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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  751 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
First acclaimed as a story-length memoir, then expanded into a novel, Sylvia draws us into the lives of a young couple whose struggle to survive Manhattan in the early 1960s involves them in sexual fantasias, paranoia, drugs, and the extreme intimacy of self-destructive violence.

Reproducing a time and place with extraordinary clarity, Leonard Michaels explores with self-wo
Paperback, 129 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1992)
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Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: planet earth is blue and there's nothing I can do
Recommended to Mariel by: I stole this off of Simon's favorites shelf because he likes Joy Williams and I'm hopeless
Well, it's a memoir.

I wrote and I wrote, and I tore up everything, and I wrote some more. After a while I didn't know why I was writing. My original desire, complicated enough, became a grueling compulsion, partly in spite of Sylvia. I was doing hard work in the cold room, much harder than necessary, in the hope that it would justify itself."
This isn't about the memoir but I am taking it anyway.

Sylvia: a Novel, according to the back blurb, was a story-length memoir first and then appeared again
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apri la finestra

Leonard Michaels racconta la storia vera del suicidio di sua moglie Sylvia Bloch in un racconto di amore e follia dove la passione coniugale precipita in un abisso di distruzione e disordine, dove il nero della notte impulsiva decreta la devastazione completa, in un silenzio di depressione e sacrificio, senza motivi né parole. Il legame è all'insegna della dipendenza e porta all'esito tragico e fatale. Un'innocenza incontrollata e un'intelligente ambivalenza non salvano l'anima s
Mar 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-novellas
Do not be mislead by the description. This is not a book about the sixties. That the book is set in the sixties is peripheral, incidental. The story itself could have been set during any decade. That it happened to be set in the sixties can be attributed to the bluntly autobiographical approach the author took to the source material.
Describing the author's approach as "bluntly autobiographic" may sound derogatory, but admittedly I'm mixed. Referring to the dates of journal entries lacked subtlet
Simon A. Smith
Sep 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, novellas
Pound for pound (weighing in at a scant 125 pages) this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Keeping with the boxing analogy, Michaels writes with a sort of punchy, muscular prose style that is both plain and profound at once. I kept marveling at how skilled he was at saying so much in so little space. His physical descriptions of characters were particularly impressive. It isn't often that the narration about the size and shape of a character's lips becomes one of the most pleasur ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Ciò che distingue certe persone, è la conoscenza del proprio teatro interiore"

"Sylvia" è il diario scritto da Leonard Micheals degli anni in cui ha vissuto con la prima moglie Sylvia Bloch [1961-1963]. Una storia realmente accaduta, quindi, documentata dallo sguardo di Micheals.

Protagonista assoluta del racconto è Sylvia. Sylvia e la sua necessità di essere amata incondizionatamente e senza deroghe. Sì perché Sylvia non accetta le mezze misure, Sylvia vuole essere al centro del mondo del suo uo
Silvia Sirea
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sono entrata nella vita di Sylvia senza chiedere il permesso, è questa la sensazione che mi ha investito nelle prime pagine.
Non oggettivamente considerata una bellezza, Sylvia ha qualcosa di indefinibile che attrae quello che sarà poi suo marito, l'autore del romanzo. Sylvia ha affascinato subito anche me: dietro i lunghi capelli neri, il naso non proprio perfetto - secondo lei, almeno - c'è la sua anima insicura e imperfetta, come quella di ognuno di noi. La nascita di un amore e il suo svilup
Jan 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
A few close friends love this book. Like LOOOVVE. But I don't.

Yes, it is beautifully written. Yes, it is filled with raw and intense pain. Yes, it made me cry. But it is supposed to be a portrait, a mature reflection of a hideously dysfunctional relationship. And in one sense it works. I get how Michaels is young and naive and over his head. I get Sylvia's insanity (never called that, but that's what it is). I get the intensity of their fights. I feel his hopelessness. But I never understood why
Rossella De Feudis
Un amore precipita violentemente, si schianta e muore.
Noi entriamo nella sua scatola nera e assistiamo a tutto quello che è successo prima della catastrofe.
Claustrofobia e penombra ci avvolgono dalla prima parola all'ultima.
Paul Bryant
Dec 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: mentalillness
A very short sharp sad read which takes place between 1961 and 1964, a Greenwich Village bo-ho version of the Ted Hughes/Sylvia Plath gruesome twosome waltz with madness and suicide (yes, another Sylvia). This Sylvia is like the more famous one in being intellectually gifted and driven to prove it, but whereas with Miss Plath I always wonder grimly what would have happened if she'd just hung on for a couple more years until the 60s started properly swinging and the feminists started roaring inst ...more
Ken Samuels
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Depressives
Here's my book jacket blurb: "It's the Feel-Bad book of the summer!"

In the mood for a riveting read that will make you want to curl up on your bathroom floor in a puddle of tears? Have I got the book for you!

But seriously...Michaels's matter-of-fact but poetic style seduces you into the unfolding horror of a young writer who slowly realizes he is thoroughly overmatched by his relationship with, let's say it plain, a crazy woman. It's the most realistic portrayal of the "relationship dynamics" be
Come Musica
Un amore malato, come tanti.
Scritto bene, per carità, ma di leggere di situazioni patologiche ne ho un po' piene le tasche.
I don't really know how to react to this novel. I know from growing up with my mad sister that people suffering from mental/physical illnesses can be abusive. Much of Sylvia's behaviour sounds familiar to me and yes, I wouldn't hesitate to call it abuse. But how this book is written, and how Sylvia's actions are framed does not seem fair to Sylvia. For one thing, the 'a male writer falls in love with a mad, beautiful bitch; the sex is great at first, but they're doomed; she needs to die for him ...more
Simone Subliminalpop
NY, anni 60, una coppia ondeggia tra amore e follia.
Dopo le prime pagine, al lettore "sprovveduto" potrebbe venir facile pensare: 'Ma questo scemo cosa aspetta? Scappa via subito!'
Ne bastano poche altre affinché il lettore "consapevole" (sempre lo stesso) tiri un drammatico sospiro per l'improvvisa svolta empatica. In quell'esperienza, dolce e derelitta, su carta, torverà di sicuro echi, più o meno grandi, di qualcosa del suo vissuto.
'Sylvia" è un romanzo ben scritto, la cui brevità però è un'a
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mi ha ricordato Follia di McGrath. Il ritratto di un rapporto che corrode l'anima, di un'amore al limite. È una storia di un'incisività tagliente, che entra nel cuore, la si legge tutta d'un fiato e il fiato lo si ha sospeso. Se ne esce fuori intontiti, increduli, spettinati.
Cominciò senza un inizio...

Tempo: l’inizio degli anni ’60.
Luogo: Greenwich Village.
Un giorno qualunque. Un’amica comune li presenta e comincia la storia tra Sylvia Bloch e Leonard Michaels. E’ il racconto romanzato e autobiografico di un rapporto in bilico tra gli eccessi di Thanatos e quelli di Eros.
Urla e abbracci compongono una quotidianità disordinata che si sintonizza sul clima vigente della Beat generation ma che consuma e corrode attimo dopo attimo.
La fine la si sa già dalla sinossi: Sy
Dec 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
first off: i basically wrote my common app essay (personal statement, whatever) about this book, and about leonard michaels. or rather, well, about the certain kind of hopeful idol at this time in my life that leonard michaels has represented for me, and how with sylvia (picked up, unexpectedly, in a used bookstore in evanston, not either of michaels' books of short stories i've been searching for for years but rather a fictional memoir) i was trying in some way to step outside of the need for t ...more
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, novel
There was a real essayistic feel to this novel, as it was told in alternating chunks of exposition and scene segments, and I have to say everything was executed perfectly up until the problematic ending, which felt more like the conclusion of a short story than the end of a novel. But seeing how this is the story of a young writer trying to make sense of his violently depressed wife's suicide, I suppose there weren't and could never be any easy answers. I feel like he wrote past the ending, that ...more
Sep 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
‘Sylvia’ de Leonard Michaels es una novela autobiográfica ambientada en el Nueva York desinhibido de los años 60 y que se centra en la relación del autor con la que fue su primera mujer, una joven de pelo negro, guapa e inteligente, pero desequilibrada. La primera vez que se ven, se acuestan sin decirse prácticamente nada, y luego deciden ir a vivir juntos. Deciden ir a vivir a un apartamento de dos habitaciones. Durante el día él se dedica a intentar escribir cuentos y ella estudia clásicas en ...more
Oct 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Almost a memoir, it's about his first wife's suicide. Micheals's prose is so clean and pure throughout this book. It avoids the woe-is-me aspect of bad relationship memoirs because of its frank honesty. There's also some fun factoid elements scattered throughout, like when Michaels gets his first literary agent and then meets Jack Kerouac. Let me give you one little sample of this book's beauty (this part is about his wife Sylvia and their friend Agatha): "They are close even in their looks--sam ...more
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
from The Book Hooligan

