Books: The Tender Hour of Twilight, A Memoir

It’s worth repeating: I love to read, and write, a life.

A memoir of the Paris/New York life of Richard Seaver, an American publisher, is hard to give up. What a man, what a life.

Seaver (1926 – 2009) was teaching math and coaching wrestlers at the Pomfret School in Connecticut (a funny, charming chapter) when a wish comes true: the American Field Service Foundation awards him one of its two fellowships, to study for a year in France. It was 1950.

There he lives in a series of Paris garrets, bicycling to his work teaching English to French stewardesses. Though he struggles for money, Paris is where Seaver finds his life’s work: bringing French authors and playwrights to English readers. Later, with Barney Rosset, they bring censored work to American readers (D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover,” William Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch.”) Translator, editor, publisher, Seaver co-founded Grove Press, a company always on the brink of going broke from the legal fees they paid for bringing censored work to market.

The hard work of translating — Becket, Genet, Duras — is in these pages. The drug and money troubles of certain authors. His sweet romance of the French girl who would become his wife. The no-nonsense obligation to repay the U.S. for his education, serving two years during the Korean War. Settling with his head-turning wife and their small children in an illegal loft in Lower Manhattan. Waking up in Majorca to choose a literary prize winner. Grabbing the rights to Malcolm X’s biography in the days after his assassination.

A full life, a big read. I didn’t want it to end.

Also in the blog

I’m posting this out of frustration with the bland, dated advice in yesterday’s New York Times Travel section. A couple celebrating their 25th anniversary plans to spend a few days in Chicago in early December. What to do, where to go? Agreed. It will be cold. Let’s review the reasons to visit Chicago any time


A long holiday weekend gave me time to lounge outside in the sun — take that eternal winter! — with Edward St. Aubyn’s latest, Lost for Words. It’s delicious: a satire of a famous book contest. Witty, withering, sexy. Yes, he gives us too many characters, none of whom we get to know deeply. Still,


I settled in for a bar lunch the other day at Joe’s, an elegant seafood and steak house off Michigan Avenue with my friend and colleague Barbara. I’d been to Joe’s (60 E. Grand St.) several times, for review or to meet with editors. It’s pricey, but the seafood — especially their signature stone crab


One thought on "Books: The Tender Hour of Twilight, A Memoir"

  • I can not thank you adequately for the posts on your web site. I know you’d put a lot of time and effort into them and hope you know how much I appreciate it. I hope I’ll do exactly the same for someone else at some point.

  • Comments are closed.