“You should always keep old friends happy because they know more about you than you’d like.”
Add Happy Hour from author Marlowe Granados to the sub-genre: New York novels. This episodic novel, in diary-form, covering just a few months, is written by 21-year-old Isa Epley who arrives in New York followed by her friend Gala Novek. It’s a chaotic beginning with the two young women moving in on the night their apartment neighbours decide to throw a party. In an informal arrangement, they rent the top apartment from another young woman who is spending the summer surfing. Gala and Isa survive by selling clothes on a market stall–that’s their day job, but life really begins at night in the bars, clubs and parties as these two young women coast through life. Making various contacts, and Gala has a particular talent for this, they tell everyone they meet that “we’re trying to find little jobs here and there.” Cash of course. And so they swim their way through various New York opportunities to make a little cash.
At one point they attend a talk with a “French economic theorist” who has written a best seller. They are out of their depth–it’s not the right crowd. Gala “tried to accommodate a dress code. Her version of business casual was a loose white linen suit with a sheer shirt underneath the jacket, buttoned so one could see her belly button.“
During the talk, Gala asks Isa “Do you think they have a list of who’s in the One Percent?” which really cuts to the heart of the matter. They work on a movie set, fill seats in a new club to flesh out the crowd, attend parties with the rich and famous, attend castings, and with any luck food and drinks come with whatever gigs they pull.
Overall, due to the subject matter, I found it hard to maintain my interest. I had hoped for something along the lines of Tana Janowitz or Jay McInerney. Isa and Gala are two resilient young women who hustle to survive, and it’s very tenuous. They are young, and beautiful, but won’t be forever. A glamorous life is fine if you can afford it, but a poignant, tinsel effort if one cannot.
On the upside, I liked parts of it, when, for example, Isa wonders:
whether my memories should stay only mine, or have they ever been? Each time I tell someone a story over a watery pernod, it opens that someone to the possibility of the memory.
In the end I know I am passionate about glamour–because it is illusive, hard to define, yet identifiable.