Tuesday Nights in 1980 - Molly Prentiss

I am not sure if this is a book that will appeal to everyone, but for me, it brought to life a particular moment in time with clarity and an intriguing perspective. The story takes place in the raggedy SOHO of early 1980, when it was filled with artist’s squats and struggling galleries, before the upscale boutiques and hot yoga. There are multiple stories here — the art critic, the passionate artist, even the clichéd young woman new to NYC trying to find herself — and of course they all overlap in intentional and indirect ways. But all of their stories are compelling because they have a sense of mystery and even magic. There are a few noteworthy minor characters, but their stories are told in the margins of the three main protagonists.


I loved this story and the way it was told. The writing is at times aggressive and choppy, and others minimalist, and deeply lyrical. There are leaps of joy, and plummeting depths of sadness over the course of one year, from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Eve. The author introduces us to art through the eyes of a synesthetic art critic; shedding light on a condition that usually defies verbal description. The passion of the artist is clear, and we see how he will do whatever is necessary to practice his craft. There are glimpses of politics here — the oppressive situation of the artist’s homeland, the beginnings of gentrification — but it is not a political story.


So yes, this may only appeal to a certain reader, but I believe that it has a message for a broader audience. It is not only a story about art, it’s a story where art is a touchstone and a common ground, and all of life is seen through that. It is a reminder of a different time, not so long ago, and reading it makes me wonder about the real cost of all that hot yoga and those fancy boutiques.