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.