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Tuesday Nights in 1980 (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

            Argentina, mid-1970s. An orphaned brother and sister are stranded in a huge house, alone but together and so close they feel each other’s feelings, know each other’s thoughts. Until she marries. Her husband is an intrusion Raul can’t abide. He leaves, unaware that his sister is with child. He flees to New York, pursuing art and ignoring his past, his sister, the turmoil in his native land. He lives the fabled bohemian life that the late ‘70s were famous for, settling in a squat with other artists, painting and drinking, painting and partying, painting and making love, but always painting.

            James is an art critic. He’s married to Marge who works while James writes. Sporadically. He’s good at what he does but is both informed and afflicted by a condition known as Synesthesia. He sees colors underlying, suffusing, the paintings he examines, the painters who paint them. Sees colors in and around his wife, his friends

            And so to 1980 New York, the art scene vibrant, the characters vivid, the tangle of their relationships such a mix of elation and pain that the reader is torn between racing from page to page breathless, or stopping to re-read this iridescent, garish paragraph, the expression on that character’s face—his tone, her gesture. This is a miraculous book, one I fell madly and deeply in love with. But the real miracle is that at least every year or two another such marvel of a book is born—in this case made more wondrous by the fact that this is a debut novel. May such wonders never cease—at least in the world of books.

— From Betsy Burton

April 2016 Indie Next List

“A synesthetic art critic rises to prominence by capturing the je ne sais quoi of great new paintings in terms of sound, aura, and taste. A young painter escapes war in his native Argentina to bring his unusual portraits to New York. A wide-eyed farm girl leaves home for the gritty promise of the big city, destined to become a muse of the art scene. The web between these characters becomes increasingly tangled as 1980 progresses in all its dark glamour. Prentiss captures raw ambition, startled joy, and aching tragedy equally well to produce a thought-provoking, originally textured novel that both transports and awes.”
— Richael Best (W), The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA


"In one sentence, Ms. Prentiss captures a sense of intoxication and possibility that six seasons of voice-overs from Sarah Jessica Parker never could...Ms. Prentiss concludes her novel on a note that's both ethereal and brutally realistic. She cauterizes wounds, but they're still visible and bare. But for her characters--for this promising author--it's enough." --The New York Times

"An intoxicating Manhattan fairy tale...As affecting as it is absorbing. A thrilling debut." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A vital, sensuous, edgy, and suspenseful tale of longing, rage, fear, compulsion, and love." --Booklist (starred review)

A transcendent debut novel that follows a critic, an artist, and a desirous, determined young woman as they find their way--and ultimately collide--amid the ever-evolving New York City art scene of the 1980s.

Welcome to SoHo at the onset of the eighties: a gritty, not-yet-gentrified playground for artists and writers looking to make it in the big city. Among them: James Bennett, a synesthetic art critic for The New York Times whose unlikely condition enables him to describe art in profound, magical ways, and Raul Engales, an exiled Argentinian painter running from his past and the Dirty War that has enveloped his country. As the two men ascend in the downtown arts scene, dual tragedies strike, and each is faced with a loss that acutely affects his relationship to life and to art. It is not until they are inadvertently brought together by Lucy Olliason--a small town beauty and Raul's muse--and a young orphan boy sent mysteriously from Buenos Aires, that James and Raul are able to rediscover some semblance of what they've lost.

As inventive as Jennifer Egan's A Visit From The Goon Squad and as sweeping as Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings, Tuesday Nights in 1980 boldly renders a complex moment when the meaning and nature of art is being all but upended, and New York City as a whole is reinventing itself. In risk-taking prose that is as powerful as it is playful, Molly Prentiss deftly explores the need for beauty, community, creation, and love in an ever-changing urban landscape.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781501121043
ISBN-10: 1501121049
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: April 5th, 2016
Pages: 336
Language: English