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Slaves of New York Paperback – May 31, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reissue edition (May 31, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671745247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671745240
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Tama Janowitz's story collection of mid-1980s manners, it's all about real estate. Her coterie of New York artists and grad students, junkies and collectors dwells in walk-ups and covets lofts. The occasional socialite wafts through, characterized tersely by statements of fact; for example, "Millie owned her own co-op." But, for the most part, these are the also-rans of Manhattan life, literally looking for a toehold in the city. The main character who emerges is shabby Eleanor, an appealing heroine who appears in several linked stories. A jewelry maker, she lives with an artist named Stash and a treasure-trove of insecurities. Much is made of the squalor of their apartment. In Eleanor, Janowitz finds a channel for her vulnerability--a nice counterpoint to her affectless prose, which attempts and occasionally achieves a deadpan humor.

Intertwined with the Eleanor stories are the unreliable first-person narratives of Marley Mantello. Marley, too, has serious real estate issues: "My apartment, the sublet from which I was being evicted, looked just as terrible as when I had gone out earlier--worse, even, for there was a foul reek of something fecund and feline, like the stench of old lion spoor upon the veldt."

The rest of the stories are brief thumbnails, which Janowitz calls "modern saints" and "case histories." Stabbing at experimentalism, they showcase her shortcomings--the lazy satire, the easy laugh. This author's prose seemed of-the-moment when it came out, and time has not been altogether kind. "I was startled to find him so far uptown, knowing how he usually refused to travel above Fourteenth Street, claiming it led to mental decay," says the narrator of "In and Out of the Cat Bag." This kind of observation may have seemed edgy in 1985, but has little staying power. At its best, Slaves effervesces a bittersweet nostalgia for a time when artists could still afford to live in Manhattan. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

These seven stories feature Eleanor, a diffident young woman who gains entree to the arty milieu of lower Manhattan, which seems to combine elements of Oz and Never-Never-Land with Dante's Inferno. PW noted that the author's prose infuses the characters here with "quirky life."
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
5 star
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See all 16 customer reviews
The title is a perfect description of the contents.
TROY LEE
The characters were interesting, but usually I felt like the author was trying too hard to make them interesting.
Z. Freeman
I read this book in the late 80's, I was around 19.
Dari T.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Z. Freeman VINE VOICE on August 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Maybe it's because I was born in the 80's and not partying then, or maybe I'm just too middle-class, but I thought this entire book was pretty mediocre. The characters were interesting, but usually I felt like the author was trying too hard to make them interesting. Janowitz fits in with the Bret Easton Ellis/Jay McInerney style of writing about what it's like to be incredibly spoiled and have no soul. The two aforementioned authors pull that off with a lot more style and ability than she does.

I only read this book because I heard that the character of Stash is in Ellis' book American Psycho. Overall, I found myself interested in the stories and the characters, but most of the stories lacked a certain human aspect that the other two authors know how to provide. This is a good read if you're stuck in an airport all day with nothing else, otherwise I'd recommend getting something with more substance.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Christian Moller on June 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
I read this book when it first came out. I was living and working in NYC, and thought it captured the tone of the city perfectly. Ms. Janawitz got alot of exposure, and seemed like the hot ticket at the time as a new writer. I read some of the reviews above, and I guess you had to be there to appreciate the book. It was right on at the time. NYC in 1985 or '86. I have to re-read it and see if my opinion differs from when I was 18, now that I am 44. Of course, when I was that age, I saw "The Breakfast Club" and it really seemed to talk to my generation. I recently saw it on cable, and now I think it is about stupid, whiney teenagers. Maybe I shouldn't re-read the book, I might be disappointed.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "meltingyellow" on November 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've read this book so many times over that I've actually become sentimentally attached to it. Most of the enjoyment from it is reliving the time in which it's set, the 1980s, an interesting time in the way that the clothing was: at times conservative, other times colorful, overall intriguing, but there's still no way in hell you'd want to BE in it again.
This book captures the lives of the wacky, egocentric NY artists who reflect their hated yuppie counterparts in that they're upwardly mobile, albeit nonconformistly, greedy and self-centered. But unlike yuppies, the artists of the Lower East Side present far more colorful stories and egos to capitalize on.
Fortunately the book has Eleanor, the self-deprecating protagonist to whom we all endear. She keeps the book light-hearted and comical, as she is the offbeat among the offbeat, the miscast in the world of misfits. She is the self-conscious woman who clashes with, and makes uncomfortable, her fellow carefree artists. But she eventually finds her ground in the big city. We root for because she conquers the city the way we wish we could: by keeping intact our integrity, humility, and naivete, and not succumbing to the cynicism and selfishness of the "Me" generation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stacy Helton on May 5, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not a new topic for me, so indulge me. My last two years of college, post-community college, I had a subscription to the VILLAGE VOICE. Here I was, a 20-year-old in a campus dining hall in Alabama reading the barometer of what's hip in New York City. Of course, to me I might as well have been reading about Iraq or Darfur, it was so exotic to me. This was 1988-1990, the era of Joel Steinberg, Michael Alig and Tawana Brawley, but, in my mind, it mostly belonged to three writers: Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis and Tama Janowitz, labeled incidentally by the VOICE, the "literary brat pack." I had read the male writers at the time but for whatever reason the Janowitz book never materialized (of course these were the days when the only way you got a book not in stores was to try and "special order" it at the mall bookstore, which may or may not work.) SLAVES OF NEW YORK is a vaguely interconnected collection of short stories about the lower rung of the art world in 1980s Manhattan, specifically the Lower East Side. A lion's share of the stories feature Eleanor, a jewelry designer, and her artist boyfriend Stash, as well as a handful about quirky artist Marley Mantello. Satellite characters shadow the corners, some repeating, some one-timers, like the man who likes to take women to Tiffany's, have them pick out a piece of jewelry, then make like he forgot his wallet. I thought reading the book over 25 years past its' cultural expiration date might allow the book to be seen as a time capsule (in a good way), but the book is lite on atmosphere and heavy on character. And it's not that the characters are unlikable; Eleanor is interesting in her own way, but her acquiescence to Stash becomes quite tiresome as the book goes on.Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book has had some trenmendous impacts on me that I never realized until one day when I thought of leg-waxing, I thought of "a tiny women yelling at me in Spanish and pouring hot wax on my legs..." Spend a day in uptown Manhattan with idiosyncratic artists in their most primitive desires and philosophies. This book is unbelievably true and sensitive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is a gas! It consists of little vignettes about a cast of bizarre and shallow artsy characters in New York. The book is utterly entertaining and affirming of the trendy bizarreness of the art world freakos. It had me laughing out loud several times.

Marley Mantello and his brother Achilles are a scream, along with his mom who is so fat that it takes all her energy just to rest. She has so much fat on her body that she appears to have no bones on her feet, "her little figgys". She tells Marley she thinks she's pregnant from having sex twice with a professor of the politics of television. Marley plans to name the baby Achilles and raise it as his own.

The book is well-written and descriptive of the egotistic, narcissistic and shallow self-centeredness of minor artistes.
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