Monthly Archives: November 2007

Memoirs of a Muse, by Lara Vapnyar

Memoirs of a Muse, by Lara Vapnyar…I give it Four Stars.

Memoirs of a Muse is a tale of a Russian woman named Tanya, who has dreams of becoming a muse to a famous author. She is obsessed with the life of, and the writings of, Dostoevsky, and with the women in his life, fantasizing on them.

The novel is based on Tanya’s memoirs, and details how she immigrated to New York, and eventually met Mark Schneider, a novelist who lives in New York. It deals with the immigrant experience, the desire to assimilate, the need for acceptance, the fear of failure, and the pain of what it means to inspire one’s self, and others.

We see Tanya’s life begin to crumble, once she moves in with Schneider, even though her dream of being a muse to an author seems to have come to true. Schneider makes no pretense, and is ever the insensitive and insistent partner, not able to commit to anything other than the superficial. For him, their relationship is founded on sex, and his gratification. For her, it is based on emotions and her romantic visions. We do see her begin to develop a sense of Self, and gain esteem, within the relationship’s confines.

For her, and her romanticized perspective, becoming a muse is her life’s vision and desire. Her life seems to parallel the life of Dostoevsky and his mistress, in many respects, as we are taken back and forth through time, from the present to the past, and back again.

The ending is a bit of a surprise, we least expect it to end the way it does…but it is a realized ending, and brings closure for Tanya.

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Filed under Authors, General, Literature/Fiction

The Pianist, by Wladyslaw Szpilman

The Pianist, by Wladyslaw Szpilman…I give it five Stars!

The Pianist is the poignant and courageous story of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s determination to survive the WWII Holocaust, during the time when the German Occupation began in Warsaw, Poland. Szpilman was a pianist, a Jew, but most importantly, he was a human being, who was caught up in events he never dreamed possible. He was a gentle man, an artist, a pianist whose hands were his lifeline. The film is visually graphic with details, and we sit horrified as we watch those events unfold. The book, on the other hand, is more overwhelming and filled with details that the film did not convey, and, again, we sit horrified, as Szpilman’s words paint unspeakable atrocities and images before our eyes. We learn about the German Officer who helped him survive the last days of the German Occupation (and who has been recognized as Among The Righteous).

We are privvy to the German’s own journal, which in itself, is testimony to the atrocities forced on the Jews. The book gives us insight into this aspect that the film did not touch on. The book is a testament to Szpilman’s inner strength and courage…to his determination to start life over, once more, after the war ended, in his native city, where he lived out the rest of his life.

I keep rereading portions of this book, because I can’t let it go. It has a permanent place in my collection of books on the human condition, and books on Judaism.

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Filed under Authors, Non-Fiction