Update on Carl Rollyson’s “The Last Days of Sylvia Plath”

Readers of this blog may recall that in January I posted about a new book I’d sold as literary agent, The Last Days of Sylvia Plath by Carl Rollyson. That post announced a deal I made for the volume rights with the University Press of Mississippi. Today I’m announcing that the author and I have also sold audio book rights to Blackstone Audio, to be published at the same time as the UPM book.

In 2013, Rollyson published American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath, a full biography that chronicled Plath’s whole life, ending though it did even before her 31st birthday; in contrast, the new book will be a concise narrative covering just the last four months leading up to the poet’s suicide in 1963. From the sample material we’ve shared with both publishers, it’s fair to say Rollyon’s new book will incorporate some elements reminiscent of what’s known in newspaper writing as a tick-tock—a time- or date-driven narrative that propels the reader forward in to the daily life of its subject.

The book will also examine the role of Ted Hughes in the end of his estranged wife’s life, and the subject of manic depressive illness. With Rollyson knowing the Plath world well, the narrative will be informed by his knowledge of key source materials, some of which no earlier books will have benefited from. I’m sure it will be engrossing in whatever format readers find it, print, digital, or audio.

Broadway Restaurant, a NYC institution on the Rebound

Happy to see one of the metal shutters raised at the stalwart Upper West Side diner, Broadway Restaurant, with renovations now underway on its fire-damaged interior. The fire happened sometime during New Year’s week, and both shutters have been down ever since. In January, a neighboring merchant told me he’d heard that the owners plan to renovate and reopen, and I’ve been happy recently to see signs of activity. The establishment dates back to the early 1970s at a time when Greek-style coffee shops were common in NYC, though they have become much more scarce over the years. It has been my go-to place to meet clients for breakfast or lunch in the neighborhood. The veteran staff, Chris, Angelo, and Tony, have become friends, along with others who work there, and I’m hoping to see them all again sometime in the Spring.

In case you wonder about the location, here’s some info. They have great reviews on Yelp:

Broadway Restaurant
2664 Broadway
New York, NY 10025
b/t 101st St & 102nd St

“A rip-snorting new translation of ‘The Three Musketeers'”—Wall St Journal

I’m delighted to see a superb review in this weekend’s Wall St. Journal of my agency client Lawrence Ellsworth’s new translation of Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. It appears in the print paper under the headlines “Less than Perfect Heroes,” and to the left in a scanned mock-up of the review  Here are some of the choicest bits:

“A rip-snorting new translation of ‘The Three Musketeers’ by the American Lawrence Ellsworth captures all the excitement and flair of Dumas’s great historical adventure that spawned several sequels and numerous films, TV series and cartoons….

Mr. Ellsworth does a wonderful job of communicating the energy, humor and warmth of Dumas’s work. This was not always the case with the translations of the 1840s and 1850s—still the ones most likely to be found in American bookstores and libraries—which mimic the rather stiff, elevated diction of writers like Scott and James Fenimore Cooper. Mr. Ellsworth’s snappier approach, which included putting back all the racier scenes elided from the Victorian translations, suits Dumas much better.

It also helps to put an end to the lie, persistent in the English-speaking world, that Dumas’s brand of popular fiction does not deserve the same attention as more ‘serious’ works. It was not something that Robert Louis Stevenson, who knew a thing or two about writing romantic adventures, would have ever subscribed to. ‘I do not say there is no character as well-drawn in Shakespeare,’ he wrote of d’Artagnan. ‘I do say there is none that I love so wholly.’”

This first new English-language edition of The Three Musketeers to come out in many years book is published by Pegasus Books, and is listed here on their website, with click-thru options to buy it if you wish. Their handsome hardcover edition—priced well at $26.95 for a volume that’s close to 800 pages—includes an Introduction, Dramatis Personae: Historical Characters, and Notes on the Text assembled by translator Ellsworth, who also selected period illustrations by Maurice Leloir for the title page spread and chapter openers. It is also available in all ebook formats. Ellsworth is the translator of Book II in Dumas’s Musketeers Cycle, The Red Sphinx, and editor of the anthology, The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure, both from Pegasus Books.

