Rosset was a counter cultural icon and 1st Amendment revolutionary that was pegged as a peddler of smut in the 50′s and 60′s. Rosset and Grove Press defended the publication of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch among other works, citing their literary/artistic merit. Decades later, those three novels are on several accredited lists of the most important novels of the 20th century.
Grove Press was also extremely important for modern theater. Rosset introduced Samuel Beckett with 1953s’ Waiting for Godot. Rosset also published the likes of Jean Genet, Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard.
I was introduced to Grove Press through reading and collecting Beat literature. Most of Burroughs trade paperbacks that are still in print are published by Grove as well as a handful of Kerouac’s novels. The second issue of the Evergreen Review, titled “San Francisco Scene,” featured Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Jack Kerouac’s October on the Railroad Earth (despite the fact that they were the New York City Beats) as well as works be Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure and Gary Snyder just two years after the famous Six Gallery reading in late 1955.
If it weren’t for Barney Rosset, it’s quite possible that a number of 20th century authors, poets and playwrights wouldn’t have garnered the infamy and subsequent fame and critical recognition that they have today.