Lara Vapnyar, author of the prizewinning story collection There Are Jews in My House, brings us a poignant and comic first novel about a delightfully sincere modern-day muse. We meet Tanya as a typical Russian girl, living with her bookish professor mother in a drab Soviet apartment. As a teenager, Tanya becomes obsessed with Dostoevsky and settles on her lifes calling: she will be the companion to a great writer. Her memoirs tell of her immigration to New York after college, the stifling expectations of her Brighton Beach cousins, and the crucial moment in a bookshop on the Upper West Side, where Tanya attends a reading by Mark Schneider, a Significant New York Novelist.
Tanya soon moves in with Mark, ready to dazzle in bed, to serve and inspire . . . if only he would spend a little more time writing and a little less time at the gym, the shrink, and the literary soirees where she feels hopelessly unglamorous and out of place. But as she gradually learns to read Englishstruggling to better understand Marks work and her true role as MuseTanya also learns more than she expected about the destiny she has imagined for herself.
Animated by Vapnyars beguiling grace and vividness - with a narrative richness reflecting the great tradition of Russian realism to which she is a natural heir - Memoirs of a Muse is an altogether wonderful novel. It is a lively meditation on female capabilities and happiness, on the mysteries of artistic inspiration (and the absurdities of artistic life), and, perhaps most movingly, on the pain and wonder of the immigrant experience in New York City.
A good book but one that doesn't reach the high notes of Vapnya's earlier book of short stories, There Are Jews In My House. On the upside, the razor-sharp vignettes of Tatiana's Russian relatives living in the USA, and in fact all her character descriptions, are strong and often quietly amusing. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New York Times - Ken Kalfus
She's clearly a talented writer, possessed of ample humor and insight and a humane sensibility, but her own epic literary achievement lies somewhere in the future. By whatever mysterious means it comes - through love or sex, through spiritual possession or a sky-shredding bolt of divine lightning, through serendipity or painful, plodding work - she awaits her own strong draft of writerly inspiration.
The Miami Herald
Her first novel is unbalanced, with disappointing early chapters that drag with coming-of-age cliches.
San Francisco Chronicle
As much as Vapnyar skewers the would-be-great male novelist, she also turns her critical eye on the social climbing ambitions of Tanya's Russian relatives -- culture vultures who only want the best for Tanya as long as her best is no better than theirs -- and on Tanya herself.
The Boston Globe - Gail Caldwell Memoirs of a Muse is not driven by gorgeous prose or voice; it is, rather, a carefully wrought story full of generous intelligence that testifies to the essence of language: both to capture meaning and then convey it, whether the lusty reach of bodice-rippers or the bittersweet story of a girl on the sidewalks of a new New York, alone.
Memoirs would probably have worked more successfully as a short story.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Vapnyar has fashioned a knowing, irreverent, and toothsome ode to the imagination, a power that all too often leads us astray
Starred review. This is a wonderfully fresh portrait of the romantic imagination and its inevitable collision with reality
Russia to New
York in 1994 and
short stories in
English in 2002.
She lives on
and is pursuing
a Ph.D. in
Memoirs of a
studies. One of
her options for
a PhD project
was to translate
an important but
and she chose
A Stranger and
A romp through the late 19th century chronicling the adventures - sexual and otherwise - of its beautiful heroine, Famke, from her childhood in a Copenhagen orphanage to her strange adventures in the American Wild West.
These are 2 of the 8 readalike suggestions for Memoirs of a Muse. Members have full access to all readalikes. If you are a member, please login. To find out more about membership, click here.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...