News / USA

    Publisher Who Defied US Censorship Laws Dies at 89

    Barney Rosset published controversial works by DH Lawrence, Henry Miller

    In this file photo from 1998, publisher Barney Rosset poses with some of his favorite things in his New York loft. Rosset died Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 in New York.
    In this file photo from 1998, publisher Barney Rosset poses with some of his favorite things in his New York loft. Rosset died Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 in New York.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Independent publisher and free-speech activist Barney Rosset, who defied U.S. obscenity laws to publish works by controversial authors like D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller and William S. Burroughs, died at home in New York this week, just a few months short of his 90th birthday.

    Rosset was born in Chicago, in 1922, to a well-to-do family. Raised and schooled in a progressive social environment, Rosset grew up an iconoclast, and something of a rebel. He attended four colleges before graduating.

    In 1951, after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Rosset bought the tiny Grove Press, turning it into an alternative publishing house which welcomed non-mainstream writers.

    In 1959,  Grove Press released an unexpurgated edition of the D. H. Lawrence novel "Lady Chatterley's Lover." The book had been banned in Britain for its explicit sexual content. Grove’s U.S. edition sparked a fierce legal battle over the First Amendment right to free expression, which Rosset finally won in 1961.

    Grove next published another banned work, "Tropic of Cancer," the semi-autobiographical novel by American expatriate writer Henry Miller. That legal battle went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a landmark 1964 ruling, the justices ruled "Tropic of Cancer" was not obscene because of its "redeeming social value."

    Rosset said literary merit was always his primary reason for publishing a book. But he conceded that he also relished the chance to assert the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

    "I feel that if people don't have the right to express themselves, first of all, they are not going to be happy, and secondly, they aren't going to develop the creative abilities they have, as scientists, as bankers, as anything," Rossett said in a 2009 interview with VOA.

    According to Neil Ortenberg, co-director of a documentary about Rosset's life called "Obscene," Rosset's tenacity and his extraordinary eye for artistic talent made him one of the most important American publishers ever.

    "Publishing has always been considered a gentlemanly thing. That was just not Barney. Barney was a street fighter," Ortenberg said. "Also, I don't think Barney purposely set out to transform the country. What angered Barney was the hypocrisy in America that came out of the 1950s, and he wanted to do whatever he could to bring that down, and he decided to pursue these fights to the bitter end."

    Rosset himself traced his ability to fight hard against long odds back to his high school years.

    "I was a cross-country runner. And I didn't get tired very easily," he said. "That was my whole thing; it was endurance. It was a similar kind of thing, actually [with publishing]. I believed in freedom of speech. It never entered my head to quit."

    However controversial his legacy, Rosset ranks among America's most honored publishers. In 2008, the National Coalition Against Censorship recognized his efforts.

    The National Book Foundation gave him its Literarian Award for outstanding service to American letters, calling him "a tenacious champion for writers who were struggling to be read in America."

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora