Vivid and informative—a must for anyone interested in 20th-century American publishing and culture.

ROSSET

MY LIFE IN PUBLISHING AND HOW I FOUGHT CENSORSHIP

A posthumous memoir nicely captures the Grove Press publisher’s free-wheeling ways and rebel heart.

Presented by the Rosset estate with a memoir that had been “pruned to death,” OR Books founder John Oakes, who worked at Grove in the 1980s, went back to the archives and added material that better represented the boss he describes as “either brooding, laughing, or raging.” That charismatic man practically leaps off the pages of these salty reminiscences, which begin with a tribute by Rosset to his gamekeeper-assassinating Irish great-grandfather and the assertion, “Rebellion runs in my family’s blood.” Young Barney’s radical tendencies were evident even before he wrote a paper on Henry Miller’s then-banned novel, Tropic of Cancer, at Swarthmore College in 1940. (He got a B-minus.) Tropic of Capricorn was one of several books, most famously Lady Chatterley’s Lover, that the maverick Rosset published and defended in court to challenge outmoded obscenity statutes still on the books in the 1950s. The resulting Supreme Court decisions opened the door to a more adult American culture, and Grove Press was at the forefront of putting it into print—and on film, with I Am Curious (Yellow), a 1967 Swedish movie that in Rosset’s assessment hardly deserved its scandalous reputation but certainly provided an income that supported Grove’s more literary and less lucrative offerings. Rosset’s commitment to keep his authors’ complete works in print meant that the profits from steady sellers like Waiting for Godot often got swallowed up by the costs of publishing Samuel Beckett’s fiction, for example. The court costs of the censorship cases kept Grove’s finances shaky and ultimately led to Rosset’s ill-advised sale of the company to British magnate George Weidenfeld and American heiress Ann Getty in 1985. Characteristically, Rosset follows up an acid depiction of his subsequent ouster with a tribute to Grove’s “Other Nobelist” (after Beckett), Kenzaburo Oe; for this fiery idealist, it was always about the writers.

Vivid and informative—a must for anyone interested in 20th-century American publishing and culture.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68219-044-9

Page Count: 370

Publisher: OR Books

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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