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Grove Press

Related: Barney Rosset - book censorship - Grove bibliography - American literature - sixties counterculture - sexual revolution in print - publishing

In 1951 Rosset purchased a small publishing company called Grove Press and proceeded to turn it into what was arguably during its heyday the most influential alternative book press in the history of American publishing. Grove and Grove's magazine, the Evergreen Review, launched in 1957, published, among others writers, most of the French avant-garde of the era, including Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Genet, and Eugene Ionesco; most of the American Beats of the fifties, including Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg; and most of the key radical political thinkers of the 1960's, including Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon and Régis Debray. He published Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot after it had been scorned by more mainstream publishers—and sold two million copies of it in the bargain. He made a specialty of Japanese literature, and introduced the future Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe to an American public. He published the first unexpurgated edition of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover and the first edition of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer in America, partly in order to deliberately provoke the censors. Through his legal victories in the resulting obscenity cases, as well as in one brought on by I Am Curious Yellow, a sexually explicit Swedish documentary film he distributed, he was probably more responsible than any other single individual for ending the censorship of literature and film in the United States. --http://www.tinhouse.com/mag/back_issues/archive/issues/issue_8/rosset.html [Jun 2004]

Grove Press Reader 1951-2001 (2001) - S. E. Gontarski, Grove Press [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Grove Press is one of the most controversial and influential houses of the era, publishing Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, D. H. Lawrence, Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, the Marquis de Sade, Frantz Fanon, and many others. For nearly three decades, readers sought out and read books because they were Grove books. In celebration of the past half-century, Grove Press is now offering a collection of the seminal writers it has published over the past fifty years. The reader opens with an introductory overview by noted Beckett scholar S. E. Gontarski, which recounts Grove Press's early days as a small upstart house, the battles against censorship, the halcyon years and the less profitable times, the attacks by militant feminists and Cuban emigres, and the merger with Atlantic Monthly Press. The book includes selections of works by authors from William Burroughs to Will Self, Jean Genet to Dennis Cooper, Marguerite Duras to Jeannette Winterson, and Samuel Beckett to Tom Stoppard. There are letters between editors and authors, as well as retrospective essays by Grove's key publishers and editors. Organized chronologically, The Grove Press Reader is both an anthology of excellent writing and a commemoration of a spirit of independent publishing that has flourished for fifty years and will continue to thrive in this century.


Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1951 by Barney Rossett.

Over the next years, he would turn it into an influential alternative book press in the United States.

Atlantic Press acquired Grove Press in 1985; its backlist is now part of Grove/Atlantic Press. --[1]

Grove and the literary avant-garde

Grove had a literary magazine, called the Evergreen Review. Its eclecticism can be seen in the issue from March-April 1960, which included work by Albert Camus, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bertolt Brecht, and LeRoi Jones, as well as Edward Albee's first play, The Zoo Story.

Grove published French avant-garde of the era, including Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Genet, and Eugene Ionesco; most of the American Beats of the 1950s, including Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg.

Grove published Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot after it was refused by more mainstream publishers — it turned into a bestseller.

They furthermore published Japanese literature, such as future Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe to. --[1]

Grove and radical politics

In the 1960s, Grove Press had a tradition of publishing radical political thinkers, including Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon and Regis Debray. --[1]

Grove and the American sexual revolution

Grove Press has contributed to the American sexual revolution. In the United States in the years 1959 through 1966, bans on three books with explicit erotic content were challenged and overturned. Two of those books were published by Grove: Lady Chatterley's Lover and Tropic of Cancer.

Grove published the first unexpurgated edition of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover and the first edition of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. In 1965 they also published the first U.S. edition of Story of O, written pseudonymously under the name Pauline Réage. Eliot Fremont-Smith (of the New York Times) called its publishing "a significant event."

Grove Press published Vilgot Sjöman's book I Was Curious: Diary of the Making of a Film, the book of the director who was responsible for I Am Curious (Blue) and I Am Curious (Yellow).

The Lady Chatterley's Lover case

In 1959, Grove Press published an unexpurgated version of Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence. The U. S. Post Office confiscated copies sent through the mail. Lawyer Charles Rembar sued the New York city postmaster and won in New York and then on federal appeal. In 1965, Tom Lehrer was to celebrate the erotic appeal of the novel in his cheerfully satirical song "Smut" with the couplet "Who needs a hobby like tennis or philately?/I've got a hobby: rereading Lady Chatterley." --[1]

The Tropic of Cancer case

Henry Miller's 1934 novel, Tropic of Cancer, had explicit sexual passages and could not be published in the United States; an edition was printed by the Obelisk Press in Paris and copies were smuggled into the United States. (As of 2003, used book dealers asked $7500 and up for copies of this edition.) In 1961, Grove Press issued a copy of the work and lawsuits were brought against dozens of individual booksellers in many states for selling it. The issue was ultimately settled by the U. S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Miller v. California. In this decision, the court defined obscenity by what is now called the Miller test. The Wikipedia article on pornography notes that "In the United States, hardcore pornography is legal unless it meets the Miller test of obscenity, which it almost never does." --[1]

The Naked Lunch case

Naked Lunch was forbidden from being published in some parts of the world for approximately ten years, presumably due to the vividness of some of the material, though it found a quick release in France where Olympia Press published it soon after completion. The first American publisher to take a chance with the novel was Grove Press. The book was banned by Boston courts in 1962 due to obscenity, but that decision was reversed in a landmark 1966 opinion by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. This was the last major literary censorship battle in the US.

Upon publication, Grove Press added to the book supplementary material regarding the censorship battle as well as an article written by Burroughs on the topic of drug addiction. --[1]

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