Barney Rosset, through his publishing house, Grove Press, and his magazine, The Evergreen Review, introduced American readers to such literary giants as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Jean Genet, and Eugène Ionesco, as well as many of the writers of the Beat generation. He fought two landmark first amendment battles in order to publish the uncensored version of D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. Rosset was a tenacious champion for writers who were struggling to be read in America and this award recognizes his vision and his enormous contributions to American publishing.
Barbara Epstein (1928–2006) worked in publishing and at The Partisan Review before becoming editor of The New York Review of Books in 1963. She began her publishing career at Doubleday & Co., where she served as junior editor after graduating from Radcliffe College in 1949. She was born Barbara Zimmerman in Boston, Massachusetts.
Robert B. Silvers is editor of The New York Review of Books. Prior to joining theReview, Mr. Silvers was, from 1959 to 1963, associate editor of Harper’s magazine, editor of the book Writing in America and translator of La Gangrène. Before that, Mr. Silvers lived in Paris for six years (1952 to 1958), where he served with the U.S. Army at SHAPE Headquarters and attended the Sorbonne and École des Sciences Politiques. He joined the editorial board of The Paris Review in 1954 and became Paris editor in 1956. He also worked as press secretary to Governor Chester Bowles in 1950. Mr. Silvers, who graduated from the University of Chicago in 1947, was born in Mineola, New York.
Poet, publisher and extraordinary man of letters James Laughlin (1914-1997) receives the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the Forty-Second Annual National Book Awards Dinner, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on the evening of November 18th, 1992.
Born October 30, 1914 in Pittsburgh, James Laughlin is the son of Henry Hughart and Marjory Rea Laughlin. He attended schools in the United States and abroad, graduating from Harvard University with an A.B. degree in 1939. At eighteen he had already published short stories and poetry in The Atlantic Monthly and the little magazines. New Directions was founded in 1936 when James Laughlin, then a twenty-two-year-old Harvard sophomore, issued the first of his New Directions anthologies. Intended “as a place where experimentalists could test their inventions by publication,” these volumes have continued to appear each year. Here readers were first introduced to the early works of such writers as William Saroyan, Delmore Schwartz, Dylan Thomas, Thomas Merton, John Hawkes, Denise Levertov, James Agee, Bertolt Brecht, Celine, Cocteau, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Shortly after issuing the first of the anthologies, Mr. Laughlin began to publish novels, plays, and collections of poems. Tennessee Williams first appeared as a poet in the early Five Young American Poets and Karl Shapiro printed his first work in the second volume of the same series. William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound, who once had difficulty finding publishers, have had many books published by New Directions. Mr. Laughlin has also been interested in issuing new editions of older, influential European writers in new translations often in a bilingual edition. Thus he contributed to the revivavl of interest in Kafka, Henry James, and E.M. Forster. He issued Henry Miller’s unorthodox essays and travel books and first printed James Joyce’s Three Lives, Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts, and Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha; and spotted the importance of Vladimir Nabokov, whose second novel, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, was published by New Directions in 1941, and of Boris Pasternak, who was presented in a volume of Selected Writings in this country in 1949.
James Laughlin’s many books include: In Another Country (City Lights, 1979); Selected Poems (City Lights, 1986); The House of Light (Grenfell Press, 1986); Tabellaie (Grenfell Press, 1986); The Owl of Minerva (Copper Canyon, 1987);Collemata (The Stinehour Press, 1988) and Pound As Wuz (Graywolf, 1988). His Collected Poems were by Moyer Bell, Ltd.
Jason Epstein has led one of the most creative careers in book publishing of the past half century. In 1952, while a young editor at Doubleday, he created Anchor Books, which launched the so-called ‘paperback revolution’ and established the trade paperback format. In the following decade he became co-founder of The New York Review of Books. In 1979, with the critic Edmund Wilson, he created the Library of America, the prestigious publisher of American classics, and The Reader’s Catalog, the precursor of online bookselling. For many years, Jason Epstein was editorial director of Random House. He was the first recipient of the National Book Award for Distinguished Service to American Letters and was given the Curtis Benjamin Award for ‘inventing new kinds of publishing and editing.’ In 2001 he received the National Book Critics Circle’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. He has edited many well-known novelists, including Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, E. L. Doctorow, Philip Roth, and Gore Vidal, as well as many important writers of nonfiction.