By the late 1960s, the times were outrunning Rosset. When Grove employees attempted to unionize, he was enraged and fired the key organizers. The Grove offices were soon taken over by feminist protesters demanding that a union be permitted, among other concessions, and accusing Grove of treating women poorly. Rosset, the one-time upstart, called in the police. The occupiers left and the union was eventually voted down.
As longtime Random House editor Jason Epstein once observed, Rosset was "a gifted and courageous publisher and a terrible businessman." Using profits from "I Am Curious (Yellow)," he had overextended Grove, moving into fancy new offices the publisher couldn't afford. In 1985, to his lasting regret, Rosset was persuaded by British publisher George Weidenfeld to sell Grove to Ann and Gordon Getty. Rosset was supposed to remain president, but a year later he was fired. Grove, now Grove Atlantic Inc., still owns the list Rosset built.
In his later years, he ran the erotic publisher Blue Moon Books, although legal troubles left him nearly penniless. He worked on a memoir, revived the Evergreen Green Review online and even started a blog. Upon receiving his honorary National Book Award, Rosset reviewed his long history of defiance and stated that the "principal that no one has the right to tell us what we can and cannot read is one that has always been dear to me."
Rosset was married four times, including to the artist Joan Mitchell. He had three children, including a son named Beckett.
In 1988, the PEN American Center awarded him with its Publisher Citation for "distinctive and continuous service to international letters, to the freedom and dignity of writers, and to the free transmission of the printed word across the barriers of poverty, ignorance, censorship, and repression." Last month, he was awarded the Literarian Award for outstanding service to American letters by the National Book Foundation.
AP Drama Writer Mark Kennedy contributed to this report.
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