Book Markers 09.14.17

Local Book Notes

Rosset, Considered and Reconsidered

Looking for more Rosset? There was the front-page obituary in The New York Times in 2012, but after a lull there followed in relatively speedy succession a posthumous autobiography, a collection of his decades of correspondence with his friend Samuel Beckett, and “Barney’s Wall,” a documentary film about a 12-by-15-foot collage and mural the publisher and part-time East Hamptoner put together toward the end of his life in his East Village apartment — each written about in these pages.

You can add to your library another assessment, “Barney: Grove Press and Barney Rosset, America’s Maverick Publisher and His Battle Against Censorship,” by Michael Rosenthal of Columbia University. It’s all there, from the introduction to America of a literary avant-garde to Rosset and Grove’s tilting against the country’s Puritanism, the focus being on how Grove’s legal victories helped spur the cultural revolution of the 1960s. 

The book, from Arcade Publishing, makes use of Rosset’s papers at Columbia and numerous interviews.


A Two-Fisted Lawyer’s Life

Speaking of litigation, Martin London, a retired trial lawyer who spends summers in Montauk, has self-published a memoir, “The Client Decides,” with a loaded subtitle hinting at his courtroom exploits and client list, from the beautiful to the brawlers: “A Litigator’s Life: Jackie Onassis, Vice President Spiro Agnew, Donald Trump, Roy Cohn,” and if that weren’t enough, from the advertising world: “and More.”

The title proper, it’s worth noting, comes from the words of another heavyweight attorney and colleague, the late Simon H. Rifkind: “We do not decide what kinds of cases we try; the client decides that for us.”

Mr. London leads with this: “How did the kid from Carroll Street between Schenectady and Utica Avenues in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, end up doing a tour of duty as the chairman of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, one of the nation’s, indeed the world’s, leading law firms?”

He doesn’t return to that question until the back of the book, in a section simply dubbed “Personal,” but in the intervening pages a reader’s eye might well be drawn to a chapter on the author’s having butted heads with our current president, who in “Trumping Trump” is introduced with something he said to The New York Post in 1985: “The rich have a very low threshold for pain.” But Mr. London’s no one-note, and that tale isn’t one of successful strong-arming as much as waiting out, persevering until a bully, or at least his seconds, can be brought before a clear-eyed judge who will hear none of it.