Talkby Linda Rosenkrantz
Talk is a hilariously irreverent and racy testament to dialogue: the gossip, questioning, analysis, arguments, and revelations that make up our closest friendships. It’s the summer of 1965 and Emily, Vincent, and Marsha are at the beach. All three are ambitious and artistic; all are hovering around thirty; and all are deeply and mercilessly/i>… See more details below
Talk is a hilariously irreverent and racy testament to dialogue: the gossip, questioning, analysis, arguments, and revelations that make up our closest friendships. It’s the summer of 1965 and Emily, Vincent, and Marsha are at the beach. All three are ambitious and artistic; all are hovering around thirty; and all are deeply and mercilessly invested in analyzing themselves and everyone around them. The friends discuss sex, shrinks, psychedelics, sculpture, and S and M in an ongoing dialogue where anything goes and no topic is off limits. Talk is the result of these conversations, recorded by Linda Rosenkrantz and transformed into a novel whose form and content put it well ahead of its time. Controversial upon its first publication in 1968, Talk remains fresh, lascivious, and laugh-out-loud funny nearly fifty years later.
″Talk is an era-defining text. With its unvarnished ‘realism’ and its celebration of marginalized groups, Talk argues that the everyday language of men and women is valuable, important, and worthy of a book.” —The Millions
“Rosenkrantz and her friends are living a hippie lifestyle before the hippie lifestyle took hold, but they approach it as creative intellectuals...There's a realness to the way they relate to one another and the world.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
“Today the book reads well, as smart and up-to-date as an episode of Girls or Broad City – after half a century it's still a terrific beach read.”—Michael Silverblatt, KCRW's Bookworm
“Are New Yorkers the best talkers in the world? We’ve become familiar now with this style of talk – smart, witty, ironic, tangential, obsessing over trivia – through sitcoms like Friends; but Rosenkratz was among the first to realise that it’s an art-form in its own right.”—Brandon Robshaw, The Independent (UK)
“[Talk] makes for refreshingly tart summer reading.”—Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
“Talk gave me a sizzling Warholian window into the smart-mouthed freaky New York scene of the late 1960s. I was overwhelmed by a desire to jump in a time machine.” —Simon Doonan, author of The Asylum
“The rawest of raw material is hashed over in detail, but with such openness and enthusiasm that one is more delighted and stimulated than embarrassed or shocked.” —James Leo Herlihy, author of Midnight Cowboy
“The pattern of self-revelation is far from coarse: it is eloquent and convincing, with its insights suddenly stumbled upon, its slender bridges of nervous sympathy that join each private island to the threatening outside world.” —Norman Shrapnel, The Guardian
“It is sometimes hard to remember just how radical Talk was when it was published. Rosenkrantz’s innovative process of using transcribed recorded conversation as dialogue introduced a level of reality not unlike the choice to paint from photographs instead of live models.” —Chuck Close
“Cool, astringent...something new, something beyond black humor or pop fiction.” —The New Republic
“Utterly hip, utterly frank, utterly amoral.” —New Haven Register
“The characters are defined by speech alone, and the talk is of a kind that has been missing from literature...Miss Rosenkrantz’s importance as a writer is to have shown, right away in her first book, that exact data can go into a novel without the pressures of conventional plot and character requirements.” —Vogue
"Talk is smart and funny and raunchy, and very very quotable.” —The Toast
“Perfect for when you go to the beach alone then decide you could use some company.”—Donald Stahl, Blouin Artinfo
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By Linda Rosenkrantz
New York Review BooksCopyright © 1968 Linda Rosenkrantz
All rights reserved.
EMILY HELPS MARSHA PACK FOR THE SUMMER
MARSHA: Don't forget I did sleep with Zeke long after you slept with Michael Christy.
EMILY: You're crazy.
MARSHA: I am not.
EMILY: I slept with Michael about three weeks ago, when I got drunk at that party. So it'll be four weeks this Friday that I slept with Michael.
MARSHA: That's tomorrow.
EMILY: Right, four weeks tomorrow.
MARSHA: Well, it was two weeks for me yesterday, so it's twice as near. By the way, is the thing you brought me a dessert or a snack?
MARSHA: Is it something that goes with milk?
MARSHA: Oh that's great, just great.
EMILY: I'm sorry, I didn't have enough money to get milk because the thing was so expensive, but I love the question about the milk. What do you think the thing is?
MARSHA: Chocolate-chip cookies.
EMILY: I had to go to two stores to find it.
MARSHA: Brownies, fudge brownies. And there's no tea in the house either. How do you expect me to eat fudge brownies without milk or tea? It was a sweet thought though.
EMILY: Drink water.
