Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Lisa, I am familiar with the work of Pablo Neruda."

This morning's obits carried the news of the death of Barney Rosset, publisher, editor and founder of Grove Press. The only mention of Rosset your loyal blogger remembers getting in school was an aside from my constitutional law professor while discussing an obscenity case... "You know the same guy who imported this film [the banned I Am Curious (Yellow)] also published Lady Chatterley's Lover and Waiting For Godot. And I doubt any of you know what those are, so I'll move on."

Well, your loyal blogger knew all about them - one was dirty, and one was weird and French. (What else was there to know?) So I made a small mental note that there was a guy who spent his time importing and publishing this sort of stuff into an Eisenhower-era America. And growing up in an internet-era America, where it's an accepted fact that the First Amendment protects almost any sort of content imaginable... the thought that alternative presses had to fight major legal battles to publish the ramblings of Beat poets is just such an ungraspable concept.

And it wasn't just naughty films and books that Rosset championed - it was Malcolm X, Jack Kerouac, Camus, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz... all in all, he published five Nobel Prize winners, and some of the most important political and literary figures of the 20th century. 

[Also, as for the Library Society and smutty books - we've long kept ours hidden, uncatalogued, in the Ross Room.]

Like it says at the top... shh...!

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