The Story of Junk
Photo by Nan Goldin.
Mar. 10 -- Ran into Linda Yablonsky, the
downtown literary impresario and author, in
Chelsea on my way to check out Andres
Serrano's "History of Sex" exhibition at
Paula Cooper. Linda told me that her long-
awaited novel, The Story of Junk, was about
to be published and that she will read from
it Apr. 23 at 7:00 p.m. at Nightlight, the
reading series she organizes at the Drawing
Center. I had read a piece on the upcoming
book in the Feb. 10 New York Observer by
Celia McGee, who mentions my illustrious
editor Walter Robinson as being one of the
"bad boy" art critics of the downtown
milieu that Linda's book is set in. Linda
told me that if I contacted her publicist I
could get a galley copy.
I'd never seen a galley before so I was
surprised and delighted to find The Story of Junk
by Linda Yablonsky sitting in a package in
front my door last Thursday. I know that
movie producers looking for properties read
galleys, and that's what I had in mind when
I read the book over the weekend.
The Story of Junk is an early `80s downtown
roman a clef. The nameless narrator, a
woman, is leading the kind of high-risk
life that is a breeding ground for artistic
ideas. The names have been changed but
among the cast are chracters who
resemble punk rock star Pat Place of
the Bush Tetras, writers Cookie Mueller
and Rene Ricard, photographer Nan Goldin
and restauranteur Mickey Ruskin. It's an
exciting and dangerous life, a rollercoaster
ride that nevertheless is stalled in a
claustrophobic apartment, ruled by the
grim rhythms of heroin addiction.
In the very first chapter a character named
Dick brings the consequence of her
entrapment -- he's DEA and she's busted for
dealing. Yablonsky deftly puts you into the
narrator's mind at its most vulnerable
and revealing moment. She says to Dick,
"I can't believe this is happening." Then to
herself, "My voice is small. Is it my voice?"
Well, this story sings with a voice. It is
knowing and truth-telling, fast, furious
and funny. The characters are as impervious
as diamonds and at the same vulnerable in
their big-heartedness. They do what they
have to. None of them are hypocrites.
There's an adventure in the Golden
Triangle, a "vacation" on the Amalfi Coast,
anonymous streets in Brooklyn, and the
downtown nights with Yablonsky's hard
living, life-revealing cast of characters.
At one point Yablonsky even slips in a
little "nod" to the style of Dorothy
Parker. "One night, just before Christmas,
the kitchen doors go flying open and who
comes waltzing through but this big galoot
of a girl named Betty."
In the end the story had to be told, our
narrator says, because it had been
told to her. Ultimately she achieves a
calmness and clarity not through the
intensity of her life, but through the
telling of the story, itself. It is her
story, and in telling it she answers her
own question: Yes it is my voice. Linda
Yablonsky has created a nameless literary
character and written a dynamic and
important first novel.
The Story of Junk, A Novel by Linda
Yablonsky, 1997, Farrar, Straus & Giroux,
328 pp., $23.