Penguin picks up progeny’s tale

'Before You Sleep' marks Ullmann debut

There may not have been cries and whispers exactly, but there was definitely murmuring in New York publishing circles this week around the submission of first novel “Before You Sleep,” written by 31-year-old Linn Ullmann.

Ullmann is the only child of actress Liv Ullmann and director Ingmar Bergman, who collaborated on such classic films as “Persona,” “Cries and Whispers,” and “Autumn Sonata.”

Meanwhile, Scribner has picked up a novel by author Joseph Heller’s son, Ted.

U.S. rights

On behalf of Norwegian publisher Tiden Norsk Forlag, which will publish Ullmann’s novel in November, agent Andrew Wylie concluded Tuesday a U.S. sale of the book to Penguin Putnam editor Julie Grau, who acquired it for Penguin Putnam’s literary Viking imprint.

Wylie will now bring the book to the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair for further foreign-rights deals.

Wylie would only provide the string of superlatives “fast, literary, passionate, hip, funny” to describe the novel, but publishing insiders who received a segment of the book’s English translation along with an early copy of the Norwegian edition describe it as a family story and say it’s by a modern-day Norwegian-based protagonist with flashbacks about her mother’s life in New York prior to World War II. “It’s definitely Bergmanesque … it’s a pretty elliptical tale of family life,” one said.

Liv ‘Letter’

Liv Ullmann, a bestselling author in her own right with her autobiography “Changing,” published by Knopf in 1977, will also have a book out this fall: It is “Letter to My Grandchild,” a collection of 30 letters written by such figures as Barbara Bush, the Dalai Lama and Doris Lessing, along with a space for grandparents to create a personal letter to their grandchild. Proceeds of the book will benefit the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, an arm of the International Rescue Committee, of which Ullmann is honorary chairwoman. A letter from Ullmann to her grandchild is also included in the text.

Cubicle chronicle

And another publishing deal for progeny has been concluded: “Slab Rats,” the shopped novel about the magazine world by Ted Heller, son of Joseph Heller (Daily Variety, Sept. 18), has been acquired by Scribner senior Jake Morrissey in a North American rights deal said to be in the low six figures. Title comes from Ted Heller’s term for those who toil in cubicle life. “It’s terrific: acerbic, sly and funny all at once,” Morrissey said. “It works as a story regardless of the fingerpointing” about who Heller, a magazine vet, may have based his characters.

Heller was repped by agent Chuck Verrill. Publication is tentatively set for fall 1999.

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