Doc Blog

Tragic Hero

Last night, some of us were introduced to the life story of publisher Barney Rosset in the documentary Obscene.  Rosset was the creator of Grove Press which brought many important works to America, like Waiting for Godot, Naked Lunch, The Diary of Che Guevarra and The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Directors Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O’Connor (pictured here) take us on a journey through archived footage of Rosset's radio and television interviews along with family videos and interviews with Rosset today.  His life is nothing short of amazing; he experienced a lot of ups and downs in his personal and professional life.  What is most amazing in the film is the amount of literary works Rosset help launch.  Many of us have read some of these books not realising how much of a battle it was to have them published here in North America, since some of these writers had been banned in the USA. 

In the 1970's the US government launched Operation Chaos. There were FBI files on Grove Press and Rosset himself.  There were break-ins at his house and at the office.  During the Q&A session after the screening, someone in the audience asked how Rosset fares today.  We learned in the film that he had to sell Grove Press, shortly after that he got fired and to make matters worse, he had to sell all his properties in the East Hamptons.  The directors mentioned that Rosset is now broke.  He lives in a loft with his fifth wife and has been unable to pay rent for the last two years.  Hard to believe since this man was at the top of his profession.

Both directors come from the publishing world; thus, their interest in making this film.  They "felt that Barney was a flawed hero."  This project was "an opportunity to jump into something that we felt passionate about; a subject we knew intimately."  In my opinion, this was a story well worth the time and research.  

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