Tuesday Nights in 1980

Tuesday Nights in 1980

“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.
  • Gallery/Scout Press | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501121043 | 
  • April 2016
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Tuesday Nights in 1980 includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Molly Prentiss. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


As a new decade looms over lower Manhattan, James Bennett is at the top of his game. His wife, Marge, is pregnant, and for once his synesthesia—a neurological phenomenon that crosses sensory pathways—is working in his favor. As an art critic for the New York Times, James is uniquely able to wrench the essential feeling from works of art he lays eyes on, thus launching many a starving artist’s career and making a name for himself that is synonymous with good taste.

But on the first Tuesday of 1980, the New Year rings in tragedy, and James realizes that the  sensations he depends on have disappeared. Hungering for new inspiration, he sets his sights on Raul Engales, an exiled Argentinian oil painter who has come to New York both to seek fame and flee turmoil in his country. But when Raul’s own tragic fate befalls him, the two men face a world void of color or inspiration. Their meeting depends on Lucy—a young bartender desperate to slink out of her Idaho ski see more

Articles About This Book

Off the shelf vertical blog post

Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Julianna Haubner

There’s a saying that goes “Everything old is new again,” and nowhere is that more true than in our newfoundnostalgia for the raddest decade in history. The ‘80s had it all: big hair, big news, and big stories.Here is a list of neon-bright books...

About the Author

Molly Prentiss
Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell

Molly Prentiss

Molly Prentiss was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. She was a Writer in Residence at Workspace at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Vermont Studio Center and was chosen as an Emerging Writer Fellow by the Aspen Writers Foundation. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the California College of the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn.