Glamour, Amour: A Grande Dame of Publishing Looks Back

As her husband wrote in his 1975 memoirs: “She’ll take most dares, go anywhere at a moment’s notice, do all the outrageous things which Geminians are famous for. … She’ll pick up a T-bone and gnaw it boldly, even in Lutèce; steal cookies while having tea with Paul Getty in his English mansion; hold and conclude a telephonic book auction while watching, through her office window, a luxury liner come sailing up the Hudson at sunset … and find time for a long Bal à Versailles-bubble-bath soak with the latest Cosmo in her hands. Henry the Eighth would have liked her.”

 

MS. TARG IS just as flirtatious and unpredictable today as her admirers say she was in her youth; stories pour out of her like water, and she leaps out of her chair without warning to pull this or that book or love letter from her shelves.

She has lived alone in her Greenwich Village penthouse apartment on 12th Street since her husband died in 1999, and though she doesn’t have many visitors—her husband was her best friend, and she never had children—the place is crowded with old friends. Two of the walls are lined with books from floor to ceiling—many first editions among them, including signed copies of The Godfather and Remembrance of Things Past—and others are covered with photographs of her and her husband lounging around with everyone from Norman Mailer to Allen Ginsberg. Something like 15 bottles of French and Italian perfume line the bathroom; a portrait of her drawn by Edward Gorey in honor of her birthday hangs by the door; and the hundreds of designer hats for which she is so famous sit in the bedroom. She doesn’t work as much or go out as often as she used to, but the rambunctious charm and magnetic daring that made her the darling of the international publishing world from the 1950’s onward are still very much with her.

“I had this French lover who said, ‘There’ll be a part of you, Roslyn, that’ll be 16 as long as you live,’” said Ms. Targ, drinking a glass of wine. “And he’s right!”