Juliet Lapidos

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Book Overview

A wickedly caustic tale of a student who stumbles on a literary treasure.

Anna Brisker, a once promising student, has fallen behind. Her PhD on inspiration is overdue and instead she busies herself with power-eating strawberry pop tarts and watching as her doctoral peers fly off to take posts at prestigious universities.

Alone over the holidays, Anna strikes up an unexpected and life-changing friendship. But what can Helen Langley, a middle-aged antiquarian bookbinder, have in her possession that might unlock Anna’s thesis and her chronic inertia? And what laws will Anna break to get it?

Lean and compulsively readable, Talent is a literary romp that delights in its wicked lampooning of the academic world and asks how far we should go to meet our potential. And in Anna Brisker, we have an audacious heroine who cannot help but shine with mordant brilliance.

About the author

Juliet Lapidos is a senior editor at The Atlantic. Previously, she was editor of the op-ed page at the Los Angeles Times, an opinion editor at the New York Times, and a culture editor at Slate. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.Phil from Cambridge University, where she was a Gates Scholar.


Talent is a wry meditation on ambition and an ingeniously constructed parable for our times. With wide-ranging erudition and pitch-perfect repartee, Juliet Lapidos reveals the terrible risk we take when we pity an artist’ Lucy Ives, author of Impossible Views of the World

‘Juliet Lapidos grabs a story type at least as old as Henry James’s The Aspern Papers and makes away with it into fast-moving, witty, literary adventure. With Pop-Tarts’ John Crowley, author of Little, Big

Talent is a sly, bemused and original take on the idea of genius and fame, betrayal and family secrets, and ultimately, on freedom and imagination’ Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here

‘I love a campus novel, especially when nearly everyone on campus is equally clueless. With dry, witty prose and a motley assortment of sharp voices, Talent finds hypocrisy and obsession in all the right places’ Rosecrans Baldwin, author of The Last Kid Left

‘Juliet Lapidos has created an unforgettable hero for our times in perpetual graduate student Anna Brisker. Talent is as witty and lively a first novel as I’ve read in years’ Karl Taro Greenfeld, author of Triburbia and True

‘A fabulous thriller set in the world of book theft but it’s also obsessed with a question that runs, unexamined, through a great many lives and books: Why bother? Why bother writing? Why bother living? The answer Talent comes up with is a combination of dry humor and the mystery of human inspiration. It’s a good answer’ Stephen Marche, author of How Shakespeare Changed Everything

‘Juliet Lapidos has written a funny, brainy mystery novel that’s set inside a funny, brainy campus novel. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I’m hungry,” or, “The only problem with Sarah Silverman is that she’s not Nabokov,” then this is the book for you’ Joshua Cohen, author of Book of Numbers