Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spring Wonderland?

I think I had forgotten what snow looked like.

The literary chatter last week was centered around two sad events. After it was noted that David Foster Wallace would have been 50 years old on Tuesday, an outpouring of remembrances and tributes once again filled the web. Publishers are doing their part to keep his name in the public consciousness with no fewer than 6 volumes of either his work or work about him being published later this year…not that anyone is likely to forget his impact on American letters any time soon. There has probably never been an author whose death affected such various segments of the populace—from scholars to fellow writers to readers of all stripes, whether they be those who seek out a challenge or those who exult in losing themselves in worlds that managed to be both familiar and strange. The books collecting all the esoterica of his corpus will be received with much bittersweet appreciation.

Barney Rosset passed away last week. He was the perfect example of a man behind the curtain, someone who was tremendously important in putting such canonical books as Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch on American shelves, and yet he is not widely known, even by the fans of those books. Here is a case of there clearly being a 2nd most important person to a book, besides the author. I watched a great documentary on him called Obscene a couple of years ago, and even then I thought, “I’m really glad someone made this now, while he’s alive, so we get to hear his own words.” You could do worse than to revisit that film as a vivid reminder of how Mr. Rosset enriched 20th century literature through sheer ironclad will.


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