Friday, May 26, 2006

Memoirs - Change of Heart

I commented too quickly on Lara Vapnyar's Memoirs of a Muse, which demonstrates why it is a crime for someone to write a review of a book before finishing it. Vapnyar's muse developed considerably and did experience a transformation. In fact, the novel ended so beautifully that I can recommend it. Maybe others will not be as annoyed by Dostoevsky's exploits with Polina in the secondary plot. I still wish that part was axed, but Vapnyar's final 40 pages or so deserves praise.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Memoirs and Muses

My affair with Steinbeck was short-lived, at least for now.

When I saw Esmeralda Santiago's The Turkish Lover in paperback at Borders, I had to buy it and begin reading immediately. I read the first part of her memoir: When I was Puerto Rican. I have Almost a Woman, which is part two, but haven't read it yet. The Turkish Lover, part three, is the one I had been simply intrigued by, I then forgot about it for awhile, but found it once again. It was a highly enjoyable read that covered Santiago's life through graduating from Harvard.

After The Turkish Lover, I picked up a new novel by Russian-born author Lara Vapnyar: Memoirs of a Muse. I guess I'm in the mood for stories about women in problematic relationships.

Although Memoirs of a Muse provides an enticing story that is often framed in beautiful language, it is difficult for me to deal with the focus of the muse's attention: New York writer Mark Schneider. It is hard to tell if the narrative is poking fun at the relationship or if there is something inherently anti-feminist at work. I guess I will find out soon. It is possible that the character will experience a transformation and leave behind muse work to create something of her own. Let's hope!

Another aspect of Memoirs that I find intrusive is an underlying historic second plot that involves Dostoevsky and his muse Polina. Whenever these two appear, I hope their stay is short, so I can get back to the much more interesting story concerning the modern day muse and her New York writer.

I was also happy to receive a new book to review on Friday for Library Journal: Strangers in the House: Life Stories by Dorothy Gallagher. So far this is turning out to be a rich collection of short, biographical stories.