- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reissue edition (May 31, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0671745247
- ISBN-13: 978-0671745240
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,162,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Slaves of New York Paperback – May 31, 1991
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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
San Francisco Chronicle A TRUE ORIGINAL with an eye for quirky detail... Janowitz's lean, satirical vignettes put her in the stylistic company of Fran Lebowitz and Jay McInerney.
The Washington Post Sparkling and zippy, from a loft warming to the cast party for a zombie movie...FUNNY, REFLECTIVE...WONDERFULLY SHARP.
New York Newsday Jane Austen goes punk....Welcome to bohemia, circa now.
Andy Warhol GREAT! SIZZLING! WOW!
New York Deadpan wit and drop-dead style...Janowitz is a fearless writer.
Vogue Yearning for transcendent love, yet mired in the petulant, niggardly, supremely anti-romantic world of contemporary New York City...In Tama Janowitz's short stories, economics and romance make strange (and funny) bedfellows.
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When Slaves of New York was published at the height of the eighties, it catapulted author Tama Janowitz to literary stardom. Appearances on Letterman followed. Janowitz was regularly written up in society pages. A film adaptation was made starring Bernadette Peters. Written as a series of short stories that feature a number of recurring characters, Slaves of New York is a view into the lives of downtown artists seeking fame and success in a rather flighty, unpredictable world.
The quirks and neuroses of these downtown denizens are on full display, told through wacky encounters and irreverently humorous exchanges of dialogue. Even more entertaining are Janowitz's acute observations of day-to-day city living. The frustratingly undependable and filthy subways. The cramped conditions of apartment living. The bizarre daily encounters with strangers on the streets. All part of the every day miasma of living in New York City.
Some stories stood out more than others. My personal favorite is titled "Sun Poisoning," where an artist couple vacation at a Haitian resort that is more hell-on-Earth than tropical paradise. The deadpan dialogue throughout the book reads like the following exchange-
"Let me tell you something," Beauregard said in a slurred voice. "You shouldn't act so desperate."
"Let me tell you something," I said. "I was just as desperate when I had a boyfriend. I consider life itself to be an act of desperation." Beauregard looked puzzled.
Slaves of New York is a trip back in time to a bygone era. It a must read for anyone with a fascination or interest in New York City.
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.