A dazzling debut novel
TIME’S A THIEF
by B.G. Firmani
Agent: Susan Golomb (The Writers House)
Chess, a smart but credulous young woman from a not-so-privileged background gets pulled into the orbit of a glittering and dysfunctional Manhattan family, the Marr-Löwensteins, who seem to come straight out of the Glass family or The Royal Tenenbaums. Chess first meets Kendra, a magnetic and self-medicating punk-rock chick given to endless drama-queen moments and betrayals, then goes on to work for Kendra’s mother, Clarice, a literary monster in Chanel suits. Think a frosty Joan Didion or Susan Sontag. Along the way Chess meets the other precocious Marr-Löwenstein siblings and falls in love with the family’s troubled son, Jerry, who’s been hiding out on Avenue C in a squat without heat or hot water. He is an afflicted but affecting young man, equal parts disdain and allure.
The first-person narrative cuts between the mid-’80s, when Chess and Kendra meet as students at Barnard College, and twenty years later, when Chess is stuck at an absurd job in recession-era Manhattan, giving the proceedings the poignancy of choices made and not made. Scattered throughout are glimpses of a vanishing New York: a depopulated Upper West Side, a radical East Village, a wide-open Williamsburg of cheap rents and possibility. It is a story of what it is to be young and impressionable, to be in thrall, not just to a person or a family, but to the city itself. Time’s A-Wastin’ takes its title from a Duke Ellington song, described in the book as “a song about inevitable change and sad-sweet nostalgia and fleeting beauty.”
B.G. Firmani attended Brown’s MFA program and her short fiction has been published in Bomb, The Kenyon Review, and Bellevue Literary Review. She is the recipient of a NY Foundation of the Arts grant and has attended MacDowell and Yaddo.