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The Muse Asylum Paperback – March 26, 2002
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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.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
...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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Daniel Czuchlewski has written a first novel that explores these mysteries with a unique combination of urbane style and clever playfulness. Three of his main characters, Jake Burnett, Andrew Wallace, and Lara Knowles, are Princeton-polished children of the privilegentsia, filled with innocent notions of truth and beauty, striving for a toe-hold in the real world while casting wistful glances back at the illusory one of their youth. The fourth is an author whose writings have drawn each of them into a world they have an increasingly hard time escaping.
Horace Jacob Little is a literary pied piper, a genius, whose absence from the physical world has created a black hole which sucks in those who live for the tantalizing insights in his books and short stories. During college, Czuchlewski's three protagonists introduce each other to the lore of Horace Jacob Little. His ideas about identity, and humanity, speak to each of their lives in a unique way, but Andrew becomes convinced that Horace Jacob Little is his personal muse and nemesis. His life revolves more and more around the premise that Horace Jacob Little knows who he is, and can't tolerate his existence in the same world.
The story revolves around Andrew's questionable sanity, Jake's journalistic probe into the reality of Horace Jacob Little, and the love the two young men share for the heroine, Lara Knowles. The plot is filled with the cleverest twists and turns, and the characters evolve, ever so subtly, from Whit Stillman clones into multi-faceted, thoughtful young people, empty vessels who become richer, and stronger, after being filled with the sometimes bitter exlir of experience.
There is a fifth main character in the book, too--the Muse Asylum itself, inspired no doubt from the McClean Institute in Pennsylvania. The Muse Asylum, a sanitarium for artists, is a repository of gentleness and humanity, a place where genius finds refuge and snuggles up comfortably with insanity, where no judgements are allowed. But is it really? As Andrew Wallace's struggle with his arch-enemy Horace Jacob Little unfolds amid the gracious interiors of the old mansion in upstate New York, the truth seems to have lots of colorful facets.
This is a superb first novel, a tight story graced with a rare stylistic elegance, filled with many more questions than answers. One suspects that Czuchlewski is no stranger to obsession, or at least compulsion--on the book jacket it mentions that he's attending med school in New York even as he works on his second novel. Maybe the second novel will delve into the mysteries and secrets in the life of a prodigy.
Well, two out of three ain't bad. This is well written, and the characters are quirky, deep and fascinating. But I found the "clever" ending to be trite, and the big reveal to be predictable and uninspired.
That said, it's not a bad book, and I *would* recommend it. But don't go into it expecting anything really astounding. Anyone who's read more than 20 books in her lifetime ought to be able to predict the twists before they come. So don't expect miracles, and you should find this to be a very worthwhile read.
Bravo Mr. Czuchlewski. Good luck on your next novel!
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!
Most recent customer reviews
Horace Jacob Little is a reclusive author who brings three disparate lives together in David Czeuchlewski's...Read more