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Category Archives: Publishing

Barney Rosset – Rosset: My Life In Publishing and How I Fought Censorship (OR Books)

Barney Rosset – Rosset: My Life In Publishing and How I Fought Censorship (OR Books)

Barney Rosset, born in Chicago in 1922 to a Russian Jewish father and Irish Catholic mother, bought Grove Press in 1951 and became America’s most significant avant-garde publisher in the second half of the twentieth century displaying a determined independent streak.

Grove Press, and its seminal literary magazine, Evergreen Review, helped shape modern culture through its catalogue and legal challenges to publish banned literary works. Rosset’s ethos that a publisher should be free to publish anything drew upon his rebellious Irish ancestry and a progressive education at Parker High School. My Life In Publishing shows that Rosset was interested in radical politics as much as sex and that he had an inquisitive mind. His War years were spent in India and Shanghai with the Field Photographic Unit, and he later made films, inspired by the French New Wave, with his Evergreen Theater. He commissioned scripts by Beckett, Ionesco, Pinter, Robbe-Grillet and Duras, making films with Beckett and Norman Mailer, and got into trouble with US Customs by importing and showing the Swedish film, I Am Curious (Yellow), eventually winning several court cases and grossing a foreign film profit second only to La Dolce Vita in 1969. Evergreen published translations from Cahiers du Cinéma and Grove published a cultural history of underground film by Parker Tyler.

Returning to Chicago in 1947 he fell in with abstract expressionist and former Parker student, Joan Mitchell. Together they went to New York and Paris, and became integral parts of the Cedar Tavern scene in Greenwich Village with Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Frank O’Hara, a future Grove author. Mitchell emerges as a fascinating figure in her own right enlarging the range of abstract expressionism. She was a life long friend and contributor providing cover art to many books before moving to Paris in 1959, where she became a close friend of Beckett.

Rosset’s approach was to obtain critical support for each of his books. This began with John Berryman supporting his first book, Matthew Lewis’ gothic novel, The Monk. Rosset fearlessly published three banned books, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer and The Autobiography of Malcolm X with extensive critical and legal support. The legal successes were major victories against censorship and very much part of the counterculture of the Sixties and Seventies. He was adept at finding fellow editors and allowing them to develop. A good example is Donald Allen who edited Evergreen Review 2, San Francisco Scene in 1957, featuring Ferlinghetti, Robert Duncan, McClure, Spicer, Snyder, Kerouac and Whalen, and the all-embracing New American Poetry anthology in 1960. Rosset published Burroughs’ The Naked Lunch, seeing the Dr. Benway character as comic genius and reading the book as an abstract painting, after several others had declined. When Chicago Review banned an excerpt he mounted a legal challenge getting Norman Mailer and a host of critics to appear for the defence case. He was also prepared to enter dangerous situations, such as his attempt to locate Che Guevara’s diaries in Bolivia, which led to his offices being bombed by Cuban exiles in July 1968.

Rosset worked closely with international publishers, such as John Calder in London and Maurice Girodias in Paris. Sylvia Beach, owner of Shakespeare and Co., introduced him to Samuel Beckett. His unswerving dedication to publishing what he wanted combined with great critical awareness and a wide internationalism saw him publish Artaud, Behan, Genet, Ionesco, Lorca, Neruda, Paz, Pinter in the early years, and subsequently Brecht, Orton, Borges, Stoppard, Kenaburō Ōe, Havel, Mamet, and much more Beckett. He emerges as an impatient, unpredictable, passionate, spiky and intractable figure with a feverish desire to challenge accepted views and authorises. This is an inspiring account of a difficult figure, shows the importance of alternative publishing, and will surely be the basis for subsequent biographies and feature in critical studies of those he published.

More book details here:
http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/rosset/?utm_source=Tears%20in%20the%20Fence&utm_campaign=Rosset&utm_medium=Review

David Caddy 12th December 2016

Rebels, Beats And Poets by Jim Burns (Penniless Press Publications, 2015)

Rebels, Beats And Poets by Jim Burns (Penniless Press Publications, 2015)

This sixth collection of informative essays and reviews showcasing Jim Burns’ encyclopedic knowledge of twentieth century bohemianism contains thoughtful insights into the current scene and is by no means set in the past.

