An author named S.H. finds the journal she kept during her first year in Manhattan in the late 1970s, unlocking memories of a quirky neighbor, a half-finished novel, and a disastrous date.
"We differ, my former self and I. It was impossible for me to know at twenty-three that the dreadful phrase 'life is short' has meaning, that at sixty-one I know there is far less ahead of me than behind me, and that while she wasn't terribly curious about herself as herself, I have become curious about her as an incarnation of hopes and errors that had or seem to have had a determining effect on what I am now." Back then, S.H. was called Minnesota by her friends. She was trying to write a novel about a teenage detective who worships Sherlock Holmes (hmmm, also S.H.!). She had a best friend named Whitney whom she met at a John Ashbery reading in SoHo; Whitney made "poem-objects" and wore green high heels and a yellow beret. Financially, however, things weren't going so well—Minnesota was reduced to scavenging for dinner in trash cans before she landed a job ghostwriting the memoirs of a socialite named Elena Bergthaler. Meanwhile, she spent a good portion of every day eavesdropping on her next-door neighbor, Lucy, a woman whose conversations were so strange and filled with violent imagery that Minnesota and her friends developed wild competing theories to explain them. None were stranger than what turned out to be the truth, which Minnesota learned after Lucy emerged from her apartment one night to save her from an evil young man. The book includes whimsical illustrations by the author, among them a caricature of Donald Trump with S.H.'s 94-year-old mother's comment as caption—"Can that man be president?"
Like all the best postmodern novels, this metafictional investigation of time, memory, and the mutating self is as playful as it is serious.