Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Birthday Patrick O'Brian!

Today would have been the author's 98th birthday.  His acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).

What most people today forget is that the series for which O'Brian became so famous was first published in the US in the fall of 1990, and weren't initially popular.  In fact, the books barely made it to publication:

“Starling Lawrence, an editor at W. W. Norton in New York, first heard about the Irish novelist Patrick O’Brian in 1986. Lawrence was having a friendly drink with a literary-minded cousin when he unexpectedly found himself the target of a belligerent tirade. ‘How can you call yourself a publisher?’ his cousin demanded. ‘Here is this genius Patrick O’Brian and you’re not publishing him. Nobody in the United States is.’”

Keep reading: Patrick O’Brian’s Ship Comes In, New York Times, May 16, 1993.

Happy Birthday, sir!


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