MARSHA: Brownies with water. I'm not too keen on how many underpants I have.
EMILY: How keen does one have to be about a thing like that?
MARSHA: I just don't think I have enough.
EMILY: Enough for what?
MARSHA: A summer of drips.
EMILY: Those are my favorite underpants of all time. How much do they cost?
MARSHA: A dollar.
MARSHA: Macy's, Bloomingdale's, one of those.
EMILY: Oh, I love them, I love the nudette color. How much money do you think I have altogether?
MARSHA: A thousand dollars.
EMILY: Let me see that bra. I think that's my favorite bra of all time.
Can I have it?
EMILY: I want to discuss something with you. I was thinking about it this morning, about Michael. I thought here I am going back into analysis and if I really look at it, I am running after such an utter waste of time, something so destructive to me. I mean can he ever really be a love object at this moment in my life? I decided no, and all my thoughts got very positive, but then I also realized that if I were to take a single drink over it, my feelings would run away from me, I wouldn't be able to rationally deal with the problem and know what was good for me, because the one drink would bring out all my psychotic self-destructiveness.
MARSHA: Do you think every time I call Zeke it's self-destructive?
EMILY: Not necessarily. I don't think calling him has to be self-destructive at all, do you?
MARSHA: Works out that way.
EMILY: Why? He calls you too.
MARSHA: Yah, and I call him very little.
EMILY: Michael hasn't called me in a long time.
MARSHA: Let me ask you — does one carry a gray bag at any time in the summer?
EMILY: Definitely not. Heavy gray leather?
MARSHA: I'm taking it. You never can tell.
EMILY: Now would you explain that to me, please?
EMILY: About phone calls, self-destructiveness. Michael's separated from his wife — it's obviously not a good time to get involved with him. On the other hand it might be a very good time to get involved with him.
MARSHA: Well it's not, obviously it's not, it's not working out that way.
EMILY: Oh, I didn't tell you what happened today. The bell rang and I got furious because I'm in the middle of a gorgeous rehearsal for a scene in class and in walks this guy I knew in Paris, who told me all about Philippe. He said don't expect Philippe to bring anything over for you when he comes because he's going to have a lot of books on him and he's only allowed twenty kilos. That's about fifty pounds, you know.
MARSHA: On the plane?
EMILY: Now I have been writing Philippe constantly, saying Philippe please if you know of anyone coming to New York, please give them my things. If he doesn't know I want those properties after all my letters and everything else, if he doesn't bring them when he comes, I'm not going to look at him, I'm not even going to see him.
MARSHA: I don't blame you.
EMILY: Be curious seeing him again.
MARSHA: How do you think you'll react to him?
EMILY: I'll react, for one thing, I'm so fucking immune to him, I don't give a shit about him.
MARSHA: Wait until he comes in and starts to cry. Or do you really think you're completely immune?
EMILY: I won't use the word immune. I'll use one word and that is healthy. I may cry when I see him, I may cry because it's a very sad thing. He did abuse me. We couldn't love each other and that's the end of it. It shows me that I really have terrific problems which I've got to solve. I literally threw out three years of my life on him. That's a long time. You said I was nicer since I got back from Europe. Do you really think I'm nicer?
MARSHA: Yeah, I think you're healthier.
EMILY: I am.
MARSHA: Healthier is nicer.
EMILY: Healthier is nicer.
MARSHA: I wonder what Merrill Johnston's doing for sex these days.
EMILY: He's probably fucking someone, that's what he's doing.
MARSHA: The last time I went to him I said what are you doing for sex these days? No I didn't. I said you're waiting for me to ask you what you're doing for sex. He said well why don't you ask me if you want to? But I wouldn't give him the satisfaction.
EMILY: You know it's very far out. I had completely forgotten the fact that you do have a Negro analyst. Is he Negro though? Can I ask you a question, is he really a Negro?
MARSHA: Oh you saw him, Emily, you saw him out there last summer. Did he look Negro to you, sitting in the car with a little blond baby?
EMILY: You mean if you see him you don't know he's a Negro? You can't tell? I didn't realize that.
MARSHA: You looked him in the face — what did you see?
EMILY: Yeah, I looked at him, but I looked at him when I was surrounded by people who were all tan, like from three months of East Hampton.
MARSHA: Well, he looks just as tan now. He looks racially disturbed.
EMILY: I'm serious.
MARSHA: I am too. He looks like some kind of mixture.
EMILY: He looks like a mulatto, you mean. He looks like something beautiful, but he doesn't necessarily look like a Negro?
MARSHA: What's beautiful about him?
EMILY: He's very attractive.
