Barney Rosset: “a Breach in the Dam of American Puritanism”
He was a role model and I was priviledged to do business with him.
Barney Rosset, as you may have heard, passed away. He made his life as a publisher a crusade against our society’s strictures of morality. He picked fights and fought them fearlessly: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch and yes The Story of O.
Oh, the fights benefitted sales, certainly. He wasn’t stupid. But it seems the fight was what he enjoyed the most throughout his life. Givin’ it to those moralizing censors, making the 1st amendment actually mean something.
In the early nineties, Rosset called me to establish an account with us. At the time, he had sold his legendary Grove Press and started another called Blue Moon Books to bring out a trove of long repressed 19th century erotic books. He wanted to complement his mail order business of this with our Eurotica line, including, of course, The Story of O, which he had to have a nostalgia for at that point.
This was vindication. The spirit with which I entered into publishing Eurotica was in fact very similar to his. Yes, to make money. But also to thumb my nose at the puritanical establishment. My finger at it, actually. Also I wanted to show that comics can also do smut with quality, with a voice. That’s why I’m still proud to publish Eurotica. It’s certainly not all high falutin’ stuff, a lot of it just plain fun (but always with great art) but you can see our gems in there, Omaha the Cat Dancer being one of them.
His fights against censorship, his Evergreen Review, which, by the way, featured dirty comics before underground comix existed, helped to bring on the sixties. He was fighting those sixties fights well before the sixties! That made him a visionary.
Ah, yes, Barney Rosset made being a smut peddler cool.