I received an advanced review copy of this title from The New York Review of Books through Edelweiss.
This is one of those books that is difficult to classify in a specific genre. It is biographical, but it is does not take the form of a traditional narrative like most biographies. The author taped the conversations of three people, Marsha, Vincent and Emily, during the summer of 1965 while they vacationed on the beaches of East Hampton and transcribed their dialogue into this book form. The result is a straightforward, raw and, at times, shocking series of conversations on which we are “eavesdropping.”
There are several topics and themes that keep cropping up in the conversations of these three friends. First and foremost is their many failed relationships. None of them can sustain a long-term love interest and they all seem to have different reasons for being unlucky in love. Emily is still hung up on an old boyfriend with whom she lived in France, Vincent is gay and can’t quite seem to find someone to confide in like he does with Marsha, and Marsha seems to be in love with her gay best friend Vincent. All three of them are in psychotherapy trying to iron out their problems and they like to sit around an analyze their therapy sessions.
Another topic that keeps bubbling to the surface is their childhoods. Marsha and Emily, in particular, like to share stories about their younger years and their parents. Emily tells a particularly horrifying yet funny story about a neighbor’s doll which she covets and then ends up destroying so she doesn’t have to give it back. There seems to be a contest among them as to whom has had the most twisted and ridiculous stories from their younger years.
The most common, and shocking topic among the three is sex. They talk about anything and everything. They talk about who they are attracted to, who they will and won’t sleep with; no aspect of sex is off the table–ménage, S&M, orgies, abortion, masturbation are all covered. Marsha goes into great detail describing a boyfriend who like to tie her up, hang her on a wall, and whip her. TALK can be considered the original 50 Shades of Grey, only Marsha is smart enough to realize that this is not a healthy relationship and she quickly moves on. I had to keep reminding myself that this book was written fifty years ago because their conversations could have just as easily have taken place today. All three friends are 30 years old and have come to a crossroads in their lives; will they ever find the right one and get married and settle down? Is marriage really something that they could or should even consider? Rosenkrantz was progressive and brave not to filter any of the talk among these friends.
The New York Review of Books Classics imprints are my favorites to read. They have provided us with another fascinating, relevant and interesting book. You will definitely want to grab this one for the beach.
About The Author:
Linda Rosenkrantz is the author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, including Telegram, a history of the telegraphic communication, and her memoir, My Life as a List: 207 Things About My (Bronx) Childhood, and the co-author of Gone Hollywood: The Movie Colony in the Golden Age. She was also the founding editor of Auction magazine, a long-time syndicated columnist, and a founder of the popular baby-naming site Nameberry.com. She currently resides in Los Angeles.
4 responses to “Review: Talk by Linda Rosenkrantz”
This sounds very radical for its time. I’m a fan of the NYRB Classics list – they always seem to select such interesting books.
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I am a huge fan of their books! They seem to pick such gems!
Just to be clear, these are transcripts of actual conversations – Rosenkrantz is not the author, or even one of the speakers? Did she edit them at all?
It does sound like an interesting historical document but, as you say, difficult to classify!
According to the introduction to the book, these are exact copies from the recordings, she did not alter them at all. I had wondered if Rosenkrantz was one of the characters, but it seems that she isn’t. I couldn’t find any info. that said she was one of the three characters.