Prentiss’s first novel is about art: making it, loving it and letting it go. And the book itself is a work of artistry...[T]he writing — authentic and frenetic — makes the material feel fresh. I’ve been there, done that, but I held my breath the whole way.
Lucy’s character is pallid in contrast to the shining oddity of James or the gruff magnetism of Raul. She’s a country girl in the big city, who wants something, but she’s not sure what. Lucy works as little more than an implement Prentiss uses to hold together a number of skeins in a complicated plot driven by the mystical momentum of New York and the exigencies and consolations of art. These big, well-worn topics give the novel a breathless quality that can veer into melodrama ... All of Prentiss’s characters are propelled by some nameless yearning that dictates the things they do in this strange moment in their frenetic city. It’s a sentimental story that’s been told a 100 times, but Prentiss finds a way to set down her characters’ flowering elegance in a delightful way.
[Prentiss's] sensual linguistic flourishes exquisitely evoke the passions we can feel for people and places we've known or are discovering ... There are riveting plots and subplots. A mother is separated from her child. A brother abandons his sister. An artist is rendered unable to paint. A city sells its soul. Still, the book's magnificence remains in its shadings, descriptive and emotional. Toward the end, you'll find yourself turning the pages slowly, sorry to realize you're almost finished.
New York is its own dynamic character in Ms. Prentiss’s hands. It’s a city of towering grime, with graffitied koans on the sidewalks and store windows that advertise 'BEST PORN IN TOWN XXX.' Her book falls neatly into the current New York grit nostalgia, captured in Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire and HBO’s Vinyl ... 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.
[Prentiss's] writing is as vivid and sensitive as the pensées of her synesthetic art-critic protagonist, whose intersection with an Argentine refugee painter sets the novel in motion. Prentiss's descriptions of the eighties art world ring true on both the texture of the work and its go-go capitalist corruption. Stumbles into broadness and sentimentality are mercifully few, a small price to pay for exuberance and heart.
That Prentiss is able to create and maintain her varied characters is impressive; they come from a range of ages, backgrounds and experiences. She deftly conveys innocence, world-weariness and insecurity ('he felt his confidence sliding down the epic slope of almost-failure toward failure itself'), and the latter’s ensuing obstacle to creativity whether in James or Raul...Prentiss anchors Tuesday Nights in 1980 with that night and chooses a culturally defining event near the end of the year for one of the book’s turning points. The restraint she shows as she reveals that moment through one character’s movements through the city exemplifies the skill that makes her first novel a joy to read.
t is certainly no surprise Prentiss has been collecting vigorous praise in the month since her novel was released. Tuesday Nights in 1980 exhibits a unique and sensitive command of language. It celebrates her ability to use unexpected images to invent new meaning inside familiar feelings. Prentiss does this while braiding together a plot-driven narrative about subjects we’ve seen a dozen times and will gladly see a dozen more if she’s the one doing the telling. This is a debut novel will that will poke at an ache inside you, and keeping you turning the page for more.