Slaves of New York

A series of interconnected stories of life and sex in the city, predating Bushnell by a decade.

Slaves of New York
Tama Janowitz
(Picador, 1987)

I tried to read this short story collection before, but put it down as the first one seemed to be trying too hard. All “look at me, talking about dicks!”. Whatever. On a second attempt, I realized this was a set of stories about dreams and realities in New York. The recurring characters are, for the most part, now recognizable as hipsters: urban artists, bands who never quite break through, etc.

Jewelry designer Eleanor recurs the most. She’s a small-town Pollyanna, desperate to believe she and her boyfriend are on the cusp of success. She’s just so…wet. Though the description of her work at the end made me think of this stuff by Margaux Lange (hattip to Kelly Hale). Are we meant to read her as deluded? Or does the upbeat end of her story mean she is really going somewhere?

Janowitz’s jagged, brusque prose sometimes seems like her characters: pushing so hard to be edgy that it becomes all style and no substance. It’s a style that suits short stories, but can make them disengaging. The collection’s seems laid out to reinforce that.

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2 Responses to “Slaves of New York”

  1. Faceofboe Says:

    I read this book around the time it was published. I loved it at the time – I haven’t re-read it though. I suspect that if I did re-read it I would discover it was very much of its time and that what charmed and entertained the 20 year old me may very well not have the same effect on the me of now. I read some of her other books too – American Dad and The Male Cross Dressers Support Group. They were fine but…..I stopped buying her stuff. Not because I didn’t like the books I’d read – I did. But I guess just not enough to, you know, be arsed about keeping up with her output. Which is actually quite unusual for me as I’m usually pretty loyal. Make of that what you will!

  2. Mags Says:

    I get like that. I’ll read three or four books by an author quickly and then never pick them up again.

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