What the Cool Kids Were Reading: Tama Janowitz and Bret Easton Ellis
Slaves of New York is a collection of short stories by Tama Janowitz. She was part of the art crowd of the 1980s (Tama, Jay McInerney and Bret Easton Ellis were considered the "literature brat pack") and was a close friend of Andy Warhol's.
The stories are about the lives of young New Yorkers- that is, people who move to and around New York for school, work, or in pursuit of their dreams.
It isn't a collection of stories that tie up loose ends and glorify New York. The fact that to try and make a living in New York at the time involved is clear from the very first story, which begins with the line "After I became a prostitute, I had to deal with penises of every imaginable shape and size."
That's potentially a very off-putting sentence, but it's always the scandal that keeps the pages turning, isn't it?
The next story is about a disillusioned women's studies student who can't remember why she wanted to study it in the first place (this happens to most university students everywhere, I'm sure), and there is a story written as a sort of retelling of a dream, involving a lobotomy and a day in the life of Bruce Springsteen's wife.
Slaves of New York is weird and wonderful, and that's probably why people loved it- it told the true stories of their lives, and captured the spirit of the times.
The other popular author of the 80s is Bret Easton Ellis, who apparently published Less Than Zero at the age of 21. It was very well-received, but I can't say whether I agree with any of the praise because I found it so difficult to read.
Though I didn't get much out of these books, I will say that they gave me one or two ideas about my own writing. I mean, I'm 21, and I live in Johannesburg, so I suppose I could put together my own stories about student life in the big city. I would call it "All That Glitters Is Not Gold", or something.