Worthy by Lisa Birnbaum
Worthy by Lisa Birnbaum
Told in a language all its own, Worthy is a tale of love, deception, and the art of the long con.
Worthy is the story of Ludmila—or Worthy, as she comes to be known— a “former” con artist from Eastern Europe managing an eccentric, failing strip club in Tampa for her lover, Leo. Though there is much she won’t reveal, she gradually unravels the story of her love affair twenty years earlier with Theodore, an erratic literature professor who embraces an ideology built around what he calls the Four Books: Mann’s Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man, Nabokov’s Despair, Melville’s The Confidence-Man, and Camus’s The Fall. Seduced by the scofflaws in these novels, Theodore and Worthy transform themselves into confidence artists, a tempest of shared madness that carries them from New York to Mexico City to the South of France. Despite her sly humor calculated to charm, Worthy’s picaresque narrative leaves the listener with deepening questions, from what happened to Theodore to the reasons she abandoned her son Mirek.
With the linguistic acrobatics of Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing and the confessional force of The Fall, Lisa Birnbaum weaves a lively tale of elusive truth about finding our way in the world, as love is inevitably lost and left behind.
Praise for Worthy
“Worthy, a free-ranging Eastern European in the West, is among the most memorable characters I have ever encountered in literature… An astonishing, brilliant book.”
—Kelly Cherry, author of Twelve Women in a Country Called America: Stories
“Worthy will entrance anyone with the pirouette and yearning of a reinvented English, the unrelenting gaze of a storyteller whose capacity for new lives is remarkable. Lisa Birnbaum’s novel is a strange tapestry of comic and heartbreaking magic.”
—Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here
In Lisa Birnbaum's Worthy, once we climb aboard the angular poetry of Ludmila's acquired language, her story claims us with its vivid parade of tribulations; it's often like a traveling game of musical chairs as her pretty options diminish—and then sometimes re-appear! Key is that the setbacks do not set her back for long. She is a heroine worthy of the old school—retaining her stamina and optimism as she confronts every obstacle in her American education.
—Ron Carlson, author of Return to Oakpine
About the author
Lisa Birnbaum’s work in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and spoken word performance has been supported by numerous grants and writers’ residencies. Her writing has appeared in such journals as Connecticut Review, Puerto del Sol, Quarter After Eight, and Kestrel. She teaches writing and literature at the University of Tampa and lives in Tampa, FL.