Summary and book reviews of Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

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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Book Summary

An intoxicating and transcendent debut novel that follows a critic, an artist, and their shared muse as they find their way - and ultimately collide - amid the ever-evolving New York City art scene of the 1980s.

Welcome to SoHo at the onset of the eighties: a gritty, quickly gentrifying 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.

As inventive as Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad and as sweeping as Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings, Tuesday Nights in 1980 boldly renders a complex moment when the meaning and nature of art is being all but upended, and New York City as a whole is reinventing itself. In risk-taking prose that is as powerful as it is playful, Molly Prentiss deftly explores the need for beauty, community, creation, and love in an ever-changing urban landscape.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the 1980 "Portrait of Manhattan" offered here. How does New York City act as its own of character throughout the novel? How does it change and grow? How would you describe a portrait of your own home, in 2015?
  2. James' first journalism teacher claims that there is "influence in oddity." How do we find ways to absorb difference into our identity? Discuss James complex relationship to his synesthesia.
  3. Like James, we all have a "Running List of Worries." What do think would be on Lucy or Raul's list? Marge or Arlene? Why do you think it is so much easier to internalize our regret over our accomplishments?
  4. There is a perverse comfort afforded to those who share tragedy, like Franca's resistance group or John Lennon&#...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Heady with the atmosphere of a teeming, transitional urban environment and graced with the richness of well-crafted prose, this first novel hints at literary pleasures yet to come.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review (571 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

One yearns for more time spent on the women artists who are minor characters, James's magnanimous wife, Marge, and Lucy's sometime roommate. Nevertheless, this is a bold and auspicious debut.

Booklist

Starred Review. In all, a vital, sensuous, edgy, and suspenseful tale of longing, rage, fear, compulsion, and love.

RT Book Reviews

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

Author Blurb Daniel Alarcón, author of At Night We Walk in Circles and Lost City Radio
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.

Author Blurb Tom Barbash, author of Stay Up With Me
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.

Author Blurb Marie-Helene Bertino, author of 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas
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.

Reader Reviews

Debra V. (Kenosha, WI)

Tuesday Nights....
Loved the book! A story about the crazy, changing art scene in New York in 1980, following the lives of an artist, a critic, and various "art groupies" for one year. There is just enough backstory to flesh out the characters -- including the story ...   Read More

Molly B. (Longmont, CO)

Total Enjoyment!
What a fascinating, fun book! The writing was really enjoyable to read – creative, often ethereal, and full of information about synesthesia and the art world of the 1980. Prentiss has a way of presenting a whole lot in a few words. She can evoke a...   Read More

Maureen S. (Huntington Station, NY)

Tuesday Nights in 1980
In this debut novel, Molly Prentiss achieves not only a fresh style, but creates a powerful flow of emotions that make you care about the characters. The story begins as one decade ends and a new one begins; bringing new life adventures to our ...   Read More

Diane S. (Batavia, IL)

Tuesday Nights in 1980
New York, on the cusp of 1980, the changing art scene of Soho before it became officially known as Soho. Following the lives of three individuals for the next year: Lucy in her early twenties coming from Idaho to experience life in a big city, James ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

New York City's SoHo District

Tuesday Nights in 1980 is set in the SoHo district of New York City, a neighborhood that was once far removed from the boutiques and arts destination it is today. SoHo is located in lower Manhattan and derives its name from its geography: South of Houston street and perhaps after its sister equivalent, Soho in London. It is widely believed that an urban planner, Chester Rapkin, was influential in SoHo getting its name, and referred to the district as such in a 1962 study. This nomenclature style might have lead to other names such as TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal), that use similar principles.

It's hard to believe now but Manhattan in the 1600s was mostly grassy meadows and marshes settled by Native Americans. Early Dutch migrants set ...

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