NPR : Fresh Air

Barney Rosset: A Crusader Against Censorship Laws

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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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