Committed to the Alternative: Evergreen in Context, 1957 to the Present

for Evergreen: The Covers, 1957-1984 (Fantagraphics, 2023)

Committed to the Alternative: Evergreen in Context, 1957 to the Present

for Evergreen: The Covers, 1957-1984 (Fantagraphics, 2023)

America in 1957 was not exactly a hotbed of revolution. Particularly if you were part of the white male majority, things were going pretty well. The President was the genial Dwight E. “Ike” Eisenhower, a moderate Republican known to be passionate about golf and little else. He was restrained even in his conservatism: although he authorized CIA-backed coups in Iran and Guatemala—ill-advised actions that continue to have severe repercussions decades later—he maintained the New Deal policies of FDR. He was broadly popular, and had the support of all but a handful of civil liberty “extremists.” In that same year, Eisenhower had even signed the first Civil Rights Act since Reconstruction.

America was far and away the dominant world power, the home of innovation and supposed guardian of personal freedoms. A shortlived recession began in the summer, but the economy was the world’s strongest. Europe was still in recovery mode after the pervasive slaughter and destruction of World War II, China was in stasis, and Japan was perceived as being both quaint and a source of cheap plastic gewgaws—certainly not an industrial powerhouse. And while the Soviet Union loomed as a potential adversary and its mention served to get American patriotic blood boiling, the “communist menace” at home had subsided concurrent with red baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s censure by the Senate in 1954. And yet, not all were on board with Ike’s program.

1957 saw the birth of an upstart journal, the Evergreen Review. A little less than a decade previously, its publisher Barnet Lee Rosset Jr. had moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village from Paris, following his then-wife Joan Mitchell (who was later to achieve worldwide fame as one of the greatest of the second wave of abstract expressionists, the equal of masters such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning). In the Village, Barney Rosset found himself surrounded by creative rebels. The Beat Generation was at its most influential; Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg mixed with de Kooning, Pollock, and many others in the Downtown scene. At the same time, the New York School, centered around the poet Frank O’Hara and including such innovators as Johns Ashbery and Cage, was in full swing. And Barney and Joan were part of the mix.

Although he always credited Joan with steering him to the publishing business, Barney needed little prompting to become a disseminator of subversive ideas: dissatisfaction with the status quo was a consistent theme in his life from the first days to the last. Even while attending Chicago’s progressive Francis W. Parker School in 1936, when he was in eighth grade, he had helped start a newsletter entitled The Sommunist (later changed to The Anti-Everything). His discontent grew at college and then increased during the Second World War in the Army, which posted him to China as a photographer. When he returned, he felt even more out of place, as he wrote in his autobiography: “Civilians seemed hostile . . . I felt surrounded by enemies in every bar. I wanted to explode.”i These feelings mounted: he was itching to confront what he perceived as American bourgeois complacency, the very bourgeoisie that had spawned him.

After a brief foray into the world of filmmaking, with moral support from Joan (whom he admired even after the couple divorced in 1952) and financial support from his Chicago banker father, in 1951 Barney purchased a tiny independent literary press once located on Grove Street. He promptly set about transforming Grove Press into a cultural weapon. The publishing program reflected Barney’s commitment to going against the grain. While he had inherited his first editorial project, an 18th century novel entitled The Monk, from Grove’s previous owners, it appealed mightily to him: it was a “strange, sadistic, weird story of a girl who enters a monastery dressed as a monk and seduces the head of the monastery, who himself, in a lustful passion, murders another girl, and so on.”ii That first book Barney published set a motif of breaking taboos—and also of misogyny—that was to recur in Grove’s editorial program over the years.

Grove Press grew rapidly, and in 1957 Barney founded a quarterly magazine as a way to promote its authors and books. He was determined, he wrote, “to tie Evergreen Review to Grove Press as much as possible, and it would turn out that the two entities strengthened each other in immeasurable ways.”iii But while Grove standbys such as Beckett, Ionesco and Burroughs were at the magazine’s core, from the start Barney welcomed relevant artists who had little or nothing to do with the book program, including those (such as Kerouac) whose first books were promised to other publishers. Perhaps it was that he felt the best way to sell a product is to do so indirectly, but I suspect it was more that his restless and wide-ranging intellect rejected all sorts of rules, whether they were imposed by the government or economic self-preservation.

