Bad Timing by Betsy Berne | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
Bad Timing

Bad Timing

4.0 1
by Betsy Berne

View All Available Formats & Editions

The last thing she wants is to fall in love with a married man — and a father, to boot — particularly now, when so many of her friends have already abandoned ship for husbands and babies, and certainly not while her biological clock is ticking so loudly she can barely sleep. But that’s exactly what happens to the single, unnamed, thirtysome-thing


The last thing she wants is to fall in love with a married man — and a father, to boot — particularly now, when so many of her friends have already abandoned ship for husbands and babies, and certainly not while her biological clock is ticking so loudly she can barely sleep. But that’s exactly what happens to the single, unnamed, thirtysome-thing narrator of Bad Timing, who meets jazz musician and club owner Joseph Pendleton at a too-hip downtown party and becomes pregnant after their first night together.

As the city summer heats up, her resolve for independence breaks down, and her increasingly difficult situation seems to make this increasingly difficult man even more irresistible.

Set in all-too-small New York universe of artists, musicians, and writers, in which the lives of our hapless heroine and her errant lover intersect repeatedly, with far fewer than six degrees of separation, Bad Timing memorably depicts a woman struggling to reconcile her need for love with the limits and liberties of an undercover affair. With a startlingly fresh take on some New York prototypes (the witty gay neighbor and the overbearing Jewish family) and devilish looks into the clubby world of art and magazine, Bad Timing is a memorably tart-yet-sweet story of modern love, lost and found.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An unnamed 30-something Manhattan woman embarks on a hopeless not-quite-love affair in this Sex and the City-style fiction debut. Tipsy at "a trashy magazine party at a trashy new bar," the narrator is mesmerized by handsome Joseph Pendleton, a black jazz club owner, and dives into a one-night stand. A month later, she has mixed feelings when she finds herself pregnant by this married man. On the one hand, she wants a baby; on the other, as a struggling painter and magazine writer, she's not confident she can support a child. When she informs Joseph of her decision to terminate the pregnancy, their affair begins again with renewed vigor. While navigating the glossy magazine and gallery scene, the lovers do their best to figure out what, exactly, their commitment to each other should or could be. The result is a tangled and often painfully adolescent relationship, with the couple garrulously engaging in standard therapeutic-speak. The supporting characters are all stock New YorkersDthe flamboyant gay neighbor, the overbearing Jewish mother, the superficial beauty editor. Caustic racial asides are casually sprinkled throughout, but the relationship's racial dimension is never seriously addressed. This is a 21st-century love story, a typically urban tale in which love, in the classic sense of the word, is beside the point. Berne, herself a painter who has written for glossy magazines, brings a journalist's eye to her novel; every excruciating detail of a dead-end relationship is recorded. Some hip, urban female readers may identify despite themselves, but the uninflected, navel-gazing narrative lacks the energy to ring many bells. (Feb. 16) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The nameless narrator of this tale is a thirtysomething single woman living in Manhattan. She is an artist who displays some of her work in group shows but writes short pieces for fashion magazines to pay the rent. While at a hip party one night, she meets Joseph Pendleton, an older jazz musician, and begins a doomed love affair. After one night with Joseph, who is both married and a father, she becomes pregnant and is faced with whether she should keep the baby and tell him. Irrationally drawn toward him, she spends the hot summer obsessing over what he says and why he doesn't call. Her friends are no help, as they, too, are involved in bad relationships or dead-end jobs. Yet another entry in the single-girl genre, this first novel attempts to take an unblinking look at modern love in urban America but misses the mark. The vapid characters fail to engage, and the entire book lacks emotion. Buy only on demand. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/00.]--Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another bright young New Yorker looks for love in all the wrong places. Newcomer Berne has made her narrator heroine in her own image. Like Berne, she's a Manhattan artist who regularly works as a freelance writer for all the best magazines. But all her life she's been cursed by bad timing, arriving everywhere far too early for comfort (she's always the only person at the first hour of Deejay Night each week). Now, for a change, her lateness is a problem: She's convinced she's pregnant after a one-night stand with black jazz club owner Joseph Pendleton, and she's absolutely right. Even though he's gotten their relationship off to a fast, trusting start by accidentally leaving his credit card behind in her apartment, Joseph, with one wife in the wings and another in the history books, and children on both sides of the Atlantic—one very much a part of his life—isn't exactly prime husband material; he's not even a very promising abortion-clinic escort. But in his maddening alternation between busy petulance and growling affection—at least on the rare occasions when the nameless heroine manages to keep him on the phone for more than five minutes at a stretch—he's ten times more vital than any of the sitcom types who compete for attention in her world. These background figures barely register, not because they depart from their types (overbearing mother, ubiquitous gay escort, vacuously chatty girlfriend), but just because they're smudged. The tale is anchored in a real enough problem, even if it's a familiar one to every romance fan: What to do with a man who won't commit? Sadly, there's nothing outsidetheorbit of the frustrated heroine's attachment to herunsuitable male, not even the wit you'd expect of the artsy cast, to give this problem greater depth or resonance.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
270 KB

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

I realized I was cracking one Saturday morning in July when I found a mouse in the half-full–well, half-empty–water glass by my bed.

