Thomas Henry Guinzburg

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Thomas Henry Guinzburg

Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, New York County, New York, United States
Death: September 08, 2010 (84)
Manhattan, New York, New York County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Harold K. Guinzburg and Alice May Guinzburg
Husband of Private
Ex-husband of Rita Gam
Father of Private; Private and Private
Brother of Private

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Thomas Henry Guinzburg

Thomas Henry Guinzburg (March 30, 1926 – September 8, 2010) was an American editor and publisher who served as the first managing editor of The Paris Review following its inception in 1953 and later succeeded his father as president of the Viking Press.

Thomas Guinzburg, Paris Review Co-Founder, Dies at 84


Thomas Guinzburg, an editor and publisher who helped create The Paris Review, the enduring lion of American literary magazines, and who later became president of Viking Press, the publishing house founded by his father, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 84.

The cause was complications of heart bypass surgery, his former wife Rusty Unger said.

Mr. Guinzburg, a former decorated Marine who survived the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, had recently graduated from Yale when he moved to Paris in the early 1950s. His crowd there, a now famous band of literary expatriates, included his Yale roommate, Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, William Styron and Donald Hall.

In 1953 he teamed up with Mr. Plimpton, Mr. Matthiessen and others as founders of The Paris Review, a journal that propelled the early careers of writers as diverse as Adrienne Rich, Philip Roth, V. S. Naipaul, Jack Kerouac, Mona Simpson and T. Coraghessan Boyle.

Having been the managing editor of The Yale Daily News (when William F. Buckley Jr. was chairman), Mr. Guinzburg was named the first managing editor of The Paris Review; he eventually became president of its board of directors.

“He was the only one of us who had any publishing expertise; the Yale paper was a pretty good paper,” Mr. Matthiessen said on Thursday, adding that as a reader, Mr. Guinzburg possessed the natural publisher’s gift of having no agenda: “He had no axes to grind. He just had very good taste.”

Robert B. Silvers, editor of The New York Review of Books and a board member of The Paris Review, said: “He was a marvelous combination of idealist and realist. He was always encouraging The Review not to be deterred from discovering young writers of quality. At the same time he had a grasp of the really rough details of commercial publishing.”

Mr. Guinzburg joined Viking Press, starting in the publicity department, in 1954. His father, Harold K. Guinzburg, had founded Viking in 1925 with a partner, George S. Oppenheimer, with the goal of publishing nonfiction and “distinguished fiction with some claim to permanent importance rather than ephemeral popular interest.” Its author list — which included John Steinbeck, Graham Greene, Arthur Miller and Saul Bellow — upheld the ambition.

The elder Mr. Guinzburg died in 1961, and Thomas took over as president. In 1975 he arranged the sale of Viking to Pearson Longman, a British media company that owned Penguin Books. Mr. Guinzburg remained president of a newly named house, Viking/Penguin, until 1978.

Mr. Guinzburg was known for his editorial staff; he hired many of publishing’s most respected editors, including Corlies Smith, Aaron Asher and Elisabeth Sifton. In 1975 he hired Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who lasted two years before resigning over the publication of a political thriller called “Shall We Tell the President?”

In that book, the author, Jeffrey Archer, a former member of the British Parliament, imagined Edward M. Kennedy as the president of the United States and an assassination plot against him. Mrs. Onassis did not edit the book — or, evidently, read it — but knew of it and had told Mr. Guinzburg that she would not object to its publication. John Leonard, however, lambasting the book in a review in The New York Times, took barely disguised aim at her.

“There is a word for such a book,” Mr. Leonard wrote. “The word is trash. Anybody associated with its publication should be ashamed of herself.”

Mrs. Onassis resigned shortly afterward.

Mr. Guinzburg had many successes, however. During his tenure, Viking published nonfiction by, among many others, Hannah Arendt, Nat Hentoff and Barbara W. Tuchman, and fiction by Ken Kesey, Jimmy Breslin, Patrick White, Lawrence Durrell, Kingsley Amis, Iris Murdoch, Robert Coover and others. He published Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow,” which won the National Book Award in 1974.

Thomas Henry Guinzburg was born in Manhattan on March 30, 1926. He graduated from the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, then served in the Marines during the war before attending Yale.

According to “The Time of Their Lives,” a 2008 book by Al Silverman about independent publishers, Mr. Guinzburg had his first inkling that the book business was in his future at age 9, when his father gave him the manuscript of the children’s classic “Ferdinand the Bull.” He liked it so much, he told his father that he wanted to read it again.

“Four million copies later, the experience made me feel like I might someday be suited for my father’s profession,” Mr. Guinzburg said.

Mr. Guinzburg was married and divorced twice. Steinbeck was his best man at his second wedding, to Ms. Unger. He and his first wife, the actress Rita Gam, had two children who survive him, Kate Guinzburg, a movie producer, and Michael Guinzburg, a novelist, both of Los Angeles. He is also survived by his daughter with Ms. Unger, Amanda Guinzburg, of Bridgehampton, N.Y.; two granddaughters; and his companion for the past 15 years, Victoria Anstead.

After he left Viking Mr. Guinzburg devoted much of his time to charity work, including sponsoring Brooklyn students in Eugene M. Lang’s “I Have a Dream” program, which provides college-education funding for children who agree to remain in school and earn a high school diploma. He was also a founder of the Dream Team, a program of the fund-raising arm of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, which fulfills wishes for adult cancer patients.

An inveterate sports fan — he was listening to the United States Open when he died, Ms. Anstead said — Mr. Guinzburg had a robust sense of humor and may be best known for engineering one of publishing’s most legendary stunts. On the occasion of Mr. Pynchon’s receiving the National Book Award, Mr. Guinzburg arranged for the comic actor Professor Irwin Corey to accept the award for the famously reclusive author. Mr. Corey’s speech, a lunatic and somewhat inspired ramble — he referred to Mr. Pynchon as Richard Python — was received with astonished guffaws, as he dealt mostly with American politics, though at one point he thanked Mr. Guinzburg, saying that he had “made it possible for you people to be here this evening to enjoy the Friction Citation.”

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Thomas Henry Guinzburg's Timeline

March 30, 1926
Manhattan, New York, New York County, New York, United States
September 8, 2010
Age 84
Manhattan, New York, New York County, New York, United States