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Tama Janowitz:
A Certain Age
Tama Janowitz
  A Certain Age  
Tama Janowitz    
essay

excerpt



  Tama Janowitz burst into the spotlight in 1986 with, Slaves of New York, a collection of offbeat, bitingly satirical short stories that shed light on Gotham City's denizens and social mores. That year she and her Slaves made the cover of New York magazine. And as is par for the course for the person dubbed "The Most Talked About Woman Writer of the Year," she also became fodder for the gossip columns, learning first-hand what it means to go from relative obscurity to celebrity status. She became more than a young writer with a success on her hands--she became an icon of New York's kinetic night life, running in the same circles as her good friend Andy Warhol. She was a "Guess who I saw at ____!"-level celebrity, and the press linked her--perhaps a bit too enthusiastically--to the "literary brat pack," consisting of Janowitz and writers Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney.

Now Janowitz returns to the spotlight with her fifth novel, A Certain Age. Like Slaves, A Certain Age is set within the landscape of Manhattan's indigenous social hierarchy, a world inhabited by status-seekers, where the haves wield all power and respect over the have-nots, and where women are defined most by the men to whom they are linked.

A Certain Age paints a painfully honest portrait of a woman spinning out of control. Florence Collins is a single, 32-year-old self-proclaimed beauty with a dead-end job in an auction house, who lives in a New York where women of 32 are expected to be on a certain path. Obsessed with status, Florence is a compulsive spender who suffers from an extreme, often maddening case of money-and-husband envy. It is these misguided obsessions that continually lead her down wrong paths, and we can't help but cringe as we follow her misadventures. But this is no hapless victim. For just as often as Florence is unlucky in love, screwed over by a man she's chosen for the wrong reasons, she dishes out her share of abuse. She treats poorly men and women alike once she determines that there is little to gain from them. She sees no real logic in female friendship, judges men by their credentials, and resorts to drastic, often unethical measures to clean up the messes she creates in her life.

As the novel opens, Florence rides the Hampton Jitney en route to a festive weekend at her childhood friend Natalie's summer home. Little does she--or do we--know what ill-fated adventures lie in store, adventures that will eventually lead her down a path so extreme that by the novel's end, the details of Florence's life render her virtually unrecognizable from the woman she was at its onset. And while many of her misadventures are ones that might be amusing were they to befall a younger character, within the context of the society Florence inhabits, they are laden with tragic undertones. But despite a vast departure from the ever-popular happy ending, A Certain Age grips its readers and holds their attention until the very last page.

In this issue of Bold Type, read an interview with Tama Janowitz and an excerpt from A Certain Age.
 
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  Photo of Tama Janowitz copyright © Marion Ettlinger

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