source: free review copy via Amazon Vine
title: Tuesday Nights in 1980
author: Molly Prentiss
first line: The meetings happen on Tuesdays, in the basement of Cafe Crocodile.
rated: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
A transcendent debut novel that follows a critic, an artist, and a desirous, determined young woman as they find their way—and ultimately collide—amid the ever-evolving New York City art scene of the 1980’s.
Welcome to SoHo at the onset of the eighties: a gritty, not-yet-gentrified playground for artists and writers looking to make it in the big city. Among them: James Bennett, a synesthetic art critic for The New York Times whose unlikely condition enables him to describe art in profound, magical ways, and Raul Engales, an exiled Argentinian painter running from his past and the Dirty War that has enveloped his country. As the two men ascend in the downtown arts scene, dual tragedies strike, and each is faced with a loss that acutely affects his relationship to life and to art. It is not until they are inadvertently brought together by Lucy Olliason—a small town beauty and Raul’s muse—and a young orphan boy sent mysteriously from Buenos Aires, that James and Raul are able to rediscover some semblance of what they’ve lost.
An AmazonVine find, the cover and title on Tuesday Nights in 1980 captured my interest straight away, as did the New York setting. This is a story about three people, Lucy, Raul and James and how their lives intersect.
I enjoyed the 1980’s NYC setting and found that the author wove the art scene into the storyline really nicely.
Raul is originally from Argentina where he lived with his older sister until she found a husband who he did not care for. This husband is what eventually makes Raul come to NYC and pursue his art career while leaving his beloved sister behind. Raul loves creating art and is looking for his muse.
He had always wanted exactly what he had now: to be able to paint for a reason. But now that he had one, he felt that the reason was arbitrary, which made the painting seem that way.
p.131, Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss
James is an interesting character because he has synesthesia. He sees and experiences life differently and his way of viewing things makes him a unique kind of art critic. I felt like James was kind of a mess, but his flaws made him interesting.
He wrote everything he saw behind his eyes when he looked at art-Brice Marden preoccupies me like a shoe that has stepped in gum, or Schnabel, not to be funny, has too many plates in the air-and people told him it was genius, that he was changing the very nature of art critique….
This was a coming of age story for Lucy, the small town girl living in the big city. I felt like Lucy was a weak character, she clung to men to make herself feel complete. Even during a time of crisis, she sought out a former lover. This character flaw however could probably be attributed to her being so young still.
She had lost herself. She had completely disappeared. She was no longer the girl in the painting, so hopeful, so new. She was old. She was ancient.
Towards the latter half of the story there was a wrench in the book that I did not see coming. Things got complicated and I wondered how it would all turn out. I did find the ending dragged on a bit for my taste, but overall I enjoyed this one.
Molly Prentiss weaves an interesting story about art, love, sex and NYC during the 1980’s.
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.
Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I obtained my free review copy of Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss via AmazonVine.