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The Muse Asylum Hardcover – May 21, 2001

47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Genius and madness blur in a daring, self-consciously literary debut that runs circles around the postmodern chestnut, the "death of the author," to speculate on the murderous theft of an author's identity. Czuchlewski, a 24-year-old medical student who started work on the book as a senior thesis project at Princeton, may lack the visionary gifts of the fictional author at his novel's center, but he has crafted a stylish, assured and gripping work of fiction. Jake Burnett, fresh out of Princeton, takes a reporting job with the Manhattan Ledger, a rundown weekly rag. He and his editor hatch a circulation-boosting plan to track down Horace Jacob Little, a Pynchonesque cult author who has never been photographed or interviewed. Meanwhile, Jake's former classmate Andrew Wallace, is documenting his own encounters with Little furiously penning his "Confessions" from his room in the Muse Asylum, a residential psychiatric facility for artists. For Andrew, tracking the author is more than just a hobby; his obsession with Little's identity permeates his troubled "Confessions." Jake and Andrew are linked not only by their interest in Little but by their romantic infatuation with Lara Knowles, a fellow Princetonian who dated both men and had planned to wed Andrew before his psychiatric break. When Lara lends Jake her copy of Andrew's "Confessions," Jake discovers that Andrew's schizophrenic rant may point to a surprising truth about Little that puts both Andrew and Jake in danger. While some of Czuchlewski's prose has the amateurish enthusiasm of an undergraduate taking his first class in literary criticism (the plot summaries of Little's stories make the fabled author seem like an ersatz Borges), the novel is well plotted, with nuanced characters and real intellectual heft. Czuchlewski is a writer to watch. Agent, Elly Sidel. Foreign rights sold in France.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


...cleverly devised, sharply composed, entertaining and moving... -- The Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2001

The Muse Asylum succeeds in establishing him as a new writer to be watched. -- San Francisco Chronicle

The Muse Asylum is a stylish, psychologically acute, and altogether captivating tale of madness and obsession. A grand debut. -- Jonathan Kellerman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (May 21, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399147454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399147456
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,607,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on June 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Every year, I make it a point to read a few first novels. I think it is important to support our literary future. Usually, the first novels I read are good but not particularly special. Here is an exception--David Czuchlewski has written a truly wonderful novel, first novel or no.
In this novel, Czuchlewski tells the story of the search for a very reclusive writer named Horace Jacob Little. The search is carried on by a two young men--Jake Burnett, a young writer for a newspaper, and Andrew Wallace, who is certain Horace Jacob Little is out to get him. This lands the brilliant, though unstable, Wallace in the "muse asylum" of the title. The link between these two young men is Lara, the girl with whom they are both in love.
Needless to say, I don't want to give away any of the twists and turns of this novel. Let me just say that the writing here is wonderful. The characters are clearly drawn and, in Andrew, I found one of the most realistic depictions of madness in recent years. The plot is clever and Czuchlewski sustains the tension throughout the book. I am usually very good at predicting how novels will end but this one surprised me to the last pages. I was especially glad that Czuchlewski opted for what I would call a "realistic" ending when I was fully prepared to accept the bizarre to the point of the supernatural. Instead, I believed that everything I read could happen.
Even though it's not a particularly long book (and I dislike this trend towards superficial haste in modern novels), it is a deep and solid whole. It is a quick read but better than the typical thriller. I must admit, I'm already looking forward to novel number two.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christian on October 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"I see now the virtue in madness, for this country knows no law or any boundary. I pity the poor shades confined to the Euclidean prison which is sanity." Dr. Amedeus Arkham
'Batman:Arkham Asylum'
David Czuchlewski's debut novel, "The Muse Asylum", is a brilliantly wrought story about the mysterious paths our lives take, bringing us into contact with people for strange reasons...reasons which ultimately are revealed to us, for better or for worse.
At the center of this story is Lara Knowles, a young woman loved by two men: Jake Burnett, a reporter dedicated to revealing the identity of the reclusive and highly revered American author Horace Jacob Little; and Andrew Wallace, a very disturbed genius and inmate of the Overlook Psychiatric Institute for artists. Andrew is convinced that Little is trying to kill him. Because of Lara and Little, the three characters paths converge and cross many times, stoking the plot nicely.
With twists and turns abounding, "...Asylum" is an incredible and entertaining read, mysterious and intelligent. I applaud Mr. Czuchlewski's insight and talent!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Santropez_Couch on May 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Certainly an entertaining novel, this is full of references and practices the "book within a book" style of writing (a book about a writer writing an article about a writer). It's also got narrative shifting as we slide between the present story and a manifesto-like biography that works its way from the past up to the present; identity shifting; and it includes small segments of a fictional writer's writings, as well as another person's writings, interspersed within the novel. Very meta.
I work better with movies, since most of the reading I do is ephemeral (webzines, newspapers, whatever), so I would say this is a mix of the paranoia of "Jacob's Ladder," the puzzlement of "Memento" (there's a character in the novel, Earl Jenkins, who bears a resemblance to Sammy Jankis in the movie, not only in name, but also in that Earl suffers from anterograde amnesia), the switching identities of "Lost Highway" and the writing about writing of "Wonder Boys."
I should say, though, that the novel is not a neo-noir like "Memento" or "Lost Highway," despite being about a search for an unknown man, with conspiratorial overtones. It never does establish much of an atmosphere beyond college-days nostalgia.
There are a lot of references here, from Thomas Pynchon to Wittgenstein to T.S. Eliot (not only does character quote "the cruelest month" from The Waste Land, but a name of a fictional book in the novel is named "The Unreal City").
The characters are fairly well-drawn, though one could make an argument that Czuchlewski stereotypes and glamorizes mental illness as both a recurring disease and a blissful state of creation. But it's not done with scorn, so it doesn't really matter.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. McDevitt on July 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bettter than the reviews. This enticing novel moves right along and dares you leave it, even for dinner. Tightly plotted. Quickly paced. With just enough juxtaposition of past and present and literary savy and enquiry into the nature of sanity and art to be more than a little interesting. It is far, far better than most offerings and undoubtedly the characters and the twists and turns will provide me with pleasant mental munchies for some time. The little summaries and synopsis don't do justice to the novel's machinations. Write on Mr. Czuchlewshi, whoever and wherever you are. We will be waiting to see if you can do it again.
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