped but I trust that Obama is far more like the character in “The Life of Pi” than this once multiply misguided kid who got burned out of a house in Michigan and can more ably lead us to a mutual respect for each others’ spiritual values than for which X was then prepared.

Just as I did, years ago, and turned another cheek where I found many other African-American Churches where my efforts were not rebuffed in the years since, we must stop the war they have not single-handedly started but, at least, seem determined to continue. We are in this same boat, you see?

Nov. 21 2008 12:38 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

For some reason, perhaps because of the steroid treatment of my relapsing MS, I couldn't figure out where I meant to put this set of thoughts. I thought it should have gone with your story last week about world reaction to the Obama election but, no, here is quite where it belongs.

The idea behind Ayman al- Zawahri evoking Malcolm X in his attack today against President-elect Obama is just so ludicrous it might work. If the idea is to outrage African-American Christians (the vast majority of African-Americans are most likely Christian, lapsed or not) and inspire them to urge more virulent, indiscriminate action against targets in the Muslim world. That would prolong the struggle upon which is he is counting for his success.

Years ago I got more than a taste of how many of New Haven African-American Christian’s sentiments ran toward the life, work and revelations of Malik El-Shabazz when I accepted an invitation from a woman who worked with me at the Yale radio station, to be in a drama version of the Autobiography. I was the only Caucasian. I played the white Muslim Malcolm meets on his trip to his Hadj who prepares him to see Islam in a new light, uncolored by the hypocrisy and political intrigue with which he had come to associate it; a purely spiritual path.

Nov. 21 2008 12:30 AM
blackbelt_jones from opensuse

What a treat to hear Henry Miller reading from the beginning of Tropic of Cancer! I had no idea this recording existed!

Nov. 19 2008 03:14 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

What Mr. Rosset figured out about Communists, I always knew, but perhaps it is because he was such a good guide since I probably read as much of the works that he published as I could get my hands on while he ran Grove.

I never understood the Soviet apologists nor the Maoists, who would shun me while we were all protesting selling Nestles’ baby formula to third world mothers who couldn't afford nor understand the proper use of the product, but plenty of times we agreed on specifics enough to cooperate.

Mr. Rosset didn't introduce me to his work. I snitched readings from the copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover on my mother's night table (where I much later found The Happy Hooker), though she objected when I openly read Brave New World (go figure?). He did further encourage the practice of free thinking, which I understand is considered obscene by the great majority of some parts of our plurality.

It always seemed a hallmark of our democracy that we have a legacy of free thinking pluralism, where tolerance of many views was enjoined. Recently one PBS talking head pointed out that Washington insisted that a Rabbi be present at his inauguration so as to assure that the Jewish troops who had served with him were respected. That was leadership!

Barney Rosset, without knowing even your name before hearing this, I can truly say that you have been a life-long hero of mine and me and myriad others owe you a great debt of gratitude for your service and strife.

Nov. 19 2008 01:10 AM
Barbara Oswalt from San Diego, CA

I don't usually access your website, but I wanted to forward your piece about marriage to my daughters. Suffice it to say, I never miss your show if I'm home. I set my kitchen timer to remind me to turn the radio on Sunday evenings at 5:00 pm (when we receive the show). Thanks so much for your thoughtful programming! Barbara Oswalt (KPBS, San Diego, CA)

Nov. 16 2008 08:28 PM

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