I took advantage of last month’s store-wide McSweeney’s sale to buy a few things. Though I’m not necessarily a fan of everything McSweeney’s, this book has a nice cover (which, you know, is always a swaying inﬂuence) and said it was about a teenage girl in 1970s New York. Most reviews reference this, how the book takes place in the 70s, yet the only time that is obvious is reading the jacket description. There’s a nostalgic, not-present feel to the book, so the story works regardless of the intended time period. But I found it strange that so many reviewers reference that, like everyone’s cheating oﬀ the blurb. Perhaps the clues are there, for people who really know NY. Yet many reviews also reference the narrator being a “13-year-old,” which deﬁnitely isn’t spelled out so speciﬁcally.
The story itself is lyrical and lilting. Seasons seem to shift back and forth and while the subtle plots progress steadily, though apparently it all arcs over just one year. Just before reading this, my friend pointed me towards Haruki Murakami’s essay “Jazz Messenger” in the NYTimes (not yet under the paywall), about the parallels he has found between music and writing, so I kept noting how this book is composed musically. It deﬁnitely has its rhythm down, the story will pull you along without you noticing — short chapters drawing you straight into the next. Melodically and harmonically, it can be ﬂat for several pages before revealing some short, lovely passage that comes together nicely.
Overall there’s something enigmatic about it: the characters often feel either conﬂated or idealized, but never in a way like I could put my ﬁnger on exactly why. I found this podcast with Yannick Murphy that discusses the autobiographic inspiration of the book, which may account for some of that haziness.