Barney Rosset, Censorship-Fighting Publisher, Dies

Grove Press founder championed Beat poets, Samuel Beckett, erotica
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2012 2:34 PM CST
Barney Rosset, Censorship-Fighting Publisher, Dies
In this file photo of 1998, publisher Barney Rosset poses in his New York loft.   (AP Photo/Jim Cooper, file)

Barney Rosset, founder of the envelope-pushing, censorship-defying Grove Press, died at age 89 on Tuesday after a double-heart-valve replacement, the New York Times reports. The irascible Rosset once described his press as "a breach in the dam of American Puritanism," and it lived up to that name, publishing works like DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer despite attempts to censor them. He defended the works, and other provocative offerings, in court, opening the door to sexually explicit material in US literature.

Rosset also published influential New Left texts like The Autobiography of Malcolm X, championed the Beat poets, and brought a wealth of groundbreaking foreign writers to America, including Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Jean Genet. He was sued constantly, and often received death threats. Life magazine once derided him as "the old smut peddler," but the National Book Foundation in 2008 praised him as "a tenacious champion for writers who were struggling to be read in America." (More Barney Rosset stories.)

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