by Liz Kilstein

Dostoevsky in Brighton Beach

With Memoirs of a Muse (Pantheon, $22,95), debut novelist Lara Vapnyar gives us the smart, charming account of Tanya, a young Soviet emigre who is determined to inspire a great man. Meeting Mark, a celebrated New York writer, should set destiny in motion—but Tanya’s Marxist education has not prepared her for the neuroses of a thoroughly (and hilariously) stereotypical Upper West Side Jewish artist. Long before Tanya’s command of English allows her to read Mark’s books, she has been incorporated into his regime of vitamins, therapy, and jogging. As she acclimates to an American lifestyle, Tanya questions why Mark cares so much about his physical and mental health—would Dostoevsky jog, gulp protein smoothies, or summon a shrink to relieve him of his sadness?

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