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Memoir of ‘Glamour and Dysfunction’

“Scream: A Memoir of Glamour and Dysfunction” 

By Tama Janowitz

Dey Street Books (304 pages, $25.99)

When author Tama Janowitz was 15 years old, her pothead father suggested she enter a wet T-shirt contest if she couldn’t find a summer job. As one of New York City’s “It-Girl” writers in the 1980s, she rubbed elbows with the likes of Andy Warhol and the who’s who of magazine editors by day, and retreated to a meat locker-turned-apartment at night. Later, she traded city life for upstate New York, where she shopped for lime sour balls in bulk for her aging mother and struggled to diffuse legal threats from her brother after their mom died.

These are just a few of the absurdities and adventures Janowitz chronicles in “Scream: A Memoir of Glamour and Dysfunction.” It’s the first book since 2005 for the author who rose to literary “Brat Pack” royalty with novels such as “American Dad” and most notably, “Slaves of New York.”

Janowitz has a knack for uncovering the beauty and intrigue in the banal and bizarre. A trip to a supermarket in Ithaca, New York, for instance, turns into a “Twilight Zone”-esque experience where insecticides and imported beers share an aisle and signs list product categories that make no sense. Another particularly entertaining scene is when she details the extreme measures involved in protecting an old rhododendron bush in front of her mother’s house. Sometimes, she delivers ludicrous lines with a matter-of-fact tone, which gives them that much more punch. (TNS)

By Sara Bauknecht

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette