Sunday, February 26, 2012

"The Tender Hour of Twilight" by Richard Seaver


Without a doubt Richard Seaver and his world (Barney Rosset, John Cadler, and for me, the Malcolm McLaren of publishers, Maurice Girodias) are the one's who inspired me to do my press TamTam Books.  Which in turns means that I have a small collection of books on these publishers that always looked at the big picture, and usually (and hysterically) fail in some form due to the devil details of publishing.  The release of the late Richard Seaver's memoir "The Tender Hour of Twilight" is a remarkable journey of American publishing at its best.  Taking chances and fighting the good fight for literature that needed support from the guys behind the writers.  Publisher's memoirs are usually like the great crime heist book.  You always get a set of interesting characters doing something impossible.  And publishing sometimes looks and reads like "Mission Impossible."

Seaver's book is in two parts.  His life as an magazine/literary editor and his first sighting of Samuel Beckett as well as with the wild man of alt-lit Alex Trocchi - his partner in crime at the time.  Its a very heady and beautiful portrait of Paris in the late 1950's and it has that romantic tinge that makes one want to re-live or re-imagine his life in the Left Bank.

The second part deals with his life at Grove Press - the revolutionary and super cool publishing house controlled by the late great Barney Rosset.  Here we have the relationship between the two guys plus people like Maurice Girodias, who is a great character in life and literature.  For those who consider themselves book nerds or anyone who is interested in the cultural history of publishing - Seaver's book is extremely important.  This is what one may call a keeper.
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