In another major pre-Frankfurt Book Fair sale, Marysue Rucci at Simon & Schuster paid a rumored seven figures for a memoir by playwright Sarah Ruhl (The Clean House) called Smile. The book, sold by William Morris Endeavor’s Dorian Karchmar, chronicles the author’s contraction of Bell’s palsy and the aftermath of living with the disease.
Ruhl, whose stage productions have won her a number of honors—she’s been a Pulitzer finalist and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship—contracted Bell’s palsy nine years ago. The condition causes facial paralysis and, according to a pitch letter for the book, which PW obtained, it is described as both a meditation on illness and societal constructions of female beauty.
The pitch compares the title to memoirs like Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts and novels like Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, S&S said the book is, partially, “an illness narrative” while also being an examination of “the nature of femininity and smiling.”
Ruhl, who had a young daughter and was pregnant with twins when she found out she had Bell’s palsy, writes about, the letter elaborated, how she dealt with adversity during an otherwise “abundant time.” Ultimately, the letter noted, the memoir grapples with “how Ruhl learned to make her way, when her body stopped obeying her heart.”
S&S, when reached for comment, declined to discuss the deal.