Tribute to Barney Rosset

Rami Shamir


The Man Once Known as Barney Rosset


Among the many privileges that Barney Rosset has granted to my life, the weightiest of all came to me unexpectedly a few days after his death. Once I began to talk with friends involved in publishing about this meteoric loss, the subject of my being Barney Rosset’s “last writer” began to come up. I hadn’t considered it, but my friends seemed to be right: Barney had spent a significant portion of the four years that I had known him, the last four years of his life on earth, trying to publish my much-embattled first novel, TRAIN TO POKIPSE. He was the novel’s main editor; several times the novel’s would-be publisher; and its tireless promoter. Excepting his autobiography, it was, to my knowledge, the last piece of literature he worked on extensively. As a publisher, which Barney was, this would be the last piece of literature to ever be so influenced by those great hands and that brilliant mind.


The socially awkward kid that Barney met some four years ago basically remains, so the honor quickly became weighty, and I don’t think I ever thanked him enough, not even in the privacy of my prayers.


If it hadn’t been for my wonderful friend Rich, who was with me the night that Barney passed away, and for my friends Stephen, Adam, and Chelsea (among many others) who helped me in the aftermath, I don’t know what I would have done, so I’m taking this opportunity to thank them too.


It seems that I’d forgotten about this man once known as Barney Rosset; I’ve simply missed my friend Barney, who taught me almost everything I know about publishing, who made me feel more comfortable and accepting of myself as a person, who empowered me as an author and as a human being both. This was something I desperately needed because growing up working-class and emotionally sensitive I had been very disempowered by the tarantula of Corporate Society.


Barney was also seminal in preparing me to become an Occupier. Independent of his publishing career, Barney was the first person who introduced me to the possibility of another way; his mouth was the first I ever heard say “MayDay.” The current moment of protest in America is indebted to Barney: in humor, drive, and temperament, Barney has provided the impression from which the Occupy movement is stamped. He was always striving to get back to his natural state, which especially for him, revolved around freedom, kindness, and love. I think he really loved me, and I know I really loved him, and now he’s gone and all that remains is the man once known as Barney Rosset, who was only great because behind him, grinning at the beautiful, disheveled whirligig of the world was always my friend Barney—grinning, I imagine, up until the very earthly end.