David Czuchlewski, Author THE MUSE ASYLUMDavid Czuchlew $23.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-399-14745-6

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. (May 21)

Reviewed on: 04/09/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Paperback - 225 pages - 978-0-14-200060-1
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