Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel

( 3 )

Overview

*A New York Times Notable Book*

“Funny, painful, outrageous . . . Anya Ulinich is the David Sedaris of Russian-American cartoonists.”
—Gary Shteyngart

Anya Ulinich turns her sharp eye toward the strange, often unmooring world of “grown-up” dating in this darkly comic graphic novel. After her fifteen-year marriage ends, Lena Finkle gets an eye-opening education in love, sex, and loss when she embarks ...

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Overview

*A New York Times Notable Book*

“Funny, painful, outrageous . . . Anya Ulinich is the David Sedaris of Russian-American cartoonists.”
—Gary Shteyngart

Anya Ulinich turns her sharp eye toward the strange, often unmooring world of “grown-up” dating in this darkly comic graphic novel. After her fifteen-year marriage ends, Lena Finkle gets an eye-opening education in love, sex, and loss when she embarks on a string of online dates, all while raising her two teenage daughters. The Vampire of Bensonhurst, the Orphan, Disaster Man, and the Diamond Psychiatrist are just a few of the unforgettable characters she meets along the way. Evoking Louis C. K.’s humor and Amy Winehouse’s longing and anguish, and paying homage to Malamud and Chekhov, Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel is a funny and moving story, beautifully told.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Ayelet Waldman
…Anya Ulinich's engrossing graphic novel about the vicissitudes of love, family, immigration and art…can stand beside the work of other writers who've immigrated from the former Soviet Union—Gary Shteyngart, David Bezmozgis and Keith Gessen.
Publishers Weekly
05/12/2014
Ulinich follows up her first prose novel Petropolis with a graphic novel window into the world of adult dating, and the result is an honest and absorbing tragicomedy about love, sex, and everything that goes with them. Lena Finkle (the name and title are a reference to a book by Bernard Malamud) is 37 years old, with two teenage daughters and 15 years of marriage behind her, when she embarks on a series of dates that open her eyes to a world of new experiences (like the fact that there are apps for dating). Desperate to find love after two unsustainable marriages, Finkle looks to dating as a way of opening herself up to the possibility of making a genuine connection with another person. She begins by taking us back to her childhood in Soviet Russia, relating her past events that shaped her attitudes toward love and sex. Ulinich’s visuals include inky portraits, often accompanied by panels bursting with dialogue, showing the novelist at work. The result is an affecting portrait of how we become who we are and how we try desperately to be who we want. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-21
Ulinich (Petropolis, 2007) follows her debut with a graphic novel chronicling a young immigrant writer’s adventures through family, friendship and sex.It’s fitting that Ulinich’s protagonist shares a first name with the creator of Girls. Besides a self-aware comparison to Lena Dunham’s film Tiny Furniture within the text, the book also shares terrain with the Dunham verse, being the story of a creative young woman’s emotional fallout from sexual exploits in neobohemia. Having emigrated from Russia with her family as a teenager, married young in Arizona (to gain a green card) and lost her virginity behind an arcade game, then settled in Park Slope, Brooklyn, as a 20-something, twice-married mother of two, our narrator is unable to grasp the touchstones of any single culture. She lays herself bare as she works through a reconnection with the possible soul mate she left behind in St. Petersburg (she sleeps with him during a cultural ambassadorship to the motherland as a successful novelist), a safari through the wilds of online dating (beware the vampire of Bensonhurst), and an explosive affair with a sensitive, damaged, miserly trust-fund artist known simply as the Orphan. While Lena's confessions occasionally clog this supposedly graphic novel with pages of nearly solid text, in other spots, it’s engagingly expressed as short, comic strip–like vignettes that juxtapose a simplistic, juvenile visual style against mature subject matter, bringing to mind the work of David Heatley. Ulinich tells the bulk of the tale in black-and-white chiaroscuro drawings that generally land somewhere between Michael Kupperman and an art school sketchbook. The inconsistency in the illustrations is maddening, with full-page, richly detailed close-ups of characters radiating pathos, while other panels are flat, stiff, workmanlike affairs that simply carry along the accompanying humorous observations. Yet for all the extended introspection, an ultimate reveal about the Orphan is elided, the omission waved off in the interest of a vague personal truth.An entertaining intellect wrapped in ill-fitting clothes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143125242
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 7/29/2014
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 96,210
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Anya Ulinich is the critically acclaimed author of Petropolis, which was awarded the Goldberg Prize, named a best book of the year by The Christian Science Monitor and The Village Voice, and translated into ten languages. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, n+1, and Zoetrope: All-Story, and she has taught at New York University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 29, 2014

    Very, very good. The woman is a writer, intelligent, honest, per

    Very, very good. The woman is a writer, intelligent, honest, perceptive and insightful, and she draws well enough to boot. She took time to make this, she uses the comic medium well (ie it's not dashed-off, but crafted at least somewhat). And her wide experience and perceptions are well worth reading. And to top it all it's long. And cheap! What were the publishers thinking? So many other graphic novels that are trifles cost $25 or more. I hope she didn't get ripped off.

    As to content, it's more of a memoir, I'm not sure it's /about/ dating, but it has a lot of dating in it. Modern dating past the young years - though, she's a good-looking woman so she'll have had a better time than many. Interesting characters and a lot of pain, but some resolution.

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  • Posted August 6, 2014

    Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel is both hilarious and heartbreaking.

    Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel is both hilarious and heartbreaking.  It explores a series of existential crises of a divorced mother of two living in Brooklyn, a writer with a visceral connection to St. Petersburg, Russia.  What happens to Lena has happened to all of us.  It is a story of love.  It is a story of life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2014

    A mordant, but funny, view of the search for love later in life.

    A mordant, but funny, view of the search for love later in life. Anya Ulinich writes and draws with a deeply Russian pessimism that continues to look for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow while knowing that no such thing exists. I finished this book with a sigh and a smile.

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