Grove Press is a hardcover and paperback imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. Grove Press was founded on Grove Street in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1947. But its true beginning came in 1951 when twenty-eight-year-old Barney Rossett, Jr. bought the company and turned it into one of the most influential publishers of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. From the outset, Rossett took chances: Grove published many of the Beats including William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. In addition, Grove Press became the preeminent publisher of twentieth-century drama in America, publishing the work of Samuel Beckett (Nobel Prize for Literature 1969), Bertold Brecht, Eugene Ionesco, David Mamet (Pulitzer Prize for Drama 1984), Harold Pinter (Nobel Prize for Literature 2005), Tom Stoppard, and many more. The press also introduced to American audiences the work of international authors such as Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail Bulgakov, Marguerite Duras, Jean Genet, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz (Nobel Prize for Literature 1990), Kenzaburo Oe (Nobel Prize for Literature 1994), Elfriede Jelinek (Nobel Prize for Literature 2004), Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Juan Rulfo. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Barney Rossett challenged the obscenity laws by publishing D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and then Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. His landmark court victories changed the American cultural landscape. Grove Press went on to publish literary erotic classics like The Story of O and ground-breaking gay fiction like John Rechy’s City of Night, as well as the works of the Marquis de Sade. On the political front, Grove Press published classics that include Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Che Guevara’s The Bolivian Diary, among many other titles. In 1986, Barney Rosset sold the company and the press became part of Grove Weidenfeld. In 1993 that company was merged with Atlantic Monthly Press to form Grove Atlantic, Inc.

Since 1993, Grove Press has been both a hardcover and paperback imprint of Grove Atlantic publishing fiction, drama, poetry, literature in translation, and general nonfiction. Authors and titles include Jon Lee Anderson’s Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, Robert Olen Butler’s A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (Pulitzer Prize for Literature 1993), Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss (Man Booker Prize 2006), Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish (Commonwealth Prize 2002), Ismail Kadare’s The Siege, Jerzy Kosinski’s Steps (National Book Award 1969), Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls, Nick McDonell’s Twelve, Catherine Millet’s The Sexual Life of Catherine M., Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon, Kay Ryan (Poet Laureate of the United States 2008/9) as well as Antonio Lobo Antunes, Will Self, Barry Hannah, Terry Southern, and many others.

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Howard Sounes
By This Author

Down the Highway

Charles Bukowski
From Howard Sounes:

I was born in London in 1965 and worked as a national newspaper journalist from 1983-1997, principally in Britain, but also in Australia and the United States, latterly for the (London) Daily Mirror. In 1994, whilst working as a news reporter for the Sunday Mirror, I broke the first major story about mass-murderers Fred and Rosemary West. Between them, this married couple murdered at least twelve women and young girls, including members of their own family, and buried human remains under their home in Gloucester. I went on to write a book about the case, Fred & Rose (Warner Books, 1995), my first biographical book.

After Fred & Rose, which sold very well, and continues to sell, there was an opportunity to write other books. I wanted to tackle subjects that were more enjoyable, however, and possibly more meaningful. (Although few subjects are as profound as murder). After the Wests, my next subject was the iconoclastic American poet and novelist Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) who wrote vividly and wittily about the underbelly of American society. This book was the biography Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life (Grove, 1998). It was such a consuming project that, during the writing, I gave up my newspaper job and found myself bloated by unhealthy Bukowski-like appetites. (A curious aspect of writing biography is that one tends to temporarily adopt characteristics of the subject). My next book was Bukowski in Pictures (Rebel, Inc., 2000), a complimentary book of photographs, documents and other illustrations. I had also by now started work on a major new biography of Bob Dylan, aiming to tell the story of this remarkable life clearly and concisely, based on new research material and interviews, without getting bogged down in song-analysis, something I find tiresome. This was and is Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan (Grove, 2001).

There is nothing to link my subjects--the Wests, Bukowski and Dylan. Diversity in the subject matter is intentional. I want to be free to write about a wide variety of subjects and, by switching around, I aim to avoid becoming perceived as a specialist. Because I wrote a book about Bob Dylan does not necessarily mean I want to write about other apparently similar rock stars such as Neil Young, for example. I do not. Yet there are books I would like to write about painters, architects, even sportsmen. Each time one tackles a new subject, especially in an area where does not have a track record, the obstacles are formidable, of course, and there were times during the researching and writing of all my books when I felt like giving up because it was so difficult. Yet a challenge brings out the best in one. Also, to try something new is exhilarating and, ultimately, an education.

