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Tuesday Nights in 1980 Paperback – May 2, 2017
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"It isn't easy to write a novel about art, and even harder to write a novel about art this good, with this much energy and verve and sense of adventure -- and Molly Prentiss has done it. 'Tuesday Nights in 1980' is much more than an accomplished first novel; it is a beautifully written story of creation and transformation, set against a backdrop of urban decay and political violence. I loved this book." (Daniel Alarcón, author of At Night We Walk in Circles & Lost City Radio)
"For those of us who like our novels soulful and brainy, ambitious and deeply felt, Molly Prentiss has given us a first work of fiction to marvel at and then savor. This is a serious young writer in full command of her craft." (Tom Barbash, author of Stay Up With Me)
"Whether her canvas is as broad as the New York City art world in the good old days of glitz and excess, or as small as the quiet, deeply moving connection between brother and sister, Molly Prentiss seems able to render any expression of humanity expertly onto the page. TUESDAY NIGHTS IN 1980 has worlds in it, all wildly appealing, and Molly Prentiss has chops to spare. I can't imagine the soul who won't love this book." (Marie-Helene Bertino, author of 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas)
"An agile, imaginative, knowledgeable, and seductive writer, Prentiss combines exquisite sensitivity with unabashed melodrama to create an operatic tale of ambition and delusion, success and loss, mystery and crassness. Prentiss’ insights into this brash art world are sharply particularized and shrewd, but she also tenderly illuminates universal sorrows, “beautiful horrors,” and lush moments of bliss. In all, a vital, sensuous, edgy, and suspenseful tale of longing, rage, fear, compulsion, and love. (Booklist (Starred Review))
"First-time novelist Prentiss vividly conjures a colorful love triangle set in the gritty, art-soaked world of downtown New York in 1980. Impressive, too, is her ability to create an atmosphere that crackles with possibility as well as foreboding...a bold and auspicious debut." (Publishers Weekly)
“An intoxicating Manhattan fairy tale… As affecting as it is absorbing. A thrilling debut.” (Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review))
"Tuesday Nights in 1980 is a sweepingly large and profound story about art, love and actualization, cleanly and beautifully composed... A poetic novel of ambitiously profound considerations, a large-scale drama in a series of small, perfectly rendered moments." (Shelf Awareness)
"We are luckily introduced to three individuals who bravely take the stage, ready to conquer SoHo by storm. Their trek amongst the bright lights is captivating, and readers will be hanging on the edge of their seats." (RT Book Reviews)
An April 2016 LibraryReads Pick (LibraryReads)
“Tuesday Nights in 1980 is a discerning, passionate and humane work.” (BookPage)
"It's 1980 in SoHo, and in this thrilling, vibrant debut, a synesthetic art critic could make or break [an artist named] Raul. And so could a girl named Lucy. Oh, and his own recklessness, too." (Marie Claire magazine)
“The gritty New York art scene of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s pulsed with creative energy, and so does this engaging novel… It portrays an intoxicating world and its raw, ungentrified backdrop—both about to be transformed by greed.” (People Magazine)
“Innovative to the max, this debut novel from Molly Prentiss is a book that I've been raving about to everyone I know…Prentiss will leave you breathless as she plays with form and description in astounding new ways.” (Bustle)
"[Prentiss'] writing is as vivid and sensitive as the pensées of her synesthetic art-critic protagonist...[her] descriptions of the eighties art world ring true on both the texture of the work and its go-go capitalist corruption." (Vulture)
“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)
“[Prentiss’s] sensual linguistic flourishes exquisitely evoke the passions we can feel for people and places we’ve known or are discovering…again and again, the temptation is to underline passages…there are riveting plots and subplots… still the book’s magnificence remains in its shadings, descriptive and emotional… toward the end you’ll find yourself turning the pages slowly, sorry to realize you’re almost finished.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)
“Prentiss’s first novel is about art: making it, loving it and letting it go. And the book itself is a work of artistry…what stands out is a straightforward and familiar story… but the writing—authentic and frenetic—makes the material feel fresh. I’ve been there, done that, but I held my breath the whole way.” (The New York Times Book Review)
"Capturing the zeitgeist of a pivotal time and place, this novel is brash and ambitious, with a dash of magical realism thrown in: think Andy Warhol’s legendary parties when they were still underground. Prentiss has created a remarkable debut." (Library Journal, Starred Review)
About the Author
Molly Prentiss was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. She was a Writer in Residence at Workspace at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Vermont Studio Center and was chosen as an Emerging Writer Fellow by the Aspen Writers Foundation. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the California College of the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn.
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It's extremely satisfying to read a novel like this. It draws you into thrumming downtown art world of New York City in one of its most volatile, exciting periods—you do not need to know about art to love this book. It's literary, with sentences you want to read twice and characters that are generously and sharply drawn, and it's also a great story that holds firmly together, which is not always the case with literary books of the moment. It's a pleasure to watch Ms. Prentiss juggle all of these batons throughout the novel—story lines, character arcs—and it's thoroughly impressive to be there as she catches them all, seamlessly, convincingly, and true to the characters.
Tuesday Nights in 1980 is about three people in the New York City arts scene whose lives will become inextricably linked, three people who will have to lose everything before they can discover what really matters. There’s James, the peculiar art critic; Raul, the talented young painter; and Lucy, the small-town girl new to the big city.
Prentiss weaves the three storylines together seamlessly, which is not an easy task, especially for a debut writer. Novels like this one can often feel disconnected, but this one is fluid and purposeful.
And yet, strangely enough, this sense of purpose was also one of its only downfalls for me. Fate is a huge theme throughout, and I can appreciate that, but the serendipitous nature of many of the characters’ interactions was the one thing that grated on me. It’s the one thing that edged a little too close to the ledge of sentimentality.
But don’t get me wrong: the good far (far, far) outweighed the bad.
I imagine some may find Prentiss’s prose (the repetition of words and sentences, the stylized excerpts, the poetic cadence) bordering on pretentious; others, like me, will soak up every single beautiful, carefully curated word.
Hell, even as someone who has grown tired of books that take place in NYC, I was intoxicated by the portrait Prentiss painted of the art scene in 1980.
This is the kind of book that will make you want to set aside an entire afternoon, because it demands (and deserves) your undivided attention. I’m so glad I allowed myself to get lost in these beautiful, flawed characters.
It's too bad that this is the first book by Molly Prentiss because I didn't want it to end, and now I'm waiting for her next one. She creates a thrilling, problematic love triangle between a brooding Argentine painter, his small-town-girl muse, and the art critic suffering from synesthesia who can understand his paintings in ways no one else can. Following each in turn, she lays the characters bare for the reader in an elegant, inventive writing style peppered with wit. Prentiss finds humor and truth in even the dark situations, and I'm still laughing out loud remembering one-liners from the dynamite supporting cast -- just wait until you meet the socialite gallery owner Winona George.
That being said, the characters were interesting and some were well-developed. I like the women more than the men, but probably mostly because the men were very selfish. I did want things to end well for them, which is why I kept reading. I am not a fan of tons of grief in a book, but if that kind of thing doesn't bother you this might be a great book.