"An art critic whose reputation for creative insight is built on his own synesthesia. An Argentine artist hoping to make it as a painter, having fled not just the country’s Dirty War but a bad family situation is on the cusp of discovery. A young high-school grad escapes rural Idaho, and like the others, finds herself in the center of the downtown New York art scene and becomes the third point in a very complicated triangle. Prentiss captures that moment in time when New York’s downtown art scene was about to explode from social experiment to big business. Her fictional characters vie with the real artists sprinkled through the story for how larger than life a person can be. She also does a deft job balancing internal musings with some rollercoaster plot twists, and the Big Apple details have a Technicolor intensity. I’m not sure I agreed with a few of the structural tics, but on the other hand, how can you have a novel about an art scene without some stylizing? It’s a compelling and passionate read, perfect for anyone who enjoyed The Flamethrowers or Ten Thousand Saints."— Daniel Goldin
"Gallery shows and creative gatherings mark Tuesday nights in New York City in the year 1980, where artists, critics, observers, and loyal fans join up and celebrate art in the midst of unrelenting gentrification and urban transformation. James Bennett, an oddball art critic with overwhelming synesthesia, and Raul Engales, a young Argentinian exile whose paintings are on the cusp of being discovered, abruptly cross paths when they realize they share a muse, a beautiful girl from Idaho named Lucy who is struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Layered with detailed backstories and cultural references that truly set the 1980s scene, Tuesday Nights in 1980 is an inventive debut that will appeal to art lovers, urban spelunkers, and postmodern readers."— Carly Lenz
April 2016 Indie Next List
“A synesthetic art critic rises to prominence by capturing the je ne sais quoi of great new paintings in terms of sound, aura, and taste. A young painter escapes war in his native Argentina to bring his unusual portraits to New York. A wide-eyed farm girl leaves home for the gritty promise of the big city, destined to become a muse of the art scene. The web between these characters becomes increasingly tangled as 1980 progresses in all its dark glamour. Prentiss captures raw ambition, startled joy, and aching tragedy equally well to produce a thought-provoking, originally textured novel that both transports and awes.”
— Richael Best (W), The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
"In one sentence, Ms. Prentiss captures a sense of intoxication and possibility that six seasons of voice-overs from Sarah Jessica Parker never could...Ms. Prentiss concludes her novel on a note that's both ethereal and brutally realistic. She cauterizes wounds, but they're still visible and bare. But for her characters--for this promising author--it's enough." --The New York Times
"An intoxicating Manhattan fairy tale...As affecting as it is absorbing. A thrilling debut." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A vital, sensuous, edgy, and suspenseful tale of longing, rage, fear, compulsion, and love." --Booklist (starred review)
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 1980s.
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.
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.