Barney Rosset: A Crusader Against Censorship Laws

Barney Rosset paid $3,000 for Grove Press in 1951. Then he used the company to help tear down American obscenity laws of the 1950s and '60s. i i

Barney Rosset paid $3,000 for Grove Press in 1951. Then he used the company to help tear down American obscenity laws of the 1950s and '60s. Jim Cooper/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jim Cooper/AP
Barney Rosset paid $3,000 for Grove Press in 1951. Then he used the company to help tear down American obscenity laws of the 1950s and '60s.

Barney Rosset paid $3,000 for Grove Press in 1951. Then he used the company to help tear down American obscenity laws of the 1950s and '60s.

Jim Cooper/AP

This interview was originally broadcast on Apr. 9, 1991.

Publisher Barney Rosset, who championed the works of beat poets and defied censors, died Tuesday. He was 89.

Rosset's Grove Press published some of drama's most famous names — including Beckett and Anton Chekhov — and was known for printing books that other publishers wouldn't touch, from uncensored versions of Lady Chatterley's Lover and Tropic of Cancer to a highly profitable line of Victorian spanking porn.

To publish them, Rosset became a crusader against American censorship laws, challenging Postal Service confiscations and fighting obscenity charges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. His landmark legal cases opened doors for other publishers when he won.

In 1991, Rosset joined Terry Gross for a wide-ranging discussion about his years in the publishing business.

"When I started publishing, I most definitely would have liked to have published Hemingway and Faulkner and Fitzgerald," he said, "but they were already published."


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