The Woman Who Published Woody Allen’s New Memoir

An interview with Jeanette Seaver of Arcade Publishing

In the days before the Coronavirus crisis, the news broke that Grand Central Publishing pulled Allen’s memoir, Apropos Of Nothing, after junior employees, following Ronan Farrow’s lead, had protested the book by walking out of work. That was it, we figured. They had canceled Woody Allen.

So like everyone else, I was surprised to wake up Monday morning to find out that someone had published Woody Allen’s book after all. How did this happen so quickly? Who took the risk? And why the hell would they do it in the midst of the biggest global public-health emergency in modern history?

The answer, as it turns out, is Jeanette Seaver of Arcade Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster.

For many years, Jeanette Seaver, who is French, co-ran Arcade with her American husband. Richard Seaver worked for several American publishing houses, and was instrumental in fighting against the censorship of authors such as Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, the Marquis de Sade, and many more. He died of a heart attack in 2009, his victories against the censorial forces in America won. Or so he thought. It’s only natural that his widow has picked up the baton.

We spoke to her from her home in New York, where she’s self-isolated along with everyone else.

Woody Allen
Jeanette Seaver, the woman who published the new Woody Allen memoir. Photo credit: Jerry Korten.

Why did you decide to publish Woody Allen’s book?

The minute I read that Grand Central dropped the book, my flag went up. I admire Woody Allen. He’s a great artist. And I was appalled to imagine that a solid, good reputation house such as Grand Central would be dropping such an important author. I realized that Grand Central dropped the book because there were protests in front of their office. They were being intimidated…it was surprising to say the least. It was unacceptable. You have to stand for freedom of speech. 

How did you get in touch with him?

That’s my own recipe, which I won’t reveal because it’s private. But I moved heaven and earth until I talked to him. I will say I started pursuing with vigor. And I didn’t stop until I got the book. I started on Thursday afternoon and by Sunday afternoon I was at Woody’s apartment and he was signing the contract. 

Was there any competition?

I have no idea. I went completely solo on my horse in the field to get the book. There might have been other people, but I was clearly the only one who he said yes to. There might have been others, but I jumped immediately, but my enthusiasm was a message to Woody I suppose. I would have loved to publish the book to begin with.

Did you meet with Woody Allen in person? What was that like?

I met when he signed the book that Sunday. But I also come with a certain pedigree. My husband and I have been on the cultural barricades for decades fighting for the abolition of censorship. I’m alone now because I’m a widow. But I’m still raising the flag of no censorship and freedom of speech. That interested Woody, and I’m French, and he knows that the French just love him. He’s a big hero in France.

What was it like hurriedly publishing in the midst of a global health emergency? Did you have to order a new print run? Did you struggle to find distribution channels? Did you run into any unexpected road blocks? Was the original publisher willing to turn over the manuscript?

We are currently being distributed by Simon & Schuster. The decision to go ahead with publication was very tricky. In this time it seems to not be a very good idea. But all of us wanted to have the book out and hope for the best. My colleagues in Europe are postponing until later down the road. The problem here now is that bookstores are closed. We’re selling it through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Ingram. Ebooks and hard copies are available. But ebooks will be easier probably.

What has the response to the book been like so far?

I haven’t checked in the past half hour, but it’s doing OK. It’s a wonderful book. All you need to do is read the book, and you’ll understand everything. He’s very humble, he’s self-deprecating. It’s very entertaining, it’s very fun to read. And then you get a sense of the famous case that he’s in. Read the book, it’s all there.

What do you think the case of this book portends for the future of American publishing? Is it going to usher in a new era of censorship?

There will always be a publisher that gets scared, that decides to drop a book. But there will always be people like myself who get up and wave the flag and have the courage to publish a book that other people have complicated. Great artists deserve to be heard.

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Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 11 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. He's written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

6 thoughts on “The Woman Who Published Woody Allen’s New Memoir

  • March 24, 2020 at 6:00 pm
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    Brava Jeanette, thank you for taking a stand and publishing Allen’s memoir!
    Many of us can’t wait to read it!
    I’m waiting for my Amazon hard cover copy which I ordered yesterday.

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  • March 25, 2020 at 8:51 am
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    This will be the best book of the year! Can’t wait to read it. Woody is my hero. 
    I’m a huge Woody Allen fan. Woody’s films make life better. He’s the greatest artist, and the coolest. Woody has been a victim of a false accusation (an accusation that back in 1992 was throughly investigated by 2 teams of experts that arrived to the same conclusion: Woody was innocent), but, since the world is upside down, Woody’s art suffered too the lynching of the mob, the ignorant, and the stupid. This false accusation was re-opened in 2018 and followed a shower of McCarthyism and surrealist censorship of Woody’s art. So, in 2018, me and millions of other Woody Allen fans around the world were robbed of the pleasure of watching our yearly Woody Allen film. Some weeks ago Hachette (who was going to publish Woody’s memoir) showed a huge degree of cowardice and unprofessionalism and stepped back. Now, finally, Arcade has the honor of being Woody’s publisher. About Woody’s memoir, Arcade writes: “The book is a candid and comprehensive personal account by Woody Allen of his life, ranging from his childhood in Brooklyn through his acclaimed career in film, theater, television, print and standup comedy, as well as exploring his relationships with family and friends.” Well, I can’t wait to read it! Woody is one of the greatest writers in the world, so this book will be amazing. Thanks, Woody. Thanks, Arcade. We love, support and admire Woody Allen. With gratitude and admiration from Spain / Antonia

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  • March 25, 2020 at 11:22 pm
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    I agree Antonia. I can’t wait to read it. Loved his earlier, and very funny, books. And I hate the censorship of the mob.

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  • March 26, 2020 at 2:29 pm
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    I have it on order on Amazon. I’m looking at your other books as well … the notion of censorship and political correctness is so antithetical to everything I believe in, I am so encouraged, relieved to know there are publishers out there who are willing to do what they do – publish books – in the face of facebook pressure and twitter condemnation. Per Lillian Hellman: “I Cannot and Will Not Cut My Conscience to Fit This Year’s Fashions.” Woody Allen is an artist for the ages, so glad Arcade has published his book.

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  • March 26, 2020 at 8:07 pm
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    It’s a wonderful book. Got the hardcover ordered, but also got the eBook the first day and read it immediately. It’s laugh out loud funny with some classic Woody prose, but it’s also self-deprecating, frank and honest, repetitious when it needs to be and it needs to be to drum some common sense into people’s whose heads are made of brick, and endearing. He’s so complimentary to even those who betrayed him a couple of years ago, those self-serving actors who said they’d never work with him again – shame on them – one of them even admitted to his sister that he joined the pile-on so his chances at an Oscar wouldn’t be harmed. Really? Thank goodness a person of courage stepped up to the plate and I hope sales are brisk and I even hope that some hard-heads might at least see the easy-to-understand logic regarding the “issue.”

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  • March 26, 2020 at 8:22 pm
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    This is great. I hope it sells well. Not only I’m a huge fan of Allen,but I am vehemently opposed to censorship. Especially since he’s 100% innocent. But even if he wasn’t, serial killers in prison write books and get them published. I hope hatchete closes down,and all that protested, plus ronan farrow get sued.

    Btw, to the author, what does semi-bestseller mean?

    Reply

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