Talent

Juliet Lapidos. Little, Brown, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-48055-0
In her snappy debut, Lapidos questions cultural obsessions with productivity and maximized potential that date back to Jesus’s parable of the talents. A graduate student at Collegiate University (a thinly veiled Yale) and on the cusp of 30, Anna struggles to complete her languishing dissertation on artistic inspiration, already looking ahead to “the life of a professor emerita” before her career has even begun. A chance encounter with Helen Langley at the grocery store puts her in “physical proximity to genetic proximity to fame”: Helen is the niece of Frederick Langley, a deceased author of some renown who stopped writing after a promising early career. Helen is involved in a legal battle with Collegiate over its possession of Langley’s unpublished notebooks, which the idling graduate student hopes to mine for material to kick-start her dissertation. The novel proceeds briskly as Anna delves into Frederick’s papers to explain his premature retirement and as the impoverished Helen angles to secure the valuable manuscripts. Anna’s voice is sharp and humorous, capturing the jaded graduate student’s mix of posturing, snark, and self-loathing, but Frederick isn’t as enigmatic as he’s intended to be, and his scheming niece Helen is insufficiently drawn, which weakens the pull of the literary mystery. However, the novel is redeemed by its intelligent musings on the responsibilities of literary culture: what do talented authors owe their readers and themselves? (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/08/2018
Release date: 01/22/2019
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-4963-4
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-5491-5104-0
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-4962-7
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