His first substantial point is that literary criticism by highlighting a few writers and poets from the Fifties and early Sixties overlook the wider social and cultural circumstances and sheer excitement of the period through an excess of analysis. Burns opens out the artificial boundaries and distinct categories of official criticism to reveal a more confused, floating world of writers and poets, little magazines, small presses and the ephemera of bohemia. Here we glimpse through essays on political rebels, beats, jazz musicians, poets, writers, filmmakers, artists and photographers a somewhat looser field of connection and relationship as well as a deep enthusiasm to move forward to a better place. Underlining this is the contention that minor figures may well yield as much social, cultural and literary insight as some of the major figures. Burns is quite clear in understanding that, for example William Burroughs, whilst linked with Allen Ginsberg through friendship, is clearly drawing upon very different sources and techniques. His essay on Cities Of The Red Night portrays Burroughs as a moralist with the power to shock, provoke and disturb, employing humour, visual effects and shifting action from within the American tradition of outlaws and pirates.

His second provocation concerns the role of the little magazine. He echoes Samuel Beckett’s publisher, John Calder’s point that the Fifties sowed the seeds that sprouted in the much vaunted Sixties, and examines the world of Merlin, a short-lived little magazine in the Parisian bohemian world of the Fifties, which drew attention to Beckett’s writing. Merlin subsequently spawned a publishing house, which published editions of Watt and Molloy. In the essay, ‘What Will You Read Tomorrow?’ he laments the passing of the ‘alternative’ bookshops, which grew out of Sixties unrest and offered reading matter far removed from the big publishers and distributors. Given the decline of the independent and second hand bookshops, the narrowing range of Waterstones and Borders, and the fact that the Internet cannot always supply writing that is beyond the ordinary and fashionable, Burns sees a vital role for the little magazine as an outlet and resource. He writes:

And it seems to me that little magazines, for all their problems,
are a way of providing us with a system of exchanging ideas and information about the overlooked and the unusual. Isaac Rosenfeld once said of little magazines that they were outlets for ‘a small but vigorous and very vital, active and conscious group which knew fairly well the sort of thing it stood for even if it had no specific programme and whether or not it had any political allegiance.’ He also
said that one of the characteristics of a conservative age is ‘the shrinkage of extremes’ and he added: ‘I am used to thinking, because of my upbringing, of the writer standing at one extreme from society; I mean, of course, the serious writer, the conscious writer, then, as a man who stands at a certain extreme, at a certain remove from society.’
He asserts that the little magazine could provide the variety missing elsewhere, and the reassurance that there are other dissidents who don’t believe the big publishers and mass markets can supply everything that the imagination needs to keep it alive and alert to the world.

His essay on David Gascoyne’s life reminds the reader of the importance of the Parton Street Bookshop in Bloomsbury as a gathering place for young poets and their readers. It was there that Gascoyne met George Barker, Norman Cameron, Geoffrey Grigson, Roger Roughton and others, as well as where he bought imported surrealist publications. From there he would walk to Zwemmers Bookshop in Charing Cross Road to chat with Ruthven Todd and compare their imported stock. The key is that Gascoyne had a range of places to increase his reading and knowledge.

There are other fascinating essays on a range of subjects from the Paris-Amsterdam underground, Surrealistic Prague, to Henry Miller, B. Traven, and the Edward Dorn / LeRoi Jones correspondence, as well as the extensive Beat Scene interview with Burns by Kevin Ring from Spring 2014. This compelling volume of essays is a joy to read and contains much information and material that is hard to find.

David Caddy 13th April 2015

Skylight Press

Skylight Press

Skylight Press (http://www.skylightpress.co.uk ) continues to impress with their beautifully designed books of literary fiction, poetry and the esoteric. Their recent books include some extraordinary publications, such as the reissue of Iain Sinclair’s Lud Heat: A Book Of The Dead Hamlets, first published in 1975, with an introduction by Allen Fisher, an afterword by Michael Moorcock, maps and illustrations by Brian Catling. As Andrew Crozier wrote:

     Lud Heat is ostensibly a narrative of a period of employment in the

Parks Department of an East London borough; this temporal

location, however, receives less stress than the spatial one with

which it intersects: that of the pattern imposed on the townscape

by Nicholas Hawksmoor’s churches, potent presences in the poets

working environment, around which accretes a second temporal

dimension, historical and mythological, which constitutes the

writer’s real subject.