"There would be an inadvertent insult, then disproportionate anger. I would feel I didn't know why this was happening. I was the object of terrific fury, but what had I done? What had I said?" - The Narrator

I remember a quote from the books that are a part of Melville House's The Neversink Library. The quote is from Herman Melville and it goes like this:

"Somehow, the books that prove most agreeable, grateful, and companionable, are those we pick up by chance here and there;
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
"A volte, dopo una lite, andavamo al cinema. Era come andare in chiesa. Entravamo con le altre persone, raggiungevamo i nostri posti, ci sedevamo di fronte alla luce e soccombevamo alla vasta comune fantasia. Ne uscivamo sentendoci affettuosi e buoni, le nostre ferite rimarginate."
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
si poteva fare di più con un titolo così bello
Wolf Pascoe
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Sylvia: a novel was published in 1990. It’s Leonard Michaels’ short, recollected-in-tranquility account of a disastrous love affair. This is how he describes meeting Sylvia for the first time:

“She said hello but didn’t look at me. Too much engaged, tipping her head right and left, tossing the heavy black weight of hair like a shining sash. The brush swept down and ripped free until, abruptly, she quit brushing, stepped into the living room, dropped onto the couch, leaned back against the brick
Jun 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
The story of the modern Fitzgerald and Zelda. This slim volume contains all the devastation and suffering that a dysfunctional marriage, mental instability, and drug use can inflict on a life. As Diane Johnson points out in her introduction, one of Leonard Michaels’s greatest skills is his exquisite descriptive writing, a skill very much in use here as he explicates, in painstaking and eloquent detail, the slow, small steps his wife takes towards ending her life at the age of 24.

While this is t
Aug 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Sylvia is the fictionalized memoir Michaels wrote about his first marriage with Sylvia Bloch, woman who eventually committed suicide. At the beginning Michaels is rather lost:'I wanted to do something. I didn't want something to do.' He wants to write but it's not that easy, what he likes to do is reading:'I read assiduously. I kept in touch with my species'.

Michaels falls in a heartbeat in his complicated relationship with Sylvia, like he says, 'it started with no beginning'. Things moves extre
Jul 04, 2007 rated it liked it
Michaels captures the strange paradoxes of the sort of angst-ridden, young love that has pretensions toward being something like a metaphysical project. Although the narrator states at the outset of his relationship with the titular Sylvia that his time with her promised to be "brilliant, blooming, fragrant" and that he "had only to be," he all too soon over-intellectualizes the relationship, converts it into a narcissistic labyrinth where logic is twisted into this sort of statement: "It would ...more
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Leonard Michaels taught my senior essay course on Flannery O'Connor at Cal. This is the second book of his that I've read in the last couple of years, and, once again, I'm astonished. I adored that class anyway, but I wish now that I'd realized at the time just how terrific a writer he was. Michaels' prose is pared down and polished, but it nevertheless richly expresses a delicate sensibility in this painful fictional (not quite sure what that means) memoir of his first marriage. I guess what I' ...more
Claustrofobico e disperato.
Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Oh the chaos and of the 1960's.
Sylvia gives us a hint of the crazy side of the 1960's. The narrator throws himself into disastrous relationship and marriage to a woman by the name of "Sylvia."
As sympathetic as I might have felt for him, I also felt frustrated by his helplessness and his air of martyrdom.
A mix between Jane Eyre's Rochester's wife and American Pastoral's psychotic Merry, after awhile I couldn't help but get tired of reading about their endless fights.
However, as exhausting as
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was so good. Though part of me feels a little guilty about liking yet another book about a damaged but mysteriously attractive mental case, what can you do? And this was written in the early 90's anyway. And in your twenties that kind of shit happens. It happened to Leonard Michaels in the early 60's in Manhattan, and see he's written a book about it, but y'know fictionalised.. The writing is insanely good, precise, stylish, and kinda reminiscent of say Richard Yates, maybe Jeffrey Lewis. I ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Page Count - ISBN 9780374271077 2 12 Jul 09, 2017 12:25AM  
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Leonard Michaels was an American writer of short stories, novels, and essays and a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.

Going Places, his first book of short stories, made his reputation as one of the most brilliant of that era's fiction writers; the stories are urban, funny, and written in a private, hectic diction that gives them a remarkable edge. The follow-up, coming
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“I read assiduously. I kept in touch with my species.” 5 likes
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