From the late fifties through early seventies, when public interest in the counterculture was at its peak, the Beat writers' work was much in demand. The national magazines paid better rates than the underground magazines were able to, and provided much broader exposure for writers. By presenting the latest poems and excerpts from novels still in progress, the literary magazines were both platform and sounding board for innovation and experiment.
Most prominent among these magazines was the Evergreen Review, Grove's quarterly literary magazine. Evergreen Review marked the beginning of Grove's association with the Beat writers, regularly presenting new work by Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and others. It was an association which was to benefit both the writers and Grove. The writers had a national forum for their work, and in Barney Rosset, a publisher who had demonstrated his willingness to back them to the hilt. To Grove the Beat movement represented both the culture and the commerce of publishing in the avant-garde arena. Public opinion was sharply divided on the literary merits of the Beats, a controversy which could only enhance Grove's reputation for being on the cutting edge of the avant-garde (the culture), with the additional bonus of enhanced sales (the commerce).
Begun in 1957 under the editorship of Donald Allen, Evergreen Review was the magazine which introduced the West Coast literary avant-garde, what had been termed the San Francisco Renaissance, to the New York alternative publishing scene, and gave the resultant mixture a national exposure.
Allen Ginsberg had been the primary emissary who brought about this "marriage." When he came back to New York from the West Coast in 1956, bearing manuscripts and books from most of his writer friends, he'd made the rounds of publishers and magazines (Miles 1989):
[His] best reception came from editor Donald Allen at the newly founded Grove Press, where Evergreen Review was in the works. It was decided that the entire second issue of the magazine be devoted to the San Francisco scene.Issue number 2 of Evergreen Review featured the complete text of Howl. In addition to the landmark legal trial, the magazine helped make Howl a best-seller for then-struggling City Lights Books. Evergreen Review continued under a succession of editors, and in several different formats before finally ceasing publication. During its heyday there was even an offshoot book club named the Evergreen Club, which was promoted in New York city subway ads under a picture of Allen Ginsberg in an Uncle Sam top hat, saying "Join the underground."
At the University of Chicago, the Chicago Review, under the editorship of Irving Rosenthal and Paul Carroll, had been closely following the emergence of what came to be called the San Francisco Renaissance (Michelson 1990):
They excitedly set about gathering manuscripts from writers who were getting to be known as Beat. The Spring 1958 issue of the Chicago Review was a special San Francisco number. It included work by Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, [...] and the first chapter of Burroughs's Naked Lunch.A Chicago newspaper columnist got hold of this issue and the Autumn issue (containing a second chapter of Naked Lunch). He wrote a sensationalistic article under the headline "Filthy Writing on the Midway," which resulted in the University administration's suppression of the Winter issue.
The incident sparked the resignation of Rosenthal, Carroll, and four of the remaining five editors of the Chicago Review. Jointly they decided to start their own magazine, using the suppressed Chicago Review material for their first issue. That magazine emerged under the name Big Table, a name which had been suggested in a telegram from Jack Kerouac. Peter Michelson, in a lengthy article on the controversy, called the inception of Big Table "a stunning counterattack" (Michelson 1990):
The Beats gained a solid beachhead in the Second City, giving them serious artillery installations coast to coast: Evergreen Review, Grove Press, and New Directions in New York; Big Table in Chicago; Contact and City Lights Books in San Francisco. There was also the "sleeper," Black Mountain Review, and there were other outlets - Yugen, Kulchur, Beatitude, Jargon Books, San Francisco Review, etc. - but the former were the big guns, partly because they were consistently in the glare of obscenity litigation.Significantly, it was the appearance of the first ten chapters of Naked Lunch in the first issue of Big Table that convinced Maurice Girodias of the Olympic Press in Paris to publish the book immediately - an example of the "cross-pollination" which regularly occurred in this literary underground. (5)