From Publishers Weekly
While Janowitz is famous for her 1986 bestseller Slaves of New York
, she's published widely since then—in everything from Vogue
to Modern Ferret
—and has revised many pieces for this anthology. Apart from the first selection, a horrifying description of having a miscarriage in a toilet at the Museum of Modern Art, most are in the E.B. White mode: witty vignettes on life in New York. Since adopting Chinese babies isn't uncommon in the world of modern Manhattanites, it's not surprising when Janowitz describes the trip she and her husband took to Heifei to adopt. Janowitz's description of her incompetence as a new mom has an almost Marx Brothers quality, as she details their baby fighting a diaper change "like a wounded fox in a leg-hold trap." Her essays on animals and pets are characteristically contrarian. She prefers "timid, feeble, neurotic, snappish, picky, babyish" dogs, but finds the Prospect Park Zoo's kangaroo no more interesting than a "gigantic rabbit." Apart from crotchety lapdogs, Janowitz loves food (oozing pizza, pounds of chocolate, doughnuts, steaks, etc.), although she doesn't enjoy elegant hors d'oeuvres at lavish receptions—after all, isn't eating "basically a solitary pleasure"? "The '80s died in Manhattan in 1987, along with Andy Warhol," she writes. But Janowitz herself, older and more self-critical, is still going strong.
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Janowitz's caustic wit, her taste for the sordid and the absurd, and her knack for skewering the fashionable and championing the clueless are as vividly present in her pithy nonfiction as they are in her spiky novels, which include A Certain Age
(1999) and Peyton Amber
(2003). This robust essay collection spans the past two decades and forms a montagelike self-portrait and a sharp critique of urban life. But will the reader get past the jarring opening essay, a deadpan and graphic account of her suffering a miscarriage at the Museum of Modern Art? This rough start does establish Janowitz's sanguinary tendencies, and things get far more engaging once she offers curmudgeonly yet affectionate tales about her adopted Chinese daughter and cops to her penchant for wearing bizarre outfits and her fondness for tiny, high-strung dogs. Janowitz is at her mordant best when she chronicles the spectrum of New York life, from her crummy neighborhood grocery and the fringes of Prospect Park to decadent promotional events and her hilarious escapades with Andy Warhol and their blind date club. Never correct or polite, Janowitz is sharply observant, bracingly frank, wryly skeptical, and fully aware of the deeper issues at stake, from the devaluing of art to homelessness to the precarious state of the environment. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved