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Ground Up: A Novel Paperback – July 21, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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“Charming, manic, and delicious. A caffeinated valentine from a New York already gone, but certainly not forgotten. I drank it right up and felt oddly comforted.” ―Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan
“Every quotable sentence in Michael Idov's brilliantly funny first novel (First novel? How is this possible?) induced in this reader awe and jealousy. Ground Up's narrator is a voice and sensibility I'd follow into any story, any neighborhood. There's talent here of the Nabokovian kind, wresting truth, love, and mordant wit from delightfully misguided dreams. I loved every word.” ―Elinor Lipman, author of Then She Found Me
“Ground Up is a rare breed--a sparkling work of light satire written by a ridiculously talented man. The book starts out funny, keeps being funny, then actually gets funnier. There is not a wasted word, not one lame passage. Mr. Idov likes to say that he is not a ‘serious' writer. Meanwhile, his brilliant novel flips the bird to our humorless, insecure literary caste system and reminds us of another author of witty urban stories: the young Anton Chekhov. But, thanks to Idov, my pleasant habit of using a coffeehouse as an office is forever tinged with guilt.” ―Anya Ulinich, author of Petropolis
“A fiercely funny yet frequently touching novel about the nightmare that the American dream can become . . . Idov . . . strikes all the right chords--both cultural and emotional. Narrator Mark Scharf and his wife, Nina Liau, decide to open a hip coffeehouse on Manhattan's Lower East Side, based on their romantic memories of one they had visited in Vienna . . . Everything that can go wrong will, in a manner both hilarious (the coffeehouse) and poignant (the marriage) . . . Though the protagonist's own book reviews are usually caustic, even he would give this debut a rave.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A sagely wry novel . . . Packed with insight and frequently hilarious asides, Idov's debut mercilessly takes down ‘money is an illusion' bohoism.” ―Publishers Weekly
More About the Author
There followed two sad years in Cleveland, spent working at McDonalds and a public library, failing high-school math, and shipping awful essays about all of the above back to the old country. Finally, I took up film studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. My English was not nearly sufficient for prose, so I tried dramaturgy instead. To my surprise, the resulting play about Orson Welles's radio years was actually staged by a local theater, where it ran for the record-busting two weekends. For the rest of my college years, I was a "playwright," a strange ruse on my part (I never had any interest in the form) but a profitable one (it paid for at least a year of tuition).
Within weeks of graduation, I moved to New York City and began an extended spell of job-hopping. From 1998 to 2004, I wrote music listings for the Village Voice, bluffed my way through a very brief career as a restaurant critic at Time Out New York, and anchored a news show at NTV, a Russian television network. In 2005, after a disastrous detour into small business that gave birth to "Ground Up," I happily returned to writing, both fiction and articles for New York Magazine. I also write a good deal of journalism in Russian; a Russian version of Ground Up will be published in the fall of 2009. Finally, I am working on a picture book about unsung icons of Soviet design for Rizzoli. It should be out in early 2011.
Top Customer Reviews
The annoying-ness begins with the introduction itself where the author states that basically, the person reading should know all the intricacies of NYC. When written in English, the book constantly inserts Russian phrases (without translation mind you) obviously assuming the person reading should be of Russian dissent. The book in Russian, dismisses the reader by saying that "unfortunately, the reader, unless very familiar with New York City's lower east side and various other too-cool-for-you places, you are likely to miss the point of the novel." I think I missed the point because I didn't finish the book not because I know NYC better than he assumes. So basically unless you're from NYC and from the neighborhood these people lived in -- don't read it -- you won't get it.
Additionally, the book has a very screwed perception of Russian people living in NYC and more specifically Jewish Russian people. The pretense of the whole thing and how "cool" these people are is beyond disgusting to me and that's partially why I stopped reading so soon. I can't even force myself to finish the book even though I paid more for it than for a Steven King novel. And I am Russian. Russian Jewish.
Sorely disappointed. Don't read it.
What I disliked about this book:
-utter pretension at every turn, even in the literary references of the narrator, not just of the pretensions of the characters
-the unnecessary "gotcha" ending wherein the reader learns the entire relationship and previously described impetus of the cafe was actually a lie
-the characters: You will not find one likable character in the bunch; they are all annoying douchebags. I liked Shadow in "American Gods," Odysseus in Homer's "Odyssey"--hell, I even liked Anita Blake right up to around "Cerulean Sins" or "Incubus Dreams." I even sort of like bad guys and unsavory types in other works, but wow, just wow. Idov is successful in creating the most annoying, one-dimensional, self-righteous, entitled spoiled brat protagonists. Even the last few pages don't redeem them and don't reveal any major changes in their personalities. It was very disappointing.
The most shameful thing about this book is that it is being peddled as some great statement about the American Dream. Yet, this book in no way portrays the American Dream, because the protagonists aren't interested in surviving, thriving and growing through hard work, personal sacrifices, and truly working together to achieve financial success and ultimately achieving personal fulfillment.Read more ›
The author succeeds in offering perspectives that may seem light in some respects, but have more penetrating effects as the story-line unfolds. Give it a shot (perhaps with a decent espresso in hand), and my guess is you'll find yourself in the main character/narrator -- with all his hopes, his fleeting "ups", and his very challenging "downs."
Nicely done, Mr. Idov!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book. I liked its heroes. Very special atmosphere. I`ve read this book in Russian earlier (twice!) - there were more comments about NY life, very interesting.Published on March 28, 2012 by Olga, Kiev
What a waste of time. Too many personal details, too little plot development. Very uneven writing. Would put you to sleep even alongside a strong cup of coffee.Published on November 29, 2010 by sweet pea guardian
... I can't come up with anything I DIDN'T like about the novel.
I'm going to take the liberty to do what the author takes careful steps to avoid: indulge in cliche. Read more
Presumably the only review on Amazon not written by a relative of the author...this book is awful.
Here's the fundamental problem. Read more
I have always been interested in folks starting up a restaruant business and since this was pretty much autobiographical, it was facinating to know that pretty much everything that... Read morePublished on November 2, 2009 by D. Lee
For anyone who ever dreamed of how ideal it would be to run your own business -- a quaint bookstore or cute coffee shop -- this book should be read as a warning treatise waking you... Read morePublished on September 6, 2009 by J. Luiz