Original 1968, NYRB Edition 2015
A tale woven from a summer’s worth of recorded conversations among friends in the Hamptons in 1965. From these tapes characters were pulled, sentient points consolidated, and what was perhaps the first “reality book” came out at the other end.
It’s a book without plot or storyline; each chapter is a conversation, and, as in life, the next chapter rarely picks up where the prior left off. There may be gaps of hours or days in the space between and they are not timestamped in any way; characters appear and disappear. Today’s great concern may never be mentioned again, but later there might be mention of what color shoes someone was wearing months before.
The general layout is that three friends end up summering in the Hamptons and let us listen in. One of them, a female writer, has a house there and seems to be there for the duration. Another, more of a partygirl who is hopeful of breaking through as an actor, seems to be around most of the time but there are some gaps where she may possibly be elsewhere. The other is a gay painter, who also seems to come and go and has a deep platonic relationship with the first woman. The conversations generally seem to take place in the kitchen or on the beach, and they cover themes still common to those approaching 30 – friends, past and future love interests, work. They also cover some items which were common in the 1960’s art scene but are a bit out of general fashion now – LSD, psychiatric treatment, heavy alcoholism, free love. Of perhaps most lasting relevance is the relationship between the painter and the (straight) writer – they have a deep non-sexual relationship, with him being able to easily transition between the roles of her confidant and advisor while remaining her friend.