The early issues of Evergreen are extraordinary by just about any measure. Two generations later, it’s hard to imagine that when original works by writers such as Ginsberg, Sontag, Genet, Robbe-Grillet, and Beckett first appeared in the magazine they would have elicited little reaction from readers of the day. The writing of Samuel Beckett, for example, appeared in issue 1, and he remained a regular in Evergreen’s pages—his play “Ohio Impromptu” appeared in the publication’s last print edition, in 1984. But in 1957, the fifty-one-year old author was still largely an unknown, and if he was heralded at all, it was for his decades-previous association with literary greats. When “Waiting for Godot” had finally appeared on the New York stage the year before, the New York Times saw Beckett’s primary distinction as being “an Irish writer who . . . once served as the secretary to James Joyce.”

At the time, there was nothing like Evergreen because there was no American magazine publisher with Barney’s combination of ample financial resources and a deep commitment to challenging bourgeois mores, particularly where sexuality was concerned. The New Yorker had been around since 1925, but it was devoted to perpetuating the literary establishment. The Paris Review, founded in 1953, was a bit more puckish, but for decades that publication never shook the politically anodyne inclinations of its founding editors, a tendency perhaps accentuated by the fact that one of them, Peter Matthiessen, was later revealed to be an officer in the Central Intelligence Agency.iv

It was left to Evergreen to explore the avant-garde world of drugs, sex, and irreverent, precedent-shattering prose. As Barney hoped, with the aid of brilliant, independent-minded scholar/editors such as Don Allen, Richard Seaver and Fred Jordan, the magazine quickly began to attract attention. The second issue (“The San Francisco Scene”) sold out, and in fact became the only Evergreen to be reprinted multiple times. The winter 1959 issue, “The Eye of Mexico,” was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. And with its April 1964 release, Evergreen became a monthly. As it happened, all 21,000 copies of that issue, which included work by Norman Mailer, Jean Genet, and Günter Grass, were seized by vice squad detectives at the magazine’s Long Island printing plant, and the plant manager was arrested on a charge of distributing obscene literature. The culprit was a portfolio of manipulated photographs by Emil Cadoo, which consisted of barely discernible nudes nowhere near as revealing as any number of art world classics by artists such as Renoir, Manet or Picasso—that is to say, they were purposefully gauzy images that required a great deal of focused attention to imagine a naked body in all its glory. But it was an era where the publication of something deemed pornography was punishable by imprisonment, and in fact any number of publishers were fined and thrown in jail on that basis. A warrant was issued for Barney’s arrest and that of his editor Richard Seaver. The charges were eventually dropped, but such an episode did wonders for the magazine’s circulation.

Evergreen continued to surf the wave of the 60s, offering readers its triple shot of edgy writing, “sexy” photographs and cartoons (“Barbarella” got its US start there) and leftist politics. As time went on, the connection to Grove’s stable of writers seemed to weaken, both because images became more prominent within the magazine and because it increasingly published original writing. Che Guevara was killed in the fall of 1967, and the February 1968 issue (no. 51, which featured the designer Paul Davis’ iconic transformation of Che the rebel into Che the rock star) was devoted entirely to him. It included writing by Che himself (an excerpt from his book Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War) and Fidel Castro, letters between the two, and analyses of the revolutionary struggle. That issue also led to an attack on the Grove Press offices by Cuban exiles, who early on the morning of July 26, 1968 fired a grenade launcher through the building’s second floor window. No one was hurt, and the very next month Evergreen’s issue 58 featured a “Who’s Who in Che’s Diary” along with pages from the diary itself.

While its writing may have riled the right wing, nothing Evergreen could publish upset the authorities as much as its risqué imagery. It should be noted that Barney didn’t publish sexually explicit material to shock. He did it because he liked the stuff, and as time went by Evergreen devoted more of its pages and its covers to men and women, but mostly women, in various stages of undress. Of course it didn’t hurt that such publishing outraged those in power, or that it increased readership by untold numbers. While the magazine’s pictorial emphasis was on the female body, the idea of “free love” was integral to its general outlook. One noteworthy example of that impulse appeared on the cover of issue 81, in August 1970. Richard Avedon depicted Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky embracing in the nude, looking fearlessly straight at the camera in what has to rank as one of the most affecting portraits in 20th century photography.

