Monday 27 January 2020

Fiction: Muse by Jonathan Galassi

Vintage, €11.50

Reader, I Married Him, Short Stories edited by Tracy Chevalier
Reader, I Married Him, Short Stories edited by Tracy Chevalier

Madeleine Keane

Ida Perkins is the eponymous heroine of Jonathan Galassi's debut novel. A poet of exceptional talent, Perkins has that rare ability to touch both the critics and the masses and her ouevre has turned her into an iconic American figure.

Paul Dukach, a young editor at one of the last independent publishing houses in New York, is fascinated by the woman and her reputation: the beautiful bluestocking has a dazzling litany of glamorous lovers which adds to her mystique.

When Paul - who works for foul-mouthed, flamboyant Howard Stern and is mentored by the latter's patrician rival Sterling Wainwright, cousin and erstwhile lover of Perkins - engineers a meeting with the object of his obssession, now old, ill and holed up in a palazzo in Venice, an explosive literary scecret is revealed.

Galassi (pictured below), president and publisher of the prestigious US publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux has produced an amusing, acerbic yet affectionate portrait of Manhattan's bitchy, competitive book world which includes a swipe at the business of e-commerce. An accomplished poet, Galassi is also well placed to produce some of Ida's work.

He has enormous fun with an array of characters - writers, editors, lovers, publicists - and it must have been even more fun for the American literati guessing their real identities.

Even if you don't work in the world of books, Muse is an enjoyable, erudite elegant romp and an absorbing paean to the enduring romance and beauty of literature.

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