Humor, Gentrification, and the Conservation of Downtown New York in Lynne Tillman’s No Lease on Life
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In this chapter, Diarmuid Hester investigates the representation of Lynne Tillman as a “transgressive writer” associated with New York’s Lower East Side in the 1990s. Tillman’s work is considered subversive in its treatment of controversial topics like sexual promiscuity with a flat, disaffected tone, and in her 1998 novel No Lease on Life she seems to extend the transgressive strategy by interrupting its female protagonist’s narration with jokes that are variously crude, racist, anti-Semitic, innocuous, and inane. Hester argues that Tillman’s novel does not just defy convention but enshrines in prose a rapidly fading culture of Downtown New York in its irreverent spirit, which, by the late 1990s, had given way to waves of gentrification.
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