MARSHA: He doesn't look beautiful — I mean he doesn't look Negro. He does, but you don't think of him say if you want to invite a Negro to a party. It's more conceptual than anything else.
EMILY: Do you want some more ice water with your fudge brownie?
MARSHA: Let me ask you something. Is ice lighter than water? How come it floats, how come it's lighter?
EMILY: I don't think it is.
MARSHA: Of course it is. Look at it.
EMILY: It's just more porous. Look, do you think soap is lighter than water?
EMILY: Yeah, Ivory soap, it floats.
MARSHA: Do you know why things float?
EMILY: Why? You're telling me they float because they're lighter.
EMILY: Then why does it prove they're lighter?
MARSHA: They are lighter.
EMILY: But why is it proof?
MARSHA: It isn't.
MARSHA: Then why do things float?
EMILY: It has to do with the amount of water they displace in terms of their weight, the ratio to the displacement of their weight, density to displacement. For instance, big Ivory soap, you put it in water and it floats. That doesn't mean it's lighter, it has to do with surface tension, the amount of water that's displaced. Look, boats float, don't they? Jesus, are we dumb!
MARSHA: A boat isn't lighter than water.
EMILY: Don't you know anything about surface tension? I'll show you, it's fascinating. It's one of my favorite scientific things. Do you have a bobby pin?
MARSHA: It's holding my head together. Oh no! I cannot stand that phone! I'm hanging up immediately.
EMILY: Absolutely, no matter who it is, absolutely get rid of them.
MARSHA: Hello? ... Hi, Vinnie darling, what's up? ... Don't be ridiculous, I'm packing. ... Who's there?... No! We wouldn't dream of leaving the house.
EMILY: Is he at the Dom? Who's there?
MARSHA: Are we dreaming of leaving the house?
EMILY: I want to know who's there ... Absolutely not, we're not leaving, but I have to know who's there.
MARSHA: I'm trying to find out ... Who's there, darling? ... Who? ... Just tell me or you may be killed with your ankle broken ... Nobody, right? ... Who else? ... No Zeke? No Michael? ... No, sweetheart, I'm packing and Emmy's helping; we wouldn't dream of leaving the house.
EMILY: What does he want to do? ... I hate that fucking Philippe Rocheau.
MARSHA: She says she hates Philippe Rocheau. Who are you with? Clem? ... Just the two of you, sitting? That'll get me down there all right. ... Okay, darling, goodbye, we can't talk now ... All right, darling, bye.
EMILY: What did he say?
MARSHA: They're at the Dom, him and Clem Nye. Great couple.
EMILY: Great. Let me ask you something. Would you say Vinnie was very well liked generally? I mean there are some people who are not well liked and there are people who are very well liked.
MARSHA: Well, when he meets new people, they're usually crazy about him.
EMILY: That's not what I mean. I mean is he popular? I would think he'd be fantastically well liked, but at the same time he has a lot of the same faults I have and although I'm very well liked, I'm also very disliked.
MARSHA: Yah, I think you're about equal.
EMILY: We're both very egocentric, like to talk about ourselves, very dominating, aggressive, all that stuff. A lot of people hate it. I guess it's much worse in me though, because I'm a girl and I'm supposed to keep my mouth shut.
MARSHA: What was Diana Reinhardt saying about me the other night?
EMILY: Oh, we were talking about being neurotic. She said she thinks I'm the sickest of the three of us, you, me and Vince. She was watching me at the party and she thought my behavior was very, very sick. She said it looked mad, wild, out of control. She thinks I have a lot of problems. But still I have so many friends who think highly of me that obviously I have some great, really strong things going for me, even though I appear this sick. She didn't say it in a hostile way. In fact, I encouraged her to say it.
MARSHA: It sounds like she was honest and I think that's nice.
What about me?
EMILY: I forget exactly what she said. I think she thinks you're the least sick. And I said ...
MARSHA: That she was wrong.
EMILY: No, I agreed, but I said you weren't so much sick as you were originally, in some traumatic ways, damaged.
MARSHA: Set in my crazy mold.
EMILY: In a freeze. Deep, deep as deep can possibly go.
MARSHA: Originally I was probably the sickest. But I'm healing up. I think my prognosis is good.
EMILY: Certain things about you are still very sick. You know what I think is the sickest thing about you? That never since I've known you have you had a really deep and meaningful love relationship.
MARSHA: I think it is too.
EMILY: But that's about the only thing I can think of. And the fact that Vinnie, the person you love most in the world, is a homosexual. But your relationship to your job and those things, they're not sick at all
MARSHA: No, not the way they used to be. You know it's very funny. I was so worried about public opinion when I decided to go back to my job, but every person I've spoken to has said I don't see why you even wanted to quit — with your long vacations and everything.