Although my subjects are very different, there is a commonality in the approach. Firstly, I felt passionately about all these subjects; they were not chosen for cynical reasons. Secondly, my books are all based on a considerable amount of original research including, crucially, new interviews with those men and women who have shared the lives of the personalities at the centre of the story. Thirdly, there is the minimum of comment from me. I believe the biographer should be invisible. Facts should be allowed to speak for themselves, and the people who are, as I say, close to the action should be the ones whose opinions are vented, so long as the biographer is happy his interviewees are not liars. (There are, of course, ways to test what people say). This is a journalistic approach, I suppose, and in a world where comment and speculation is the norm--padding out newspapers, filling the airwaves and the Internet--this terse, factual style is not necessarily fashionable. It feels right, however, for my idea of what a biography should be. By the way, it is expensive, time-consuming and difficult to uncover the truth of a subject (or as much of the truth as one can) and to reveal new facts about a well-known personality. Conversely, opinion costs nothing, in terms of money or time. It is plain to me that, by and large, one biographer's analysis is no more valid than anothers and, just as importantly, no more so than the pre-existing opinions of the intelligent reader. (Most readers will have a view of the subject before they read a biography. Those who don't, and even those that do, should be given the space to draw a conclusion from evidence, not from the author's prejudiced opinion). What the author can do which the reader can not is dig up--not in the pejorative sense of "digging the dirt", but in the sense of mining something rare--facts. He might have to travel far and work very hard to find his facts. Facts are precious and rare like nuggets of gold. Facts, in a sense, are also the truth of a person's life. The biographer collects as many facts as he can and presents them to the reader, without a lot of folderol, for his or her amusement and judgement, that is if the reader wants to judge the subject of the book.

Personally, I don't judge my subjects. I don't see them as good or bad people; it is enough that their lives are interesting. This is part of another common thread in my approach. It seems to me that the biographer should remain cool-headed. To get over-heated about the subject can be a distraction for the reader and is also, I feel, slightly ridiculous. In my own case, one has naturally been moved by Bob Dylan's songs, but there is no need to tell the reader about this in Down the Highway. After all, what does it matter? The book is not about me. With Fred & Rose, it is self-evident that murder is unpleasant. I don't have to say how I feel about the acts of violence. To my mind there is little more irritating than the biographer who tells the reader how deeply they are affected by the subject and ideas at hand. This is usually egotistical and irrelevant.

Occasionally there is need for comment. Some types of book demand it, even some types of biography, and I might use it myself at some future date. By and large, however, it is more artful for the humble biographer to create his intended effect by collating and displaying his evidence clearly and accurately within a compelling narrative. The reader can draw their own conclusions about what they think of the subject, as they wish. Just as importantly, they can enjoy a good story without the intrusive opinions of the fellow who wrote it down.

Writing history:

(1) Fred & Rose, Warner Books, 1995, London. Also published in translation in Japan.

(2) Charles: Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life, Grove, 1998, New York. Published in the UK by Rebel, Inc. Also published in translation in Brazil, the Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, Turkey and Japan.

(3) Bukowski in Pictures, Rebel, Inc., Edinburgh, Scotland. Distributed in the US by Grove Press. Published in translation in Italy, Japan and Spain.

(4) Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Grove Press, 2001, New York. Published in the UK by Doubleday, and in translation in Holland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain and Sweden.

Correspondence via London agent: Jonathan Lloyd, Curtis Brown, Haymarket House, London SW1Y 4SP, United Kingdom.

Alternatively, via: Grove/Atlantic, Inc, 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-4793

Other website links:

There is a question and answer interview with Howard Sounes, about Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, at this BBC site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/knowledge/storyville/reading/sounes_interview.shtml

Howard Sounes describes his ten favorite music books at this Guardian (newspaper) site: http://www.books.guardian.co.uk/top10s/top10/0,6109,488937,00.html
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