How to pronounce Lara Vapnyar: Vap-nee-arh
Lara Vapnyar emigrated from Russia to New York in 1994 and began publishing short stories in English in 2002. She lives on Staten Island and is pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature at CUNY Graduate Center.
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Lara Vapnyar discusses her first novel, Memoirs of a Muse, about a Russian immigrant determined to become the muse of a famous artist.
The protagonist of Memoirs of a Muse is a young
Russian immigrant named Tanya. Raised by her single mother, a professor,
Tanya escapes the drudgery of post-Cold War Moscow life by reading about
Apollinaria Suslova, Dostoevsky's mistress and muse. Tanya romanticizes
that she too one day will become a muse like Suslova. After graduating from
college, she immigrates to New York, but unlike her relatives before her, who
try in more conventional ways to assimilate to American culture, she holds on to
her ambition to be "special," to become the muse to a great American writer.
American readers might be unfamiliar with an ambition like Tanya's, especially since the novel is set in present-day New York City where most women define success quite differently, and may initially misunderstand Tanya's idea of a muse as being intentionally subservient to the man or artist. How does Tanya define the role of muse? Would Tanya have wanted the same thing for herself in Russia? Does Tanya represent something larger about young immigrant ...
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