This was before the big highway systems were built. When radio was AM. Tv had come in and we'd sit and watch programs on the 13inch tube. There was no such thing as a remote control. Oh, it was all wonderful. And no one spent time cursing, dressing scandalously, dancing provocatively (Ed Sullivan had seen to that!), or telling dirty jokes in public. It had been 20 years since Clark Gable caused a ruckus when he'd used the word "damn" at the end of Gone With the Wind and no one had dared utter it in public since. Besides, that kind of talk wasn't fit to be spoken around women. And there was no such thing as teenage pregnancy or unwed mothers. Young women who had sullied their reputations often took long visits to their Aunt Ida in the country - never-mind that we were a town of less than 2,000 people surrounded by farms and country was a short walk or drive away. No nudity. On the beaches and in detective shows in movies and on tv young attractive women were causing a stir by wearing a two piece bathing suit called a bikini. It had only been a few years since men at the beach had stopped having to wear tops. Not only was sex not discussed, it was barely admitted, and it was a word that was never spoken. I was in my mid teens before it was even considered okay to spell it out in polite society.
The owner of Grove Press even took a shot at film distribution, releasing "I Am Curious (Yellow)", a film with male and female frontal nudity. I know I saw it, taking an hour long bus ride to Philadelphia to do so.
The man behind all of this, the man who changed what could be written, printed, spoken out loud, seen in public, the owner of Grove Press, a guy named Barney Rosset died yesterday at the age of 89.
He had quickly become passe in the world he did so much to create. Women's Rights groups took him to task for publishing works in which women were often subjugated and dehumanized. He fired employees who tried to unionize. In 1985, he sold, and was fired from, Grove Press. A few years ago, he started publishing the Evergreen Review as an online magazine. The 2012 Spring issue went online the day before he died, publishing articles like this:
I just wanted to take a minute to remember him. Although the world may be a coarser and more vulgar place, it - and especially the United States - is more adult, more thoughtful, more intellectually based because of him. I read a lot of Grove Press books. When I ran bookstores for a living, I sold a lot of Grove Press Books. We're the better for it.
His memoir, "The Subject is Left Handed" (a line taken from his FBI file), will be published later this year.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Rosset. Rest in Peace.