In 1957, with the backing of Grove Press, Barney Rosset and Donald Allen began editing Evergreen Review, whose early issues reveal “preoccupations with European philosophical and political debates, an enthusiasm for relatively accessible forms of American and European mainstream literary experimentalism and a compulsion to challenge censorship by publishing old and new ‘great outlaw masterpieces.’” The first issue included work by Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, and Henri Michaux, as well as an article on Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The second issue, the famous “San Francisco Scene” issue, featured Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, and others.
Evergreen Review 8 (vol. 2, no. 8) (Spring 1959). Cover drawing by Chris Jenkyns.
Evergreen Review was typically published in print runs exceeding 100,000 copies and thus was able to deliver the “underground” to a large audience. To many, particularly those waiting in the wings in small-town (and even not-so-small-town) America, Evergreen Review broadcast the first stirrings of the counterculture that would flourish within a few short years. Donald Allen left Evergreen after the sixth issue, and one can chart the magazine’s gradual decline from that point. Although the magazine continued into the 1970s,* the editorial movement was toward soft-focus nude photo-essays and pornographic stories, albeit printed alongside the staples, among them, Beckett.
*After an 11-year hiatus, issue no. 98 was released in 1984.