As we finally say good riddance to 2016, let’s start the new year with some positive reading about one of the most transformative figures in the history of American book publishing: Barney Rosset (1922-2012).
Years in the making, the Grove Press publisher’s posthumous memoir, Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship, published on Jan. 10. Thanks in part to the efforts of OR Books founder John Oakes, a Grove employee in the 1980s, the book, according to our starred review, is “vivid and informative—a must for anyone interested in 20th-century American publishing and culture.” As our reviewer noted, Rosset effectively captures his “free-wheeling ways and rebel heart,” making the book a must-read for all of my fellow publishing geeks.
For fans of Boris Kachka’s Hothouse, Ian MacNiven’s “Literchoor Is My Beat,” and other grand tales of midcentury American publishing, Rosset’s memoir is a sure thing. And for those readers who can’t get enough Rosset, two other books should be of interest:
Dear Mr. Beckett, published in October, is a collection of letters between Rosset and the author that helped make his name, Samuel Beckett. (Rosset bought the rights to Waiting for Godot in 1953 for $150.) Though our reviewer noted that the collection is occasionally “slapdash,” it’s worth a read for the “wonderful period aroma [that] emanates from the reproductions of typewritten letters on Grove letterhead, telegrams, newspaper clippings, etc.”
In March, Skyhorse will publish Barney, a “bright and entertaining biography” by Columbia University humanities professor Michael Rosenthal. Among other anecdotes in this “illuminating, insightful…informative…piquant portrait of a renegade publisher,” Rosenthal relates how Rosset added to his backlist by purchasing copyright-free works like Henry James’ The Golden Bowl.
Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.