The Tender Hour of Twilight Paris in the '50s, New York in the '60s: A Memoir of Publishing's Golden Age

Richard Seaver; Edited by Jeannette Seaver; Introduction by James Salter

Farrar, Straus and Giroux




480 Pages



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From Beckett to Burroughs, The Story of O to The Autobiography of Malcolm X, an iconic literary troublemaker tells the colorful stories behind the stories
Richard Seaver came to Paris in 1950 seeking Hemingway’s moveable feast. Paris had become a different city, traumatized by World War II, yet the red wine still flowed, the cafés bustled, and the Parisian women found American men exotic and heroic. There was an Irishman in Paris writing plays and novels unlike anything anyone had ever read—but hardly anyone was reading them. There were others, too, doing equivalently groundbreaking work for equivalently small audiences. So when his friends launched a literary magazine, Merlin, Seaver knew this was his calling: to bring the work of the likes of Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, and Jean Genet to the world. The Korean War ended all that—the navy had paid for college and it was time to pay them back. After two years at sea, Seaver washed ashore in New York City with a beautiful French wife and a wider sense of the world than his compatriots. The only young literary man with the audacity to match Seaver’s own was Barney Rosset of Grove Press. A remarkable partnership was born, one that would demolish U.S. censorship laws with inimitable joie de vivre as Seaver and Rosset introduced American readers to Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Henry Miller, Story of O, William Burroughs, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and more. As publishing hurtles into its uncertain future, The Tender Hour of Twilight is a stirring reminder of the passion, the vitality, and even the glamour of a true life in literature.


Praise for The Tender Hour of Twilight

"Seaver died before he could edit these memories into a finished book. But his wife, Jeannette, has done a superb job . . . If you're at all interested in modern literature, Paris, the 1960s or the 'golden age of publishing,' you won’t want to miss The Tender Hour of Twilight."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"The Paris years breathe discovery. They are written with a freshness, a youthfulness that perhaps only an old man looking back, and at so much, can command . . . The second part, in New York, substitutes lyricism for a vividly detailed account of the innovative years with Barney Rosset . . . The list of discoveries stretches impressively on . . . [A] wonderfully and revealingly detailed, and written, memoir."—Richard Eder, The Boston Globe

"Seaver was among the great publishers of the 'excitement' era . . . This memoir, arranged from a larger mass of material by his widow, will be sought by everyone who has felt the floppy thrill of a Grove paperback between his fingers."—James Campbell, The Wall Street Journal

"[A] lovely posthumous memoir of . . . [Seaver’s] Paris in the '50s and his brilliant, truncated career at Grove Press in the '60s . . . One of the great book publishers of his generation . . . Enchanting."—Jason Epstein, The New York Times Book Review

"No review can do justice to this incredibly rich memoir . . . You will really have to read Richard Seaver’s masterpiece for yourself."—Bill Henderson, The East Hampton Star

"Candid, charming and enlivened by more than a soupçon of high-toned gossip, [The Tender Hour of Twilight] is testimony to a love affair with literature, and a life lived in service to it."—Glenn C. Altschuler, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

"The liberation of artistic content in America wasn't easy and no one was more crucial to it on a continuing basis than Richard Seaver . . . Hugely engaging . . . Impossible to resist."—Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News

"[Richard Seaver] was what every writer would want his editor to be: urbane, loyal, sensitive to aesthetic values, and fierce in his defense of freedom of speech. This honest, companionable book is an eloquent testament to his exciting life."—Edmund White, author of Jack Holmes and His Friend

"This book reminds us how much Dick Seaver is missed, and how lucky we—publishers, writers, readers, literature itself—were to have had him in our lives. The Tender Hour of Twilight is as fascinating, as insightful, and as generous as the man himself."—Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
"Richard Seaver played a vital role in America's discovery of France and vice versa in the years after World War II. This fascinating memoir of his career as an editor is crammed with unexpected appearances of such notables as Ionesco, Genet, William S. Burroughs, Buster Keaton, and Henry Miller. Edited by Seaver’s widow, Jeannette, The Tender Hour of Twilight finally brings into focus the career of this much-loved and influential impresario."—John Ashbery

"[A] priceless eyewitness account of the making of a literary generation between Paris and New York . . . A rich record of the vicissitudes of publishing during an inimitable time and place.”—Kirkus Reviews

"The late Seaver was a book editor whose career, intersecting with authors like Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Henry Miller, followed a colorful, impressionistic pattern . . . A wry remembrance for readers interested in the industry, it recalls publishing’s precorporate past, when contracts were signed with handshakes over drinks."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"Like many American writers in the 1950s, Seaver went to Paris in search of the golden age of adventurous expatriate writers like Hemingway. Soon after his arrival, however, Seaver created his own golden age . . . In this charming memoir, edited by his wife, Jeannette, Seaver cleverly chronicles his decade in Paris."—Publishers Weekly

In the Press

The Tender Hour of Twilight
A posthumous memoir by the publishing giant who introduced the avant-garde to America.
Review: ‘Tender Hour of Twilight’ revives the glory days of publishing era - The Washington Post
In his memoir, Richard Seaver, champion of young modernist writers, recalls free-spirited Paris, 1960s counterculture America and decrying censorship in the literary world.
THE TENDER HOUR OF TWILIGHT by Richard Seaver, Jeannette Seaver | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of THE TENDER HOUR OF TWILIGHT Paris in the '50s, New York in the '60s: A Memoir of Publishing's Golden Age. A dense, detailed, priceless eyewitness account of the making of a literary generation between Paris and New York.

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt


Café Sitting at St. Germain

ONE SPARKLING LATE MAY MORNING in 1952 when, after endless weeks of dreary, unrelenting winterlike weather, the sun had finally wormed its way through the stubborn gray blanket that had been clinging to Paris, I was sitting on the terrace of the Café Royal at St. Germain des Prés, pretending to read the paper but really watching the world go by, a constant stream of locals and a trickle of tourists—the latter so obvious they could have been picked from the crowd even by the familiar cyclopean beggar who went, appropriately,
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  • Richard Seaver; Edited by Jeannette Seaver; Introduction by James Salter

  • Richard Seaver was an editor, publisher, and translator who became legendary for championing unconventional writers in the face of censorship and cultural prudishness. He was the editor in chief of Grove Press in the 1960s, started his own imprint at Viking in 1971, and served as publisher of Holt, Rinehart & Winston until he founded Arcade Publishing in 1988, which he ran with his wife, Jeannette, until his death in 2009.
  • Richard Seaver Jeannette Seaver