Many other covers from the period are less successful, and reflect an attempt to convey a kind of pornography lite. But while today we may smile or wince at some of the images on these covers, it’s important to remember that the concept of sexual freedom has long been tied to political freedom. In the US, the movement owed much to the Transcendentalists of the 19th century, which counted among its adherents writers such as Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. And the great anarchist Emma Goldman specifically tied free love to intellectual freedom in her famous 1914 manifesto “Marriage and Love.” By the time Evergreen was starting to attract large numbers of young readers in the late 1960s, free love was, along with drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, an integral part of the countercultural trio. And as much as the powers-that-be hated and feared activists and protestors and condemned drug use and rock music, they were rendered apoplectic at openly displayed or discussed sexual activity.

Exhibit A would have to be the April 1970 issue of Evergreen, which included an excerpt from Points of Rebellion by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who had been appointed to the court by FDR in 1939. A ringing call to dissent and against “goose-stepping conformity,” the extract fit nicely with Evergreen’s guiding principles. That very month, then-Representative Gerald R. Ford called for the judge’s impeachment, citing Douglas’ writing for “a pornographic magazine” as evidence of his depravity. Barney couldn’t have wished for better publicity: in an Associated Press photograph taken at the time on the floor of the US Congress, Ford can be seen brandishing an open issue of Evergreen. A cheerful-looking nude is displayed on the page over the title “A Portfolio of Photographs.”

Meanwhile, something called the Vietnam War was raging. The war, which ended up costing well over three million lives and preoccupied America more than any other single issue during the period, provided the frame for the discussion of the fight against pornography. In the decade beginning in 1965, United States forces dropped more than 7.5 million tons of bombs in Southeast Asia (several times the total amount dropped in World War II). Hundreds of thousands of civilians were slaughtered. From the viewpoint of someone already at odds with the Establishment, as were the editors of Evergreen, it seemed absurd to get exercised over photographs that exposed a little flesh when at the time so much flesh was being incinerated by napalm from American B-52s.

The October 1971 issue featured Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Joe Eszterhas’ account of the selling of the first photographs of the My Lai massacre and the commodification of suffering. The massacre, one of an untold number of such episodes and notable mainly because its American perpetrators were identified by name, occurred on March 16, 1968. US Army soldiers from the 23rd Infantry Division killed between 347 and 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians. Women were raped; children and infants were killed.v But while the story circulated in military circles and even in the press, it was only when a US Army staff photographer, Ronald Haeberle, released the photographs he’d taken on a personal camera to the press that the atrocity commanded widespread attention in the US.

The piece was a sensation, and Evergreen was once again in the news.vi But it was too late to save the magazine, which had been in serious difficulties in the aftermath of battles over unionization and feminism, battles that were bitterly ironic from both sides’ point of view. The turmoil culminated in the widely publicized occupation of Grove’s offices by eight feminists in the spring of 1970, who were objecting to the firing of union organizers. To unionists, it seemed natural that a midsize, radical, for-profit organization would be unionized; to feminists and their allies, it made sense that a prominent publication that styled itself as being in the progressive vanguard would eschew debasement of women.

Barney was as determined to defy feminists and unionists as he was to thwart government censors. Compromise or mitigation was never in his nature. He fought them as hard as he had fought the Establishment, and in doing so alienated many supporters and writers. He spent a fortune on lawyers, defending his company and counter-suing. To his dying day he was convinced that nefarious “outside forces”—presumably the FBI—had undermined his publishing program. The likely truth is that Evergreen’s relentlessly male-focused gaze had finally caused a break with its audience. It was becoming uncool.

Evergreen skipped publication the month of November, 1971, then resumed in December, and wasn’t seen until that next fall. After that, the mortally wounded print magazine managed two more issues before a long hiatus and then, years on, a final gasp in the spring of 1984. The print edition was done. Today, the Evergreen Review thrives online. The novelist, critic and activist Dale Peck is editor-in-chief, supported by a diverse staff, of whom I’m proud to count myself a member. We’d welcome your visit.


i Rosset, Barney. Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship (New York: OR Books, 2016), p. 76.

ii Ibid., p. 96.

iii Ibid., p. 103.

iv The unusual foray of the American intelligence community into literary culture has been amply documented elsewhere, including in Joel Whitney’s Finks (2017). At the time, the CIA saw literary magazines as a subtle tool to spread American propaganda. The Paris Review’s first publisher was Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who had close ties to CIA director Allen Dulles.

vTwenty-six US Army soldiers were charged with war crimes, but only one—Lt. William Calley—was convicted. He served three-and-a-half years of house arrest.

vi Joe Eszterhas lost his job as a reporter and became one of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood, writing hits such as “Flashdance” and “Basic Instinct.”

