Thursday, February 23, 2012

Barney Rosset, R.I.P.

The afternoon Barney Rosset’s wife Astrid called me to ask if they could publish my story, “It Was a Tree that Saved Me” in the Evergreen Review, I couldn’t believe my luck. It was the fifth or sixth fiction publication I’d had, and it capped a year of many, which felt like a wonderful omen. I recalled those reprinted compendiums of the Evergreen Review with the original jerky and small, serif-less text layouts that looked slightly anachronistic even for their time, and the counter-culture black and white images that connected, in my mind, to a historical movement in American fiction that has waned to its detriment. Getting into their journal felt like the culmination in some ways of so much that I’d been writing for, and I felt recognized, if only in this humble, small way. As an avowed fan of Samuel Beckett, I’d heard quite a bit about this ornery iconoclast Rosset, who had first published Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, and I was happy to be included in the ranks of their publishing legacy. Watch the terrific documentary Obscene to get a sense of what the man was like, and what he contributed. I consider Evergreen Review one of the best journals out there--even if it is merely online at this point--and know Mr. Rosset will be missed in the publishing world which grows ever colder and difficult to understand and negotiate for young writers. So long, Barney Rosset, 1922-2012.

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