Cover image for Talent
Title:
Talent
ISBN:
9780316480550
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2019.

©2019
Physical Description:
241 pages ; 25 cm
Summary:
An English grad student struggling with her dissertation about the intellectual history of inspiration desperately searches for a perfect case study to anchor her thesis, only to find it in the unlikeliest of places.
Holds:

Available:*

Library
Material Type
Call Number
Status
Searching...
Book Fiction Lapid
Searching...
Searching...
Book Fiction Lapid
Searching...
Searching...
Book Fiction Lapid
Searching...
Searching...
Book Fiction Lapid
Searching...
Searching...
Book Fiction Lapid
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2019 -- LitHub, The Millions, Thrillist, Entertainment Weekly
In this "deliciously funny, sharp, and sincere (Helen Oyeyemi)" debut, a young graduate student writing about--and desperately searching for--inspiration stumbles upon it in the unlikeliest of places.
Anna Brisker is a twenty-nine-year-old graduate student in English at Collegiate University who can't seem to finish her dissertation. Her project: an intellectual history of inspiration. And yet, for the first time, Anna has found herself utterly uninspired. Rather than work on her thesis, she spends her days eating Pop-Tarts and walking the gritty streets of New Harbor, Connecticut.

As Anna's adviser is quick to remind her, time is running out. She needs the perfect case study to anchor her thesis-and she needs it now. Amid this mounting pressure, Anna strikes up a tenuous friendship with the niece of the famous author Frederick Langley. Freddy wrote three successful books as a young man, then published exactly nothing for the rest of his wayward, hermetic life. Critics believe Freddy suffered from an acute case of writer's block, but his niece tells Anna that there's more to the story: When he died, he was at work on something new.

With exclusive access to the notebooks of an author who was inspired, uninspired, and potentially reinspired, Anna knows she's found the perfect case study. But as fascination with Freddy blooms into obsession, Anna is drawn irrevocably into the criminal machinations of his sole living heir.

A modern twist on the Parable of the Talents, Lapidos's debut is a many-layered labyrinth of possible truths that reveal at each turn the danger of interpreting another person's intentions--literary or otherwise.




Author Notes

Juliet Lapidos is a senior editor at The Atlantic . Previously she worked at the Los Angeles Times , the New York Times , and Slate . She received her B.A. in Comparative Literature from Yale University and her MPhil in English Literature from Cambridge University, which she attended on a Gates Scholarship.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Anna, a seventh-year graduate student studying English, can't seem to finish her dissertation: an intellectual history of inspiration. Instead, she spends her days utterly uninspired, eating Pop-Tarts and leaving her apartment only to meet with her advisor or shop for groceries. By sheer happenstance, she meets Helen, the niece of legendary author Freddy Langley, who wrote three incredibly successful novels in his youth and remained uninspired for the rest of his life. Helen gives Anna private information about her uncle's latter years, and his journey as a writer gives Anna the perfect case study for her thesis. Unveiling more about Freddy through his exclusive notebooks becomes Anna's primary focus and her inspiration but it soon becomes an obsession that ultimately leads her to criminal intrigue. Los Angeles Times editor Lapidos' literary prowess is evident in this brilliantly witty and humorous debut. The novel's layers explore the dangers of interpretation and the varying perceptions of one's, and others', intentions, all of which come together to make a thoroughly enjoyable read.--Emily Park Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

Pity the poor graduate student who can't finish her dissertation. Or not. Those are the options that gnaw at our sympathies as we contemplate the inertia of Anna Brisker, a doctoral candidate in literature whose path to the highest ranks of academia would seem to be ensured by her elite education and entitled mix of condescension, smug liberalism and self-professed deficit of the generosity required to mentor others. When she hits a wall on her magnum opus (a discourse on creative inspiration, ha!) Anna shifts her scholarly compass toward the foreshortened career of Frederick Langley, a deceased short-story writer who slammed the brakes on his career at the peak of his popularity. Endeavoring to access Langley's notebooks, she cozies up to his niece, a down-at-theheels dealer in antiquarian books who isn't above employing a little Lee Israelstyle hocus-pocus to produce fake inventory for a credulous clientele. If Lapidos's attempts at conjuring a surrogate Yale University and New Haven feel like an elaborate distraction, her stabs at literary counterfeiting are inspired. She intersperses Anna's feckless investigation into Langley's past with notebook jottings that convincingly evoke the hunting and gathering of an alert writer as he sifts for fodder from childhood trauma and the detritus of daily experience. The journals reveal, and spark, a plethora of transgressions: theft, blackmail, adultery, parental cruelty. But in a pressure-cooker ecosystem where you're only as worthy as your last published tome, the most grievous crime of all may be calling it quits.