The room was close and sweaty, suffocatingly so. It had been a hot and surly summer in Manhattan, and summer in the city is more than anything a psychological season, a season dictated by income bracket. (The lower your bracket, the longer and hotter and smellier summer is.) Summer in New York can make a loser feel more like a loser and a winner more like a winner. The winners usually beat the summer by leaving, and by now most of them had long since gone. My neighborhood was inhabited mostly by winners, so the streets were pretty deserted. I could see all the way to the Hudson River from the windows lining my loft, and the view was sullied only by a stray loser or two. My own summer strategies varied with my fluctuating income bracket. This year’s income said long summer.

I’d gone to bed very late the night before, though I knew that I’d have to be up early. I’d been invited to Long Island, and it’s easier to be a guest when you’re a little foggy. I hit the alarm without looking at it and made my way slowly toward the kitchen. When I went back into the bedroom I saw the mouse in the glass on my crowded night table, less than six inches from where my head had rested moments before. It wasn’t even dead. It was very much alive and struggling to get out.

I ran to the living room and called my brother, who was in no mood to help. He told me to go back in there and throw it out the window. I informed him that I was unable to go back in there. “Just go back in one more time, cover the damn glass, leave, and when you come home it’ll be dead,” he said. I told him that I couldn’t get that close to it, nor could I face a mouse corpse later. He said, “Jesus, I don’t know–call Mom,” and hung up. My mother had been a renowned rodent killer in our youth. I called her.

She said, “Go back in there, honey, bring the phone, I’ll go, too. What is wrong with you? Damn it to hell, just throw it out the window, honey, and don’t call yourself a feminist if you can’t even throw a mouse out the goddamn window.” I wasn’t sure that last comment made sense, but I let it go. Finally I called the feminist who lived upstairs, and she marched down and disposed of the mouse without incident. It was time to take a look at the big picture.

My slow but steady demise had begun with an unlikely encounter one night a couple of months before.

We had met on an early spring night that was damp and raw, after a particularly grueling winter from which no one had quite recovered. My neighbor, who generally made appearances at every party in town, had told me about a party–a trashy magazine party at a trashy new bar–a hot trashy new bar, which made it even trashier and even less appealing. This wasn’t exactly an invitation; my magnanimous neighbor said he would see to it that I’d get in, but not in his company. My neighbor is a slippery sort who prefers to move about town unencumbered so that he can adopt the appropriate persona for each occasion, and I am the kind of person who might inadvertently blow his cover. He also happens to be black, which means that his persona is a far more urgent matter, in some cases a matter of survival. Luckily, he is a master of disguise, and people of all colors are generally smitten with him. I am white, a white Jew to be precise, and smitten; he is an original, and he has no choice, really, but to be slippery. (My neighbor lives only a few blocks away, and he and I often pass the time by making enormous crass ethnic generalizations and congratulating ourselves on our brilliance.)

I felt it was my duty to go to the party in order to continue an ongoing, albeit desultory, mate search. I can simulate a suitably sociable façade as well as the next person, but an escort would make things easier. So I called Victor, who serves as my human oasis. He is something of a dandy who dresses in Victoriana and S&M jackets with exotic jewelry. On a summer day he is often decked out in a billowing skirt, or linen bloomers paired with a light cotton vest. His head is hairless except for several tiny, well-placed patches and some strategic twirly strands, and he sometimes sports Hasidic earlocks. But by now I no longer notice his appearance, nor do I question the purpose of his cane, even though he has no limp. Victor is not even remotely concerned with the mate search. He has his own ideas about the human condition. But he does love a party. And like me, he is an artist who is slowly losing the ability to do the fawning necessary to revive a faltering career. But neither of us had thrown in the towel yet, and there is really no place more conducive to fawning or searching than a party.

Outside the trashy new bar there was a groveling and expectant crowd. My neighbor had kept his word, and I breezed right through, and Victor–well, no conscientious doorman could refuse entrance to Victor. Inside it was cavelike. You couldn’t see out and you couldn’t see in. The walls were tinted the pale hazy ochre that is designed to flatter those who are getting on in years. It was almost embarrassing to be there when most people in our age group were home guarding their sleeping progeny, yawning and struggling through the last hour before they could respectably turn in, too.

Meet the Author

Betsy Berne is an artist who has written for The New Yorker, Vogue, and The New York Times Magazine. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she is currently a writer/consultant for Calvin Klein. She lives in Manhattan.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >