January 17th, 2015
January 17th, 2015
Gallivanting to galleries with Kyle on a Friday night in Brooklyn. First went to Janet Kurnatowski’s gallery in Greenpoint for group show called Paperazzi w/a Wonder Wheel drawing variation of Kyle’s. Lots of great works on paper. Enjoyed chatting with David Ambrose whose mosaic-like painting mesmerizes. Then to spacious Life on Mars in Bushwick for show of lush paintings by Fran O’Neill w/work by Ben Pritchard in project room. Enjoyed the genial vibe in the busy borough.
January 12th, 2015
Browsing the BN Review recently I was delighted to discover that one of the most engrossing novels I ever edited and published—The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge—has been reissued and is being made in to a major movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who recently directed “Birdman.” The novel, by Michael Punke, was published in 2002, when I was an editorial executive at Carroll & Graf. It’s inspired by the epic life and adventures of a historical figure, Hugh Glass. He was a frontiersman and fur trapper who in 1823 was part of a westward expedition spanning what is today Nebraska, the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming. While foraging for game, away from the troop, Glass was attacked and severely mauled by a grizzly bear. Grievously wounded and bleeding, with the skin on his back nearly flayed off his torso, Glass was still conscious when his comrades found him. Believing that Glass would surely die soon, the leader of the troop ordered two men to stay with him until he expired, then bury him and catch up to the group. In the midst of this death watch, a band of Indians approached the camp, panicking the two men: they grabbed Glass’s rifle and hunting knife and fled. Deserted, defenseless, and enraged at being abandoned, Glass refuses to succumb to his wounds; he survives, determined to recover his weapons, vowing revenge on the men who left him to die. The novel is beautifully written and reads like a timeless adventure story. Talk about a film adaptation of the novel began years ago, and I’m delighted to see now it’s really happening, and with such a high profile team. Hugh Glass did inspire one earlier film, in 1971, when actor Richard Harris was cast as the Glass figure in “Man in the Wilderness,” a rather lurid and unexceptional movie. Punke’s telling of this epic saga, with Glass crawling and dragging himself across wild terrain until he was again able to walk, has all the elements for a great movie and I’m hopeful that is what the production will lead to.
Punke’s agent Tina Bennett submitted the manuscript to me soon after 9/11, an event and aftermath that I was close to, as the offices of Carroll & Graf and Avalon Publishing Group were only a few blocks from the World Trade Center. As I chronicled on this blog on Sept 11, 2012, in a post titled Remembering 9/11/01—Running Through a Dust Cloud in Lower Manhattan, the exertions of that day left me with nagging leg injuries that persisted for most of the year that followed. In fact, when I attended the book launch for The Revenant, held in Washington, DC, in the summer of 2002, I took the train from NYC using a cane to help me walk on a still-tender ankle.
Though novels don’t often have subtitles or reading lines, I suggested to the author that we use one here. We had quite an evocative title, though the word ‘revenant’ (a being that returns from the dead) was not then and still isn’t a widely familiar term. Glass’s odyssey seeking revenge and justice resonated powerfully with the spirit of the time, so “A Novel of Revenge” seemed the right way to position the book for readers. The publisher reissuing the book now is Picador, part of Macmillan, and I’m glad to see in online listings they’ve chosen to retain the reading line. Interestingly, they’ve reissued the novel in hardcover, not paperback, a somewhat unusual choice for a book published more than a decade ago, though perhaps a sign of the publisher’s confidence in its continuing relevance.
Michael Punke has written two nonfiction books in the years since 2002, both in Western history, Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917 and Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West. The book launch for The Revenant was in DC because Punke worked for a law firm there. Among the hosts at the party was a mentor and colleague to Punke, Mickey Kantor, a lawyer involved in international trade who’d served as chair of the Clinton campaign for president in 1992. Punke now works as President Obama’s Deputy United States Trade Representative and US Ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. According to this article in Maxim, his ability to engage in promoting his books is very limited by his sensitive position in the federal government. I’m very glad to know that Michael Punke’s first book is coming back in to print, and that a movie is in the works. We have been in touch occasionally over the past decade, and I’m pleased that I have so much good news to congratulate him about when we’re next in touch. Below are shots of the front and back cover of the paperback edition of The Revenant from 2003.
January 9th, 2015
January 2nd, 2015
A motto I find useful to live by, on New Year’s Day, and most days: “Stay neutral, lean positive.”
And since I’m quoting myself, here are a couple more coinages of my own:
“Being an editor allows me to express my latent religiosity, since I spend so much time praying for my books.”
“Publishing companies have long been known as ‘houses’ because they (are supposed to) offer hospitality to writers.”
And a Yiddish proverb I found years ago in W.H. Auden’s marvelous A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, a personal anthology of favorite lines and wise quotations the English poet gathered over his lifetime of reading and writing, published in 1970. I treasure my old copy.
“If the rich could hire other people to die for them, the poor could make a comfortable living.”
December 22nd, 2014
Lebron James ‘s 10-year son, known as Bronny, is already a skilled basketball player. Catch what he does on the court against kids his own age in this 2-minute video.
December 17th, 2014
A fussy and censorious reader objected to the use of hyphenated words in High Moor II: Moonstruck, a novel for sale on Amazon written by UK author Graeme Reynolds. Amazon, which likes to trumpet how customer-focused they are, jumped at the complaint and ran a spell check on the book. Finding more than 100 hyphenated words in the 90,000 word ms, which they apparently found excessive, they instructed Reynolds to re-edit the Kindle edition of the book, lest it be removed from sale. Not surprisingly, Reynolds was gobsmacked at the absurdity of the situation. He blogged about it in a post titled Hyphen Hate: When Amazon Went to War Against Punctuation (screenshot at left). The book was indeed removed from sale, and the post drew more than 300,000 readers to his site. Amazon evidently thought better of their decision—or didn’t want more negative publicity—and they reinstated Reynolds’ novel. Via this link you can listen to an interview with the author on CBC’s As it Happens, and ponder Amazon’s ridiculous policies.
December 14th, 2014
Readers of this blog may recall I’ve posted occasionally about The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure, a new anthology I sold to Pegasus Books as literary agent. The last time I wrote about it, Oct 10, it had just received two excellent pre-publication reviews, from Publishers Weekly and AuthorLink. Now the book is out and available in bookstores and it continues to draw praise, the latest coming from Michael Dirda, a critic whose literary recommendations I’ve enjoyed for many years. Offering his annual roundup of gift books for the holidays, Dirda tendered this brief encomium:
The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure (Pegasus, $24.95), selected and edited by Lawrence Ellsworth. Captain Blood, Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Brigadier Gerard, Robin Hood; stories with titles such as “Pirate’s Gold” and “The Queen’s Rose”—this is just the gift for, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s words, “the boy who’s half a man, OR the man who’s half a boy.”
In the early 2000s, Dirda moderated a weekly online chat on washingtonpost.com in which he consistently offered erudite yet accessible book chat. I rarely missed one of them, and would often print out the whole chat to keep as a reference. In that forum, Dirda distinguished himself as the least snobbish of critics. No matter what readers might throw at him—whether asking about James Joyce, John Milton, or nearly forgotten authors of genre fiction—he always made smart and generous comments. He’s also an author, with several books to his name, two of which I’ve enjoyed (pictured below). It’s fun to have a book be included in Michael Dirda’s gift suggestions, so if you’re looking for a book for a certain kind of reader, someone who relishes pirate lore, swordplay, movies like “Captain Blood,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” and “Zorro,” the seafaring novels of Patrick O’Brian, and the Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser, The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure is sure to strike the right chord. You can buy it via this Amazon link, where it is currently riding high as their #1 bestseller among anthologies of historical fiction.
Publishing Consultant, Curator & Writer at The Great Gray Bridge & Honourary CanadianCurator, writer, editor, blogger—amplifying my enthusiasms for many audiences.
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