Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cultivating Revolutionary Counterculture & Politics: an exemplum

An indispensable work on both (a few of) the causes and (some of) the effects of the political and cultural orientation of the “paperback generation” [i.e., ‘baby boomers’] is Loren Glass’s Counterculture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-Garde (Stanford University Press, 2013). First, the Wikipedia introduction to Grove Press:

“Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1951. Imprints include: Black Cat, Evergreen, Venus Library, and Zebra. Barney Rosset purchased the company in 1951 and turned it into an alternative book press in the United States. He partnered with Richard Seaver to bring French literature to the United States. The Atlantic Monthly Press, under the aegis of its publisher, Morgan Entrekin, merged with Grove Press in 1991. Grove is now an imprint of the publisher Grove/Atlantic, Inc.” 
And now a provocative snippet from Glass’s Counterculture Colophon:

“On the one hand, individual ownership was one component of this [i.e., the boomers’] generation’s relationship to print, and in some ways a misleading one, since paperbacks were frequently shared as a form of collective property. On the other hand, assigned reading lists were only one delivery system whereby these books got into the hands of college students, whose loyalty to Grove Press nurtured a whole common culture of revolutionary reading in the 1960s. [….] [P]rivate reading and public life were powerfully stitched together in the 1960s; to be in the Movement meant, at least partly, to be reading certain books, and many, if not most, of those books were published by Grove Press.”
On the aforementioned “common culture of revolutionary reading:” 

“…[I]n the second half of the 1960s, Grove expanded and enhanced both the investigative reporting and radical rhetoric of the Evergreen Review, publishing double agent Ken Philby’s revelations about British and American intelligence; Ho Chi Minh’s prison poems; extensive reports on urban riots and ghetto activism; eyewitness accounts of the events of May 1968, the Democratic Convention in Chicago, and the trial of the ‘Chicago 8’; interviews with My Lai veterans and other exposés on the Vietnam War; and numerous articles by and about the New Left, Weather Underground, Black Panthers, and other revolutionary movements throughout the world. In these efforts, Grove sought to merge literary and political understandings of the term ‘avant-garde’ in the belief that reading radical literature could instill both the practical knowledge and psychological transformation necessary to precipitate a revolution.” 

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