America in 1957 was not exactly a hotbed of revolution. Particularly if you were part of the white male majority, things were going pretty well. The President was the genial Dwight E. “Ike” Eisenhower, a moderate Republican known to be passionate about golf and little else. He was restrained even in his conservatism: although he authorized CIA-backed coups in Iran and Guatemala—ill-advised actions that continue to have severe repercussions decades later—he maintained the New Deal policies of FDR. He was broadly popular, and had the support of all but a handful of civil liberty “extremists.” In that same year, Eisenhower had even signed the first Civil Rights Act since Reconstruction.

America was far and away the dominant world power, the home of innovation and supposed guardian of personal freedoms. A shortlived recession began in the summer, but the economy was the world’s strongest. Europe was still in recovery mode after the pervasive slaughter and destruction of World War II, China was in stasis, and Japan was perceived as being both quaint and a source of cheap plastic gewgaws—certainly not an industrial powerhouse. And while the Soviet Union loomed as a potential adversary and its mention served to get American patriotic blood boiling, the “communist menace” at home had subsided concurrent with red baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s censure by the Senate in 1954. And yet, not all were on board with Ike’s program.

1957 saw the birth of an upstart journal, the Evergreen Review. A little less than a decade previously, its publisher Barnet Lee Rosset Jr. had moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village from Paris, following his then-wife Joan Mitchell (who was later to achieve worldwide fame as one of the greatest of the second wave of abstract expressionists, the equal of masters such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning). In the Village, Barney Rosset found himself surrounded by creative rebels. The Beat Generation was at its most influential; Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg mixed with de Kooning, Pollock, and many others in the Downtown scene. At the same time, the New York School, centered around the poet Frank O’Hara and including such innovators as Johns Ashbery and Cage, was in full swing. And Barney and Joan were part of the mix.

Although he always credited Joan with steering him to the publishing business, Barney needed little prompting to become a disseminator of subversive ideas: dissatisfaction with the status quo was a consistent theme in his life from the first days to the last. Even while attending Chicago’s progressive Francis W. Parker School in 1936, when he was in eighth grade, he had helped start a newsletter entitled The Sommunist (later changed to The Anti-Everything). His discontent grew at college and then increased during the Second World War in the Army, which posted him to China as a photographer. When he returned, he felt even more out of place, as he wrote in his autobiography: “Civilians seemed hostile . . . I felt surrounded by enemies in every bar. I wanted to explode.”i These feelings mounted: he was itching to confront what he perceived as American bourgeois complacency, the very bourgeoisie that had spawned him.

After a brief foray into the world of filmmaking, with moral support from Joan (whom he admired even after the couple divorced in 1952) and financial support from his Chicago banker father, in 1951 Barney purchased a tiny independent literary press once located on Grove Street. He promptly set about transforming Grove Press into a cultural weapon. The publishing program reflected Barney’s commitment to going against the grain. While he had inherited his first editorial project, an 18th century novel entitled The Monk, from Grove’s previous owners, it appealed mightily to him: it was a “strange, sadistic, weird story of a girl who enters a monastery dressed as a monk and seduces the head of the monastery, who himself, in a lustful passion, murders another girl, and so on.”ii That first book Barney published set a motif of breaking taboos—and also of misogyny—that was to recur in Grove’s editorial program over the years.

Grove Press grew rapidly, and in 1957 Barney founded a quarterly magazine as a way to promote its authors and books. He was determined, he wrote, “to tie Evergreen Review to Grove Press as much as possible, and it would turn out that the two entities strengthened each other in immeasurable ways.”iii But while Grove standbys such as Beckett, Ionesco and Burroughs were at the magazine’s core, from the start Barney welcomed relevant artists who had little or nothing to do with the book program, including those (such as Kerouac) whose first books were promised to other publishers. Perhaps it was that he felt the best way to sell a product is to do so indirectly, but I suspect it was more that his restless and wide-ranging intellect rejected all sorts of rules, whether they were imposed by the government or economic self-preservation.

