When twenty-something artist Erica Mason moves from laid-back Mexico to Manhattan in the mid-1970s, she finds a hard-edged, decadent, and radically evolving art scene.
Peppered with characters who could only come from the latter days of the “turn-on-and-drop-out” ’60s in then-crumbling New York (a spaced-out drummer who’s completely given up on using or making money, a radical feminist who glues animal furs to her paintings of vaginas, and icons in the making like Patti Smith), Erica’s New York is fast-moving, funny, and heartrending just like the city itself. Ultimately, her rite of passage is not only a love affair with art, men, alcohol, drugs, and music in the swirl that was the downtown scene in a radically evolving era in New York, but also a resurrection from addiction and self-delusion.
More than the study of a celebrated period of artistic expression, Cleans Up Nicely is the story of one gifted young woman’s path from self-destruction to a hard-won self-knowledge that opens up a whole new world for her and helps her claim the self-respect that has long eluded her.
Praise for Cleans Up Nicely
Erica Mason’s rite of passage is not only a love affair with art, men, alcohol, drugs, and jazz in the swirl that was the downtown scene in a radically evolving era in New York, but also a resurrection from addiction and self-delusion. At once fast-moving, funny, and heartrending, this is a deftly handled study of one gifted young woman’s path from self-destruction to self-knowledge, self-respect, and well-being.
Cleans Up Nicely is a pitch-perfect, picaresque tale of love lost and found, talent squandered and reclaimed, and friendship forgotten and redeemed in gritty 1970s New York. It all spins around Erica, a burgeoning artist with a peripatetic past and a talent for courting trouble. In evocative prose, Dahl gives us an insider’s look at New York’s demimonde, a motley assortment of bartenders, bosses, art dealers, academics, musicians, radical feminists, writers, working girls, pimps, pushers, and hangers-on.