Crozier concluded that ‘The book is a notable achievement, and an impressive indication of the real health of English poetry.’

Sinclair was inspired, in part, by the poets and poetics of Black Mountain College, where the poet and painter, Basil King, was educated. King left London’s East End in 1947 and subsequently studied at Black Mountain before becoming a New York based painter, seeking an art that moved ‘from the abstract to the figure, from the figure to the abstract.’ King’s Learning to Draw / A History, edited by Daniel Staniforth, an evolving, transformative narrative, mixing poetry and prose, documenting the memoirs of his life and times is one of the many significant titles.

Michael S. Judge’s thoughtful and strange novel,  … And Egypt Is The River, is similarly indebted in part to Charles Olson’s poetics in his fascination with etymology, and to quote from an interview, ‘the cartography of the attentions – personal, cultural, political, mythic, cosmological’. Egypt here is read as a state of being in a series of beguiling chapters that transmute the division between poetry and prose.

Tonight the star is hot with evil speech.

Tonight the star wants enemy to drink.

Tonight the star’s in coils that shock us when they’re wet.

Tonight the star’s back panel snaps and furnace cracks its wall.

Tomorrow night, we’ll say: There used to be a star.

Skylight Press is wonderfully diverse with many books on the magical and pagan traditions, and includes the recently published The Lost Art Of Potato Breeding by Rebsie Fairholm, in its catalogue. This book has practical instructions on how to make seeds from potato berries, cross different varieties, choose which ones to experiment with, and how to keep your newly created varieties growing in the future. I admire a publisher that embraces gardening and poetry.

David Caddy 19th February 2014

Tears in the Fence 57 is out!

Tears in the Fence 57 is out!

Tears in the Fence 57 is out! It is available from https://tearsinthefence.com/pay-it-forward/ and features poetry and fiction by Sean Street, Elizabeth Welsh, Lou Wilford, Pansy Maurer-Alvarez, Ben Hickman, Karoline von Günderrode, Lori Jakiela, Paul Kareem Tayyar, Rosie Jackson, Isobel Armstrong, Steven Earnshaw, Sarah Miller, Paul Matthews, Alexandra Sashe, Susmita Bhattacharya, Claire Crowther, Alistair Noon, Mélisande Fitzsimons, Gerard Greenway, Adam Fieled, Jennifer Compton, Alison Lock, Kevin McCann, Dorothy Lehane, Andrew Shelley, Melinda Lovell, Peter Robinson, Tess Joyce, Tim Allen, Jaime Robles, Noel King,  Geraldine Clarkson, Gavin Selerie, Steve Spence, Eleanor Perry and many others.

 

The critical section includes selections from Letters From Andrew Crozier to Ian Brinton, Andrew Duncan on Fiona Sampson’s Beyond The Lyric, Chrissy Williams on Chris McCabe, Michael Grant On Writing, Laurie Duggan on Geraldine Monk’s Cusp, Jeremy Hilton on David Caddy, John Welch, Robert Hampson on Ben Hickman, Sheila Hamilton on Melissa Lee-Houghton, Lindsey Holland, Frances Spurrier on The Best of British Poetry, Mandy Pannett on Rocco Scotellaro, Ian Brinton on Donald Davie, Jay Ramsay on Norman Jope, Pauline Stainer, Michael Grant on Anthony Barnett, Ric Hool on Mario Petrucci, Richard Humphreys on Clive Wilmer, Ben Hickman on Wide Range Chapbooks, and regular columnists David Caddy, Rosie Jackson, Anthony Barnett and Ian Brinton.