The early issues of Evergreen are extraordinary by just about any measure. Two generations later, it’s hard to imagine that when original works by writers such as Ginsberg, Sontag, Genet, Robbe-Grillet, and Beckett first appeared in the magazine they would have elicited little reaction from readers of the day. The writing of Samuel Beckett, for example, appeared in issue 1, and he remained a regular in Evergreen’s pages—his play “Ohio Impromptu” appeared in the publication’s last print edition, in 1984. But in 1957, the fifty-one-year old author was still largely an unknown, and if he was heralded at all, it was for his decades-previous association with literary greats. When “Waiting for Godot” had finally appeared on the New York stage the year before, the New York Times saw Beckett’s primary distinction as being “an Irish writer who . . . once served as the secretary to James Joyce.”

At the time, there was nothing like Evergreen because there was no American magazine publisher with Barney’s combination of ample financial resources and a deep commitment to challenging bourgeois mores, particularly where sexuality was concerned. The New Yorker had been around since 1925, but it was devoted to perpetuating the literary establishment. The Paris Review, founded in 1953, was a bit more puckish, but for decades that publication never shook the politically anodyne inclinations of its founding editors, a tendency perhaps accentuated by the fact that one of them, Peter Matthiessen, was later revealed to be an officer in the Central Intelligence Agency.iv

It was left to Evergreen to explore the avant-garde world of drugs, sex, and irreverent, precedent-shattering prose. As Barney hoped, with the aid of brilliant, independent-minded scholar/editors such as Don Allen, Richard Seaver and Fred Jordan, the magazine quickly began to attract attention. The second issue (“The San Francisco Scene”) sold out, and in fact became the only Evergreen to be reprinted multiple times. The winter 1959 issue, “The Eye of Mexico,” was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. And with its April 1964 release, Evergreen became a monthly. As it happened, all 21,000 copies of that issue, which included work by Norman Mailer, Jean Genet, and Günter Grass, were seized by vice squad detectives at the magazine’s Long Island printing plant, and the plant manager was arrested on a charge of distributing obscene literature. The culprit was a portfolio of manipulated photographs by Emil Cadoo, which consisted of barely discernible nudes nowhere near as revealing as any number of art world classics by artists such as Renoir, Manet or Picasso—that is to say, they were purposefully gauzy images that required a great deal of focused attention to imagine a naked body in all its glory. But it was an era where the publication of something deemed pornography was punishable by imprisonment, and in fact any number of publishers were fined and thrown in jail on that basis. A warrant was issued for Barney’s arrest and that of his editor Richard Seaver. The charges were eventually dropped, but such an episode did wonders for the magazine’s circulation.

Evergreen continued to surf the wave of the 60s, offering readers its triple shot of edgy writing, “sexy” photographs and cartoons (“Barbarella” got its US start there) and leftist politics. As time went on, the connection to Grove’s stable of writers seemed to weaken, both because images became more prominent within the magazine and because it increasingly published original writing. Che Guevara was killed in the fall of 1967, and the February 1968 issue (no. 51, which featured the designer Paul Davis’ iconic transformation of Che the rebel into Che the rock star) was devoted entirely to him. It included writing by Che himself (an excerpt from his book Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War) and Fidel Castro, letters between the two, and analyses of the revolutionary struggle. That issue also led to an attack on the Grove Press offices by Cuban exiles, who early on the morning of July 26, 1968 fired a grenade launcher through the building’s second floor window. No one was hurt, and the very next month Evergreen’s issue 58 featured a “Who’s Who in Che’s Diary” along with pages from the diary itself.

While its writing may have riled the right wing, nothing Evergreen could publish upset the authorities as much as its risqué imagery. It should be noted that Barney didn’t publish sexually explicit material to shock. He did it because he liked the stuff, and as time went by Evergreen devoted more of its pages and its covers to men and women, but mostly women, in various stages of undress. Of course it didn’t hurt that such publishing outraged those in power, or that it increased readership by untold numbers. While the magazine’s pictorial emphasis was on the female body, the idea of “free love” was integral to its general outlook. One noteworthy example of that impulse appeared on the cover of issue 81, in August 1970. Richard Avedon depicted Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky embracing in the nude, looking fearlessly straight at the camera in what has to rank as one of the most affecting portraits in 20th century photography.

