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Bright Lights, Big City

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  19,465 Ratings  ·  1,049 Reviews
With the publication of Bright Lights, Big City in 1984, Jay McInerney became a literary sensation, heralded as the voice of a generation. The novel follows a young man, living in Manhattan as if he owned it, through nightclubs, fashion shows, editorial offices, and loft parties as he attempts to outstrip mortality and the recurring approach of dawn. With nothing but goodw ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 12th 1984 by Vintage (first published 1984)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardMatilda by Roald DahlWatchmen by Alan Moore
Best Books of the Decade: 1980's
81st out of 1,308 books — 1,438 voters
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  SmithBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman CapoteExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Tales of New York City
42nd out of 1,025 books — 924 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Glenn Russell
Jan 22, 2016 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

FINAL REVIEW

“Your brain at this moment is composed of brigades of tiny Bolivian soldiers. They are tired and muddy from their long march through the night. There are holes in their boots and they are hungry. They need to be fed. The need the Bolivian Marching Powder.” Quote from the opening scene of this 1984 Jay McInerney novel told in cool, hip, drug-hyped second person. But, alas, this is merely the surface. Each time I read this book, I comprehend more clearly how the words on every page hav
...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Jan 20, 2016 Jonathan Ashleigh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is one I believe everyone should read. The subject matter is poignant, still relevant and (given the subject matter) extremely clean. Along with many, this book seems to me a prequel to Bret Easton Ellis‘s take on hip New York. While finishing it, I considered starting it over from the beginning immediately but have decided to reread American Psycho first. Bright Lights, Big City is a fast read and I think it is worth your time.
Jessica
Apr 07, 2008 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: strangely sympathetic cokehead yuppies
Recommended to Jessica by: my dealer
Thanks to Bookface, you no longer get this book mixed up with American Psycho, and can now easily tell the difference between Bret Easton Ellis and Jay MacInerney. Good thing you cleared that right up before you embarrassed yourself at one of those writerly New York parties you're always getting invited to. It would've been awful to have spilled your drink on the wrong author, for the wrong reason.... whew!

This book is about how terrible people's lives were before the Internet was invented.

It is
...more
mark monday
perhaps the best things i can say about this one are that it perfectly captured a perfectly nauseating time period in the mid-80s and it certainly reinvigorated the use of second-person narrative with surprising elan; perhaps the worst thing i could say about this one is that It Drove Me Up The Wall With Its Pathetically Entitled Non-Entity Of A So-Called Protagonist And It Somehow Made It Okay To Be A Pretentious Whiny Twit And Nihilistic Fuck. well ok then. man i guess it's all about you mark, ...more
Lisa Eckstein
Apr 26, 2013 Lisa Eckstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
You've been meaning to read BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY for years, ever since hearing that it's written in the second person. You were intrigued, understandably. Point of view in fiction has always been an area of interest, and you might be described as a sucker for narrative gimmicks.

While preparing for a trip to Manhattan, you entertained romantic fantasies of reading a novel set in New York during your stay. You forgot, as you always do, that you never manage to read while traveling, and that at
...more
Maciek
Mar 06, 2016 Maciek rated it it was ok
Published in 1984, Bright Lights, Big City is famous for being a novel narrated entirely in the second person; although it's neither the first or the only book to do that, somehow it became one of the better known examples of this technique. Apparently, the novel began its life as a short story Jay McInerney published in a literary magazine, and which he later expanded into a full novel.

Aside from the neat narrative trick, there is not much that one can say about the contents of the novel itself
...more
Rebecca
Oct 30, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was almost tempted to give this five stars--an honor I've bestowed upon just two books all year. This book surprised me. Here was a character who, yes, snorts cocaine and passes out in bathrooms--but he has a conscience. The second-person narrative is effortless.

McInerney is a part of the "literary brat pack," so his work is lumped in along with Bret Easton Ellis's. I remember Less than Zero as a confusing jumble of drug-feuled ramblings about ex-girlfriends, overdoses, fast cars, and prostit
...more
Hadrian
Apr 07, 2013 Hadrian rated it it was ok
Shelves: american, fiction
Ehhhhhhhh.

I do not care about this man, whose story is told in the second-person. If it is a gesture to make me feel sympathy for him, I do not. I do not care about his job. I do not care about his cocaine habit. I do not care about his idolizing his supermodel girlfriend. I do not care about his parties. I do not care about his boss or his papery coworkers. I do not care about the clumsy Nicholas Sparks story of his dying mother. I do not care about anything he says or does. All of it is superf
...more
Drew
Jun 17, 2012 Drew rated it liked it
Not sure what to think of this one. On the one hand, it's got a lot of very good prose (and funny, too, e.g. "You are a republic of voices tonight. Unfortunately, that republic is Italy."), and you pretty much have to identify with the main character...he is you, after all.* On the other hand, and maybe this is symptomatic of first novels, but McInerney seems to feel the need to heap on some unnecessary dramatic events either in a quest for Total Sympathy or as a justification for the protagonis ...more
Shepherd
Jun 29, 2007 Shepherd rated it really liked it
You get used to reading a novel in second person pretty quickly, so it's not really that annoying. You enjoy how quickly the pages turn, how quickly the plot flows. It's a fun read, if not a deep one. You recognize the parallels with your own life, but don't feel the need to dwell on this. You end up liking the main character, even though you know he's an asshole. You're a bit resistant to some implied moralizing at the end, but you let it go. And you will make use of the metaphor of cocaine use ...more
Jr Bacdayan
I didn’t care as much as I wanted to. Read this book if you’re looking for a one-night thing, a quickie reading that’s mainly for pleasure and the heck of it. If you’re looking for something serious, move on or read the part of this review under Sensuality vs Intellectualism. This novel offers some sort of limelight in the city of New York back in the ‘80s. The joy ride is personified