The Man Who Made Publishing a High-Wire Act
Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times
In the mostly tweedy, genteel world of book publishing in the 1960s and ’70s, Barney Rosset, who died on Tuesday at 89, was a bit of an outlaw: a raffish, unconventional figure who loved breaking the rules and challenging the conventions. He published the books that nobody else would, because they were too risqué or too avant-garde (often that meant the same thing) or too unprofitable, and his imprint, Grove Press, quickly became a badge of coolness and sophistication.
If you were a literary young man at the time and wanted to impress the kind of soulful-eyed girl who wore black turtlenecks and smoked Gauloises, there was no better way than to have a stack of Grove books in your dorm room: some Beckett, Burroughs, Robbe-Grillet, Céline. You didn’t necessarily have to have read them. They just had to be visible.
Mr. Rosset lived to take chances — traditional publishing would have bored him — and the more unknown a writer was, the more he liked him.