 

 

 

 

Bohemians, Beats And Blues People

Bohemians, Beats And Blues People

Jim Burns’ fourth collection, Bohemians, Beats And Blues People (PPP 2013), illuminates neglected twentieth century bohemians through wide-ranging and highly informative essays.  Like his previous collections, Beats, Bohemians and Intellectuals, (2000), Radicals, Beats and Beboppers (2011) and Brits, Beats & Outsiders (2012), this book uncovers neglected sources and questions received perceptions of history and movements. Richly documented, the essays are not only informative but also clearly written. There are unexpected delights, such as an essay on the painter, John Craxton, close friend of Lucian Freud and Johnny Minton, as well as an essay In Praise of Booksellers and another on Harry Kemp, the Tramp Poet.

http://www.pennilesspress.co.uk/books/bohemians.htm

The book examines how the Beats were published in Britain; explores London’s Soho Bohemianism and Café Society and questions the depth and interests of the Sixties ‘underground.’ Burns sees more losses than gains and doubts how far there was any alternative in the underground press. There are essays on writers as diverse as Kurt Vonnegut, B.Traven, Gregory Corso and Gilbert Sorrentino.

Burns explores the philosophy behind Trevin, who had a long publishing career, using many different names, and whose politics made it prudent to conceal his true identity. John Huston adapted his novel, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, into a film, starring Humphrey Bogart. There are evaluations of several significant little magazines, including This Quarter, Kulchur and Evergreen Review. There are also two long essays rhythm ‘n’ blues and its transition into rock ‘n’ roll as well as one on Jack Kerouac’s jazz interests. This book is stuffed full with solidly researched detail and, as such, it is providing its readership with a deep understanding how writers and poets get published and what may happen as a result.

David Caddy

Poems of Yves Bonnefoy

Poems of Yves Bonnefoy

Ian Brinton & Michael Grant’s Poems of Yves Bonnefoy 1 has just appeared from Oystercatcher Press, the award-winning pamphlet publisher. These translations of Bonnefoy, the French poet and essayist born in 1923, interestingly differ from others in what is essentially a post-Heideggerian world. They delineate the separateness of the poetry of anguish, the bridge between light and darkness that comes after destruction.  Here there is silence after death, destruction, loss of God and the slow emergence of the eternal in the human voice, in bird song, in the forests of trees and memory and the healing of spring and fruit. ‘No beauty no colour detains’ this poetry that insists upon its own purity. It is the poetry of an uncertain quietness into living communication that considers ‘those processions of the light / through a land without birth or death,’ and the path to a new world.  There is a depth of voices coming out of the wilderness that is illustrated in the poem, ‘To the Voice of Kathleen Ferrier.’

 

I celebrate the voice merged with grey

Wavering in the distance of a lost song

As if beyond all pure form

Another song trembled, absolute, alone.

 

Here the translators indicate the loss of the song rather than the singing and thus the message rather than the medium. I immediately hear Ferrier’s contralto singing ‘Blow The Wind Southerly’ or Gluck’s ‘What Is Life?’ and recognize that sense of urgency coming out a generation that experienced personal loss during the Thirties and Forties and somehow have to find a way forward. One can sense more than a simple melancholy in her voice in Mahler’s ‘Das Lied von der Erde.’ Such elemental and eternal depth resonates in these carefully enunciated poems and spin off in disparate directions.

Gerald Locklin’s Novellas

Gerald Locklin’s Novellas

Spout Hill Press have republished Gerald Locklin’s classic novella, The Case Of The Missing Blue Volkswagen, originally published in 1984, republished in 1999, with an introduction by John Brantingham that views its post-modern style and structure as a means of having a conversation with the reader about the limits of fiction. It is a fruitful way into the work that is at once playful, funny and greater than the sum of its parts. Locklin’s casual style functions effectively on many levels and is very funny.

http://spouthillpress.com

Spout Hill has also published Locklin’s lost novella’s Last Tango in Long Beach and Come Back, Bear to present the original trilogy for the first time.  If you have never read any Locklin, the best introduction is to say that he entertains and provokes in equal measure in a beguiling way. A central figure in Los Angeles writing since the Seventies, these beautifully produced novellas are at the heart of his social satire.

 

Locklin’s Deep Meanings: Selected Poems 2008-2013 from Presa Press contains some of his best recent poetry.  As Edward Field writes, ‘The male spirit in him remains honest, bighearted, sentimental, generous, gentle, vulnerable, but sassy in the face of adversity…’ I have always thought that he is the male equivalent to that other brilliant maverick Camille Paglia. Both are always worth reading.

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