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John F. Baker -- 1/8/01

First Buy for New WSP Head | Norton Wins Shakespeare Auction
Fast Science Title for Perseus | Borge Book on Offer | Short Takes

First Buy for New WSP Head
Rosemary Ahern
is the new director of Washington Square Press at Simon & Schuster, and her first acquisition in that role is a two-book deal for an author she first published when she was an editor at Plume 10 years ago. The author is Laura Shaine Cunningham, and the book then was the widely acclaimed memoir Sleeping Arrangements. The author went on to publish a sequel, A Place in the Country, with Riverhead last year. The new deal is for two novels, for which Ahern bought North American and first serial rights from Molly Friedrich at the Aaron Priest agency. The first is called Beautiful Bodies,described as a comedy of manners about six New York women friends whose lives are all changed by the unexpected pregnancy of one of them. It will appear as a Pocket Books hardcover in early 2003, followed a year later by a WSP trade paper reprint. The second novel is as yet untitled and unscheduled.

Norton Wins Shakespeare Auction

Greenblatt: A new
look at the Bard.
An auction involving at least a dozen publishers for yet another book about Shakespeare seems an unlikely occurrence, but that's what happened recently. What made it not quite so surprising is that the author in question was Stephen Greenblatt, a noted Shakespeare scholar, who has published a number of magazine and newspaper articles and was an adviser on the hit movie Shakespeare in Love. What he proposed was a book--won by Norton's Alane Salierno Mason--that reconstructs the p t's life and personality from a close reading of his work. It will be called Will in the World, and will be Greenblatt's first book for a trade readership, after a scholarly record of nine books published and 10 edited (including The Norton Shakespeare). The North American rights sale was made by Jill Kneerim at the Palmer & Dodge agency. Mason said the book will make Shakespeare "hugely accessible and unintimidating," and that it will become a bestseller as well as a key work on the p t/playwright. She expects to publish in 2003.

Fast Science Title for PerseusA book contending that light traveled faster in the early days of the universe than it d s now--which, despite the fact that it contradicts Einstein's theories, would account for many otherwise inexplicable cosmological problems--was snapped up at auction for a significant six figures by senior editor Amanda Cook at Perseus. It's called Faster Than the Speed of Light, and is the work of a young theoretical physicist, Joao Magueijo, at Imperial College in London. The book will tell how Magueijo developed his theory and fought for its acceptance, a struggle that continues even as he researches and writes the book. Cook's bid for world rights, to agent Susan Rabiner, beat out several other major houses with notable science lists. The house's rights director, Carolyn Savarese,has already placed U.K. rights with the Heinemann imprint of Random House, and other foreign buys are expected imminently.

Borge Book on OfferA book of pictures of the celebrated Danish-born musical comedian Victor Borge, taken in the last years of his life and irrepressible career, has just been published in his native Denmark, where his publisher, Lars Ringhof at Aschehoug, hopes to find an interested U.S. publisher. The book, with an introduction available in English, features the work of a young photographer, Tine Harden, who befriended Borge in his closing years and followed him on his show-biz rounds. The comic was promoting the book in Denmark to enthusiastic crowds only days before his death, just before Christmas at his home in Connecticut. Ringhof can be reached by email at, or phone (45) 33 30 58 70.

Short Takes

How to be happy.
Janet Hill at Doubleday paid six figures to ICM agent Amanda Urban for a biography of the antislavery leader Harriet Tubman--said to be the first full-scale bio for an adult readership, though she has often been written about for the kids' and YA group; Beverly Lowry will be the author.... Editor Cindy Egan at Little, Brown's children's books department has purchased a trilogy of lighthearted YA books about a vampire by British author Darren Shan from British agent Christopher Little; the first, Cirque du Freak, will appear in April, with a large (150,000) first printing, to be followed by other volumes next fall and spring 2002. The books have already been bought for a Warner Bros. movie....A new book by Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism (Knopf) has just been bought by Free Press editor Philip Rappaport from agent Richard Pine at the Arthur Pine agency; it is Positive Psychology: The New Science of Happiness,and Rappaport bought hard/soft North American and audio, for publication in fall 2002.