James Silberman, a revered book editor whose meticulousness, intuition and patience helped propel the publishing careers of a distinguished roster of authors, including James Baldwin, Marilyn French, Hunter S. Thompson and Alvin Toffler, died on July 26 at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.
His son, Michael, said the cause was complications of a stroke.
Mr. Silberman was “a man who knows how to edit a manuscript, to read a manuscript and to publish a manuscript,” another of his authors, Elie Wiesel, told The New York Times in 1991.
Mr. Silberman’s career path was serendipitous. A government major at Harvard, he enrolled in the Radcliffe Publishing Course (now the Columbia Publishing Course) after graduating in 1950, then got hired in the shipping department of The Writer, which, he recalled in an oral history, was in the business of “selling a magazine to aspiring writers, telling them how to become rich and famous.”
He found an advertising job at Little, Brown & Company, then became a publicist for the Dial Press in New York in 1953. When the company’s sole editor left to have her second child, he was promoted to replace her and assumed the title that would define his vocation.
After Alfred A. Knopf, James Baldwin’s first publisher, rejected “Giovanni’s Room” because they felt its gay white characters might alienate Mr. Baldwin’s Black audience, Mr. Silberman scooped it up for Dial. He went on to edit Mr. Baldwin’s “Another Country” and “The Fire Next Time.”
In 1963, Mr. Silberman was lured to Random House as senior editor by Bennett Cerf, the company’s co-founder, who