- STAFF PICKS
- GIFTS + GIFT CARDS
- SELL BOOKS
- FIND A STORE
This item may be
Check for Availability
Lady Lazarusby Andrew Foster Altschul
Synopses & Reviews
This spectacular, sprawling debut novel tells the story of Calliope Bird Morath, daughter of legendary punk-rock star Brandt Morath — whose horrific suicide devastated the world — and his notorious wife, Penelope.
The novel is narrated by both Calliope and her obsessive biographer, who follows her from her silent childhood to her first tortured, manic public statements about her father; from her highly publicized publication of a book of poetry to her mysterious disappearance; from her reappearance as the mute leader of a cult-like brigade known as The Muse to her spectacular showdown with the biographer.
A disturbing and razor-sharp meditation on twenty-first-century celebrity culture, Lady Lazarus is also a funny and moving story about the age-old question of the nature of the self.
"In this gleeful, difficult debut, Altschul lays into an easy target — cynical celebrity culture — and meticulously crafts an over-the-top pop mirror world for his young heroine. Leaning heavily on the star mythology of Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love and their daughter, Frances Bean, Altschul introduces Calliope Bird Morath, the most famous poet in America, 'beloved to deconstructionists and culture theorists and fifteen-year-old girls alike.' Calliope's childhood, revealed in retrospect, is haunted by a public fascination with her parents, mercurial rock 'n' roll heroes Brandt Morath and Penny Power, a fascination continuing long after Brandt's suicide when Calliope is a small child. Pushed by the demanding Penny to claim her father's destiny, Calliope skips college to attend a prestigious M.F.A. program, and soon publishes a collection of poems that centers on Brandt's death and sounds a lot like bad Sylvia Plath. The media swarms, and Calliope scandalizes — and perhaps really does find a path back to her father after all. Over the course of nearly 600 pages, Altschul registers some razor-sharp cultural observations and executes some thrilling high dives (the character named Andrew Altschul's sessions with a Lacanian analyst in particular). But the book's tricky PoMo narrative is bloated with gee-whiz grad-schoolisms, and storytelling takes a backseat to indulgence throughout." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Placing celebrities like Charlie Rose and Ben Affleck in fictional situations and providing false footnotes, Altschul playfully and humorously delivers his novel in a pseudo-documentary style while exploring the serious themes of truth, group hysteria, and the transience of human existence." Library Journal
"Nimble prose and an ironic but not smart-alecky stance keep this story moving along nicely — a promising start." Kirkus Reviews
"[Altschul] display[s] a cutting wit and a real feel for the strange turns of modern celebrity." Booklist
"Altschul is one of our great young writers, and Lady Lazarus is the proof. A poetic satire of rock and roll, and a rock and roll ode to poetry, it mirrors its heroine: smart, gorgeous, and funny as hell." --Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli
These pages are lit by the most seditious literary cunning. This big, taunting, passionate, ambitious tale, told in a multiplicity of voices, skewers our culture's infatuation with surfaces and our habit of maiming or killing the objects of our collective infatuation: this is glittering wordplay whose bottom note is sorrow. Andrew Altschul may be shinily modern--postmodern--in every other way, but he is also that ancient thing, a born storyteller capable of breaking your heart."—Elizabeth Tallent, author of Museum Pieces
Who in the world is Calliope Bird?
Calliope Bird Morath, that is. Poet. Celebrity. Death Artist.
Her father, Brandt Morath, was a legendary punk-rock star whose suicide devastated the world. Her mother, Penny Power, has spent a decade grieving, keeping Brandt's memory alive, and preparing Calliope for fame. Now Calliope has grown up to be a star in her own right, trading on her family name, trying to navigate the worlds of art and celebrity, academia and psychotherapy and Zen Buddhism, all while exploring the mysteries surrounding her father's life and death. Because of her own unreliable memories and the obsessive speculation of her father's fans, she comes to believe that her father might still be alive, and she abandons her own life to try and find him.
And, in turn, Calliope's obsessive biographer abandons life and family in search of Calliope. Together they chronicle her story, from her silent childhood to her first tortured public statements about her father; from her publication of a wildly popular book of poetry to her mysterious disappearance; from her return as the mute leader of a cultlike brigade known as The Muse to her last, terrifying crusade.
Ultimately, the biographer, whose own tragic history is revealed only in glimpses, clashes with Calliope's in a spectacular showdown in the Mojave Desert.
About the Author
Andrew Foster Altschul is a Jones Lecturer and former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. His work has appeared in Fence, Swink, Story Quarterly, One Story and other journals, as well as the anthologies Best New American Voices 2006 and The O. Henry Prize Stories 2007. He lives in San Francisco.
What Our Readers Are Saying