Many other covers from the period are less successful, and reflect an attempt to convey a kind of pornography lite. But while today we may smile or wince at some of the images on these covers, it’s important to remember that the concept of sexual freedom has long been tied to political freedom. In the US, the movement owed much to the Transcendentalists of the 19th century, which counted among its adherents writers such as Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. And the great anarchist Emma Goldman specifically tied free love to intellectual freedom in her famous 1914 manifesto “Marriage and Love.” By the time Evergreen was starting to attract large numbers of young readers in the late 1960s, free love was, along with drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, an integral part of the countercultural trio. And as much as the powers-that-be hated and feared activists and protestors and condemned drug use and rock music, they were rendered apoplectic at openly displayed or discussed sexual activity.

Exhibit A would have to be the April 1970 issue of Evergreen, which included an excerpt from Points of Rebellion by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who had been appointed to the court by FDR in 1939. A ringing call to dissent and against “goose-stepping conformity,” the extract fit nicely with Evergreen’s guiding principles. That very month, then-Representative Gerald R. Ford called for the judge’s impeachment, citing Douglas’ writing for “a pornographic magazine” as evidence of his depravity. Barney couldn’t have wished for better publicity: in an Associated Press photograph taken at the time on the floor of the US Congress, Ford can be seen brandishing an open issue of Evergreen. A cheerful-looking nude is displayed on the page over the title “A Portfolio of Photographs.”

Meanwhile, something called the Vietnam War was raging. The war, which ended up costing well over three million lives and preoccupied America more than any other single issue during the period, provided the frame for the discussion of the fight against pornography. In the decade beginning in 1965, United States forces dropped more than 7.5 million tons of bombs in Southeast Asia (several times the total amount dropped in World War II). Hundreds of thousands of civilians were slaughtered. From the viewpoint of someone already at odds with the Establishment, as were the editors of Evergreen, it seemed absurd to get exercised over photographs that exposed a little flesh when at the time so much flesh was being incinerated by napalm from American B-52s.

The October 1971 issue featured Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Joe Eszterhas’ account of the selling of the first photographs of the My Lai massacre and the commodification of suffering. The massacre, one of an untold number of such episodes and notable mainly because its American perpetrators were identified by name, occurred on March 16, 1968. US Army soldiers from the 23rd Infantry Division killed between 347 and 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians. Women were raped; children and infants were killed.v But while the story circulated in military circles and even in the press, it was only when a US Army staff photographer, Ronald Haeberle, released the photographs he’d taken on a personal camera to the press that the atrocity commanded widespread attention in the US.

The piece was a sensation, and Evergreen was once again in the news.vi But it was too late to save the magazine, which had been in serious difficulties in the aftermath of battles over unionization and feminism, battles that were bitterly ironic from both sides’ point of view. The turmoil culminated in the widely publicized occupation of Grove’s offices by eight feminists in the spring of 1970, who were objecting to the firing of union organizers. To unionists, it seemed natural that a midsize, radical, for-profit organization would be unionized; to feminists and their allies, it made sense that a prominent publication that styled itself as being in the progressive vanguard would eschew debasement of women.

Barney was as determined to defy feminists and unionists as he was to thwart government censors. Compromise or mitigation was never in his nature. He fought them as hard as he had fought the Establishment, and in doing so alienated many supporters and writers. He spent a fortune on lawyers, defending his company and counter-suing. To his dying day he was convinced that nefarious “outside forces”—presumably the FBI—had undermined his publishing program. The likely truth is that Evergreen’s relentlessly male-focused gaze had finally caused a break with its audience. It was becoming uncool.

Evergreen skipped publication the month of November, 1971, then resumed in December, and wasn’t seen until that next fall. After that, the mortally wounded print magazine managed two more issues before a long hiatus and then, years on, a final gasp in the spring of 1984. The print edition was done. Today, the Evergreen Review thrives online. The novelist, critic and activist Dale Peck is editor-in-chief, supported by a diverse staff, of whom I’m proud to count myself a member. We’d welcome your visit.


i Rosset, Barney. Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship (New York: OR Books, 2016), p. 76.

ii Ibid., p. 96.

iii Ibid., p. 103.

iv The unusual foray of the American intelligence community into literary culture has been amply documented elsewhere, including in Joel Whitney’s Finks (2017). At the time, the CIA saw literary magazines as a subtle tool to spread American propaganda. The Paris Review’s first publisher was Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who had close ties to CIA director Allen Dulles.

vTwenty-six US Army soldiers were charged with war crimes, but only one—Lt. William Calley—was convicted. He served three-and-a-half years of house arrest.

vi Joe Eszterhas lost his job as a reporter and became one of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood, writing hits such as “Flashdance” and “Basic Instinct.”