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ROCKAWAY by Tara Ison

ROCKAWAY

By Tara Ison

Pub Date: June 11th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59376-516-3
Publisher: Soft Skull Press

A troubled woman from San Diego travels to Rockaway, N.Y., to make art and finds herself instead.

Mumblecore was coined to describe a type of film often peopled with 20-something nonprofessional actors who portray inarticulate characters with low self-esteem, poor luck in love and difficulty growing up. This book is representative of contemporary fiction with similar tropes. At 35, Sarah is older than the typical mumblecore cohort—but how she struggles. When a dealer promises an exhibition, she quits her job in San Diego and moves East for the summer, taking up residence in her old friend Emily’s grandmother Pearl’s large home in Rockaway. Her plan is to escape her needy, aging parents and paint a show’s worth of pictures. Nana Pearl is out of the house, recovering from hip-replacement surgery, but a Sri Lankan couple, Avery and Bernadette, remain as caretakers, their cooking and too-loud talk disturbing the fragile, guilt-ridden artiste. Sarah meets older men Julius and Marty, the former an uncle of Emily. Sarah goes out with Julius, a blowhard banker, and then with Marty, a self-absorbed old rock-and-roll type recently returned to his Jewish roots. Marty invites her to Passover with his orthodox friends and to Rye, N.Y., for a reunion concert with his old band. Sarah stays briefly with her friend, pregnant Emily, wife of a banker, who lives the life of a luxurious hippie on an estate in Connecticut. The resolution is consistent with the rest of the book: It is all about Sarah’s feelings. 

Mumblecore fiction—a fiction of very low expectations—from Ison (The List, 2007, etc.), co-writer of the film Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.