Excerpt from Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Tuesday Nights in 1980

by Molly Prentiss

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss X
Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2016, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2017, 336 pages

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PORTRAIT OF MANHATTAN BY A YOUNG MAN

BODY: A tight torso, flexing with a million muscle groups. Neighborhoods connected by taxi blood. Hefty, hard shoulders of Harlem, strong pectorals of the Upper East and West Sides, the spine of Central Park and the messy lungs of Midtown. Go farther down and find the pancreatic sack, surrounded by bile, just below Union Square, and even farther are the bowels and bladders of downtown, filled with beggars, booze, little pockets of bright. And what of the parasites that have eaten up these lower guts? Who have eaten out the insides of downtown's most wary buildings? Look harder. Ventricle streets, hydrant valves; way down here is the city's throbbing heart.

EARS: If you had to describe this song, how would you describe it? The song of setting foot onto such dirty new concrete, the song of the soaring buildings, the song of looking upward, following a bird out of the thicket of metal and through the portal of blue sky. How would you describe this song, young, unknown man? You'd need eighteen musicians, surely. You'd need expectant, vibrating buildup. You'd need a genius composer, smart enough to capture what should not be allowed to go undocumented: this frequency of pure, unfettered hope.

FEET: It feels like running away, says an overheard voice, pumping to the rhythm of the music at a not yet familiar nightclub. What does? says another voice. Manhattan, says the first voice, and the island's name sounds like wheeeeeee!

LIMBS: From above, Manhattan is just a lonely arm, squirting and bending from the big body of Brooklyn. It is not until you are inside it that you see it is the vital appendage, the hand that squeezes at the rest of the world, the muscle where everything that's anything is made.

MOUTH: Come on in, the water's fine! The water's not fine but there's always wine. There's always a taxi when you need one, except when you look like you need one. There's a shitload of everything for sale. HOT DOG, HOT DOG, COCA-COLA, PRETZEL. People are dancing in Tompkins Square Park. Watch their mouths turn into O's and their bodies turn into S's. Come on in, the water's fine! This is what the bouncer at Max's says, but only when you're on the list. If you're not on the list, go take a piss. The guys in the band wear skinny ties and combat boots. There's an art project on the sidewalk, on the fire escape, in the back bathroom. Somebody's crawling through a gallery on his hands and knees, moaning. This is a project. Somebody's talking shit about Schnabel. This is a project. Somebody's mouthing the words to that song everybody's listening to: You're just a poor girl in a rich man's house, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh! This, too, is a project. Come on in, mouths the bouncer's sour mouth. Someone's making a scene tonight, and you're about to be a part of it.

FACE: No one recognizes you here. Immediately, you want them to.

OUR YEAR

Winona George's apartment was exotic in a way that only a New Yorker would understand. A downtown New Yorker. In 1979. This is what James Bennett professed to his wife, in a spousal whisper, as they embarked on a night within the apartment's confines: Winona George's annual New Year's Eve party, their first time in attendance. Was it an old schoolhouse? Marge wanted to know. A convent, James said. The sleeping floor of a city convent that retained none of its convently attributes, namely humbleness, sparseness, or quiet. Winona had, in the way of so many wealthy downtowners, transformed the nontraditional space completely, both blasting it with bohemianism (rugs from Fez, lanterns, shells full of candle wax), and cutting it with classic luxury (there was a chandelier in every room). It was something old made new, made old again, which then made it new again. The effect was charming when it was not confusing.

Excerpted from Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss. Copyright © 2016 by Molly Prentiss. Excerpted by permission of Gallery Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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