EMILY: You never have to worry about public opinion. You know why? Because public opinion isn't worried about you.
MARSHA: I know.
EMILY: Someone said to me the other day — I forget who — they said don't worry, Emily, if you go into one of your drunken reels at a party and you think you made a fool of yourself, don't worry, because people are such egotists and so selfish, they don't even know you're alive. They don't know anybody's alive.
MARSHA: I hate thinking that way.
EMILY: Marsha, when was the last time you wore all those things?
MARSHA: These? I never wear them.
EMILY: Then why don't you throw them out? You have no idea what a marvelous feeling it is to get rid of the things you never wear.
MARSHA: All right, you tell me which ones I might wear. I'll let you decide.
EMILY: First of all, can I pick something for myself if I do all that work? Can I borrow a scarf? I need one desperately.
MARSHA: Okay, make piles.
EMILY: This you don't wear, this you might wear, this you don't wear.
MARSHA: How about this? This I definitely will wear.
EMILY: That is without question one of your more beautiful objects — throw it out!
MARSHA: No, I love it, I'm very fond of it. You want to see the great bargain I got? A big enamel tray for East Hampton barbecues. Don't look at the price.
EMILY: No, I'm not looking at the seventy-nine cents. Is that dress what you're wearing to the Museum tomorrow night?
MARSHA: You don't think it's too dressy?
EMILY: Not at all.
MARSHA: It isn't that dressy.
EMILY: Will you go to the Dom in it though? Everyone's going to the Dom afterwards, you know.
EMILY: I think you should look as elegant and beautiful as possible.
MARSHA: I don't want to be the only one. You know they couldn't go to the Dom last night, Vinnie and Clem, so they had to go tonight.
EMILY: Yeah. If anybody important arrives, they better call us. Michael Christy or anybody.
MARSHA: They're not calling and you're not leaving.CHAPTER 2
MARSHA AND VINCENT ON THE BEACH
MARSHA: So in other words this is really your ancestral family territory.
VINCENT: Yah, these are my sand grains — it's too wet for roots out here. Seriously, it's very important my coming to this part of the island this summer, particularly now, right after my father died and everything. As a matter of fact, my analyst said a very scary thing to me before I left. I had been having a lot of sexual dreams with my sisters near the cemetery where my mother is buried, and my analyst absolutely terrified me, she rephrased the dreams and said you have sexual anxiety about going back to where your mother is. It absolutely terrified me because even though my mother's body may be under the ground somewhere, I don't think of her as present in that place. I mean when all of a sudden someone says to you seventeen, eighteen years after she dies, you are going back to where your mother is, it makes it as if she were sitting out there in a rocking chair or something ... Now how do we know when it's ten minutes?
MARSHA: When we get bored we'll ask the radio.
VINCENT: I'm not bored, I like the sun. Why did you ask Merrill Johnston the other day if I seemed homosexual? Is it such a moot question?
MARSHA: No, but what I really wanted to say was isn't Vince attractive, and that seemed too silly, so I said what was your impression of him, did he seem homosexual? ... What does your doctor think of our relationship?
VINCENT: She's never said anything about it.
MARSHA: Nothing? What do you say about it?
VINCENT: She knows how close we are and everything.
MARSHA: Has she ever asked if I was feminine?
VINCENT: Why, just because you asked your doctor if I was masculine? What kind of question would that be? I mention a girl and my doctor says is she feminine? I say no, she's got a moustache ... I'm going to lie down and get some sun on my face. I have to leave in ten minutes. Does your doctor, say you tell him a dream at the beginning, and then you go to things which seem to have nothing to do with it, does he bring it all back to the dream?
VINCENT: That's scary, because it seems like everything you say in there really does count. I mean there's no getting away from it, it's not just theory, it's all true. Because after that I proceeded to talk about your doctor being out here and how you thought he was interested in me at that party or something — I couldn't even remember what it was.
MARSHA: I never said that.
VINCENT: Yes you did. You said he was watching me, studying me, to see what I was like.
MARSHA: I did not.
VINCENT: You did so.
MARSHA: I did not.
VINCENT: You did not?
MARSHA: No. Go ahead.
VINCENT: If you did not, what's the sense in going ahead?
MARSHA: I'd still like to hear what you have to say.
VINCENT: That's all there was. She asked me his name and I said Merrill Johnston. She said she never heard of him. Then I put her down for that, I said many people in New York know Merrill Johnston.
Excerpted from Talk by Linda Rosenkrantz. Copyright © 1968 Linda Rosenkrantz. Excerpted by permission of New York Review Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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