The Late Night Muse

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9780060183028: The Late Night Muse

A New York author writes of a poet - fictional. Author's photo on back flap.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Pesetsky's fourth novel (Confessions of a Bad Girl, 1989, etc.)--purportedly the collected journals and archives of a 30-ish little-known poet dying slowly of a fatal illness--is a vervy, muscular hodgepodge that reads like a collaboration among Grace Paley, Nora Ephron, and Erica Jong: part ethnic stew, part sitcom, part frenetic affairs of the heart. Bernadette Amy Berne has been sick for years with a disease of the nervous system: ``The nerves sizzled and greedily danced to a heathen melody that I didn't control.'' She decides to catalogue her life--``I have recreated my life....Packed away all these meaningful scraps...the necessary journal entries.'' In a series of boxes or archives, given to us as snapshots, we learn that Bernadette reached her vocation of poet early--before she met her husband (``If ever I had a calling, he was it''); her first mentor, Mrs. Talmadge (``Sex is always going to be a woman's fate. Write poems about that''); as well as Cousin Helene, whom she chooses as her literary executor, and the Cousins, a group of people (who may or may not be her relatives) who meet on Long Island from time to time. The story is not so much a straightforward chronicle, however, as an orchestration of an ensemble of secondary characters (Bernadette: ``Whenever we moved, we acquired people'') around whom the stricken poet, who exasperates her husband by becoming celibate and her professor son by taking her poems seriously. ``To whom does the artist bequeath his life?'' Pesetsky's answer is this novel of ``papers...that will illuminate my life.'' The result is occasionally flimsy or fragmentary, but often the surreal non sequiturs and an idiosyncratic voice keep the reader off-balance but entertained. Pesetsky comments brightly on the need to take art and life seriously in a world that sometimes seems to have little time for either. -- Copyright 1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Pesetsky excels in creating offbeat characters with distinctive voices whose behavior is often obsessive if not slightly demented. Bernadette Amy Marrkey,spok the narrator of her latest novel (after Midnight Sweets ), is no exception. A self-styled poet (her work has been published only in obscure magazines), Marrkey learns in her late 30s that the wasting neurological disease from which she suffers will soon be fatal. Serenely confident that "everyone loves a dead American artist," she decides to collate the artifacts of her life for benefit of the scholars who will surely want them once she is gone. The novel consists of episodic, chronologically random journal entries that correspond with the contents of the boxes she fills with the detritus of a very unorthodox existence. Bernadette's tough, streetwise, ironic voice is initially provocative as she catalogues her memories: abandonment by her unwed, ditzy mother to the care of her brisk, unsentimental grandmother (the latter a wonderful portrayal); encounters with a series of mentors, lovers and odd characters; marriage to an accountant, and children. Eventually, however, her delivery becomes tedious. While Pesetsky's comic eye is often piercingly acute, the novel is ultimately too arch and improbable, the plot clever but too obviously manipulated to fit the central device.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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