Big Table – Complete Set (Vols. 1-5)
All 5 editions of Big Table
Softcover, very good condition, with covers wrapped in protective plastic jackets.
This complete set of Big Table, editions 1-5, is in beautiful shape with clean wrappers, minimal blemishes, and tight bindings. Owing to its controversial history as a battleground of the larger free speech movement, issues of Big Table are understandably coveted by collectors. That, and its fairly limited circulation, make Big Table relatively scarce. This is a great opportunity to own these chapters of avant-garde literary history.
When the editors of the Chicago Review obtained excerpts from The Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (then unpublished in the U.S.) and published them in the Spring and Autumn, 1958 editions of the magazine, an editorial titled “Filthy Writing on the Midway” by reporter Jack Mabley, appeared on the front page of the Chicago Daily News, and the University Chancellor halted publication of the third installment in the Winter 1959 edition, and demanded the removal of any material that might be deemed obscene. All but one of the editorial staff, led by Irving Rosenthal and Paul Carroll, resigned in protest. Rosenthal and Carroll, with money from Allen Ginsberg, then went on to start Big Table (the title was suggested by Kerouac via telegram: “CALL IT BIG TABLE”). As printed on the front cover, Big Table 1 featured “the complete contents of the suppressed Winter 1959 Chicago Review.” 400 copies of the magazine, mailed to subscribers, were then seized and impounded by the Chicago Post Office, and deemed “obscene and filthy…[with] no redeeming value.” With the help of the ACLU, Rosenthal and Carroll sued the Post Office in the District Court of Chicago, where Judge Julius Hoffman ruled it not obscene.
Though short-lived, with only five editions published, Big Table was a major influence in modern American literature. As Thomas Pynchon described it, “‘what happened at Chicago’ became shorthand for some unimaginable subversive threat” among literature students at Cornell University. Rosenthal left after the first issue of the magazine, while Carroll continued for the duration of its publication.