“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.” 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, and the author and I 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.

Daring the Elements for a Cold Bike Ride on New Year’s Eve

Because of the extremely cold weather over this holiday break, I haven’t been able to be on my bike since last Tuesday; under other circumstances, I would’ve ridden nearly every day. Today—Sunday, New Year’s Eve day—I finally put on my quilted pants; added several upper layers to my torso; stretched my navy-blue balaclava over my head and face; zipped up my down parka; and ventured in to Riverside Park on my old Trek cycle. It’s 16˚ outside, and my hands—in full gloves on the handlebar grips— were deeply cold and hurting in 10-12 minutes. By then, I was pedaling northward in to the wind on the Cherry Walk alongside the Hudson River, and though The Great Gray Bridge beckoned in upper Manhattan, I circled back south. Again, I’d have usually taken some photographs, but today, wincing with hand pain, I was just relieved that I hadn’t gotten far from home when I turned around, after barely a fifth of a standard bike ride. I dismounted momentarily to take this frigid selfie, and am back indoors now, thinking with concern about people who have nowhere “indoors” to go, and all manner of creatures who, warm- or cold-blooded, are assigned by nature and evolution the task of trying to endure despite elements that work against their survival.

In that vein, during the years I had my dear black Lab Noah, I wrote a poem titled “Creature Comforts,” which I’ve photographed and pasted in  below, along with a picture of me and Noah. I was then in school at Franconia College, where temps of 35˚ below zero were known to happen, and I thought a lot in those days about how creatures survived, or didn’t, in the wild.

Since I wasn’t able to take anywhere my usual allotment pictures on this last day of 2017, I’m gonna share a substantial gallery of bike ride photos taken during the year that ends this day, such as this handful.

Happy New Year, may 2018 be be an improvement on 2017!

A Heartwarming Tale of Two Very Companionable Horses

I adored this Washington Post story published in their sports section on Christmas Day all about two retired race horses, their affinity for each other, and the apparent joy they derived from the company and proximity of the other, even living in the same stall for a time. I’ve screen-shot the first three paragraphs, and highly recommend you read Chuck Culpepper’s whole story linked to here, which has many surprising twists and turns before you reach the conclusion. 

By a happy coincidence, I have an author/photographer client on the literary agency side of my business who’s doing a book about equine therapy and its benefits for people, to be titled How Horses Help Us Heal, which I am hopeful we will place with a publisher in the new year. This is part of the pitch letter I’ll be sending to editors at publishing houses:

For Karen Tweedy-Holmes’ earlier book, Horse Sanctuary (Rizzoli, 2013), which had a foreword by Temple Grandin, she photographed horses at thirteen equine rescue facilities all over the USA, while also interviewing people who work with the rescued animals. It has wonderful reviews on Amazon and the single printing of the pricey hardcover sold out. In creating that book she discovered that many rescued horses are having renewed lives at equine therapy facilities, where people with vexing physical and mental health conditions find benefit and improvement in being around horses—grooming them, exercising with them, feeding them, sometimes riding them, or walking with them on a light lead. 

Tweedy-Holmes also learned that some of the most sensitive and healing horses are animals that have themselves endured neglect and abandonment and then been rescued, much like the people who often find such great solace in connecting with them. These relationships lead to extremely tight bonds among the horses, the patients, and the skilled therapist facilitators who help direct the interactions, all reflected in her extraordinary photographs and writing. 

Now, Tweedy-Holmes has embarked on How Horses Help us Heal, a wide-ranging overview of more than a dozen equine therapy facilities that treat US military veterans with PTSD; children with learning problems; couples in therapy together; anxiety-plagued teenagers, substance abuse patients, etc.  Tweedy-Holmes intends to focus on the stories of individual horses, adding their stories in to the chapters about patients and caregivers at each therapy center. 

Judging from the story of these two companionable horses and their close bonds, it seems fair to say horses are also very capable of healing each other.