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What was the deal with… Slaves of New York by Tama Janowicz?

November 2, 2020

Back in the 1980s, Tama Janowicz was a (kind of) famous author in a group of young New York writers called the Literary Brat Pack. If you’re not aware of the 1980s, the Brat Pack was a group of actors/actresses who starred in a bunch of lightweight Hollywood comedies and dramas. They were nice looking and young.

The Literary Brat Pack were relatively young and nice looking… for writers.

Tama Janowicz had just published a book of short stories called Slaves of New York, and professors and students in my writing and literature classes talked about how great it was. It didn’t seem to be in my genre, but I wanted to see what was so great about it, so I began reading the first story, and this is what I saw:

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Modern Saint #271

After I became a prostitute, I had to deal with penises of every imaginable shape and size.

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What!? This acclaimed literary author was writing about dicks? It wasn’t just the first sentence either. The first couple paragraphs were about dicks. That kind of ticked me off. The esteemed Tama Janowicz had to resort to writing about dicks on the first page of her literary masterpiece.

This was my first moment of disillusionment with the literary world. What was I going to do if I wanted to become a well-known literary figure? Write about puss…? Never mind!

I went to another story just to see if it was any good. It was okay but nothing special. There were a couple student peers in my fiction writing class that had just as much talent but would never be successful like her.

At the time I wondered how a writer like her could become so acclaimed. Back then, it was really tough to research this stuff, and frankly, I didn’t care enough to do it. I just wondered for a moment and moved on.

Now I’ve had the chance to read about Tama Janowicz’s background. Her mom was a literature professor. She grew up in New York City. She hung out with Andy Warhol.

How would Tama Janawicz NOT have been successful it in the New York publishing scene? If you want to be a successful author, have a literature professor parent, grow up with New York connections, and (if you’re female) write about dicks on your first page. Also, write about drugs and depravity. Lots of depravity.

I might not be talented enough to become a successful literary writer, but it’s good to understand the formula.

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Enough about me! What do you think? Should a famous author resort to writing about dicks on the first page? What’s a bigger sign of desperation, putting profanity in a book title or writing about dicks in the first paragraph?

One Comment
  1. Well – they say the first line of a book has to be a real zinger, but I’d have to say that is a little over the top.

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