Skirts is a novel about three highly intelligent young women in
New York City, coming of age in the early 1960s, when the drug culture
is just taking hold. Each has escaped the mores and habits of her parental
home, either by "running away" and setting up house in some arty tenement,
or just by participating in an alternative lifestyle while she lives with an
unaware parent in a palatial New York apartment. Each of the three
ultimately goes in a different direction: one discovers that what she
really wants is a fulfilling and prosperous marriage like her
mother's ought to have been -- but the other two find themselves
seeking fulfillment either through art or professional success,
swimming against the tide of the society in which they live.
In a way, Skirts is a kind of "Sex And the City" for the early 60s
-- the three young women haven't yet "found" themselves, but
through the action of the novel, it would seem as if they're
on their way.
With biting humor and a firm sense of place, Albert ( The Second Story Man ) evokes a scene that was both exciting and dangerous: the New York bohemian subculture in the early 1960s. Archeology student Helene Elphrick desperately wants to shed both her controlling Jewish parents and her middle-class morality. Lonely and vulnerable, she is an easy mark for Zalman Finster, a Hasidic rabbi turned artist who introduces the giddy young woman to the avant-garde cultural scene and to a wide variety of mood-altering drugs. With sharply perceptive writing that catches the essence of provocative characters, the author takes Helene through the wildly energetic bohemian counterculture of the day. In her forays to the Cedar Tavern, former hangout for Abstract Expressionists Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and Stanley's Bar, she is joined by her impressionable friends Victoria and Ruth, and the three easily succumb to posturing, fraud and much worse. Bolstered by a gritty and brutal city background and enriched by a colorful lot of scruffy intellectuals, Helene's adventures become a heady tale of loss of innocence. Author tour.