Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Tender Hour of Twilight, "Publishing's Golden Age"

Translator-publisher Richard Seaver's memoir, The Tender Hour of Twilight: Paris in the '50s, New York in the '60s: A Memoir of Publishing's Golden Age, is well edited by Jeanette Seaver, his French wife of six to eight decades, and includes his literary service bringing to American readers' attention Beckett, Genet, Malcolm X, Ionescu, Burroughs, Henry Miller, Hubert Selby, and others; his clandestine translating of The Story of O; and then toward the end the paradoxical introduction of unionizing efforts by women at Grove Press who did not feel fairly compensated by the male champions of free speech and literature leading the way. Although there is a dismissive tone to these workers' complaints, it is possible the workers were unaware of all the publisher's significant debts due to litigation against the house for their bold list of books. Regardless, the memoir is a page turner on Paris in the 1950s, New York publishing in the '60s, and it left me with a great sense that there have been moments where transgressive literature mattered. A few days after I finished I found a used second printing of the original Grove Press hardcover of Jean Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers, the only Genet on the shelf, which for two dollars plus tax I took home although I have a trade paperback of the same in my storage space back home. I've never read the entire Genet, and probably won't this time around, but when I see the book at home, I'll likely be reminded of Richard Seaver's memoir and "publishing's golden age."

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