Sold: Music Critic Nate Patrin’s Forthcoming “BRING THAT BEAT BACK: How Sampling Built Hip-Hop”

Nate Patrin’s new book will explore many aspects of the growth and development of hip-hop, especially how sampling began in an analog world, with recording tape being cut, spliced, and matched with new sounds, then in later years evolving in to the digital production environment the music thrives in today. Patrin is a St Paul, MN native who’s written for Stereogum, Pitchfork, and City Pages. This book, his first, will be published on the superb music list of the University of Minnesota Press, which features such outstanding titles as Out of the Vinyl Deeps, the collected music criticism of Ellen Willis, awarded the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Prize, and Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Joe Jones, as told to Albert Murray, edited by Paul Devlin, afterword by Phil Schaap. Patrin’s book is scheduled for publication in 2020. 

Sold: “The Last Days of Sylvia Plath,” Important New Book on the Great Female Poet

Last May I mentioned on this blog that as literary agent I was developing a book project with an author client who would be writing an important new book on Sylvia Plath. I’m happy to announce that that proposed book is now under contract with a publisher. The author and I are very excited about the arrangement we’ve made. The book will be titled The Last Days of Sylvia Plath, and the author is prolific biographer Carl Rollyson. We’ve sold it to the University Press of Mississippi. In a concise narrative, Rollyson will chronicle the last four months of the poet’s life, drawing on hitherto unexamined sources, including the archive of Harriet Rosenstein, a controversial figure who in the 1970s undertook a biography of Plath that she never completed or published. Rollyson’s book will be an imperative study apt to re-shape the way readers view the end of the poet’s tragically abbreviated life. I posted an announcement of the deal earlier today at publishersmarket[dot]com (listing below). The manuscript will be delivered to the publisher in early 2019.

Previewing “Our Woman in Havana” by Ambassador Vicki Huddleston

I’m excited to share the final cover, flap copy, and back ad for my agency client Ambassador Vicki Huddleston’s Our Woman in Havana, coming out in March from Overlook Press, with a Foreword by former Secretary of Commerce during the second term of President George W Bush, Cuban-born Carlos Gutierrez. Publication will arrive a few weeks ahead of Raúl Castro’s scheduled retirement from the Cuban presidency in April, the first time in more than sixty years that someone not named Castro will be Cuba’s leader, a propitious moment for the book.

Amb Huddleston was the senior US official in Cuba from 1999-2002, and in this exhilarating memoir recounts the Elián Gonzalez custody saga from the perspective she had of it on the ground in Havana. She also chronicles many face-to-face encounters she had with Fidel Castro, who with his machismo was always eager for an opportunity to embarrass or berate this American woman representing his sworn foe. The perspective of a female diplomat at work for her country is an atypical one, Madeleine Albright’s 2013 memoir Madame Secretary  notwithstanding. Co-author of a 2007 Brooking Institution report that was a blueprint for the Obama administration’s normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba, Huddleston writes about the unfortunate reversal of the Obama opening under the Trump administration, and her regret that the hardline policy may well drive Cuba in to the arms of Russia, China, or possibly even North Korea. She had a Letter to the Editor on this topic published in the NY Times last summer. At this time when the US State Dept is suffering an unprecedented exodus from the ranks of the foreign service, Huddleston will also speak on her book tour about what’s at stake when America sends its diplomats abroad, and the impact when we retreat from full engagement with the world.

Among the blurbs on the back cover is this one:

As someone who has lived most of my life in Miami, and who has seen the effect of US policy toward Cuba up close and very personal, I found Our Woman in Havana to be a remarkable inside account of the real news that was behind the headlines I’ve followed for years. As a bookseller, I know this book will be enthusiastically embraced by my customers and I look forward to offering it to them.” —Mitchell Kaplan, founder of the south Florida independent bookstore chain Books & Books

If you’re a bookseller or reviewer reading this post, and would like an advance copy, please let me know.

From the Human Gasometer to Madam Lula on a Favorite Circus Poster

Some years ago during a visit to Scotland, I visited the West Highland town of Gairloch, and its excellent Heritage Museum, where I saw this great old circus poster on display, promoting a circus that was some years earlier performing in the nearby town of Poolewe. Recently, I came upon my photographic print of the poster and scanned it to publish on this blog, where in years past I’ve published other posts on circus topics, like this one titled “Life is a Carnival.”

I love the way posters like this vary the size, spacing, color, and fonts to bill each act and performer in distinctive way. I’ve typed it out so readers of this post could easily read the colorful copy the promoter wrote back in the day. There was no year on the poster, so I’m left to imagine that the circus might have active sometime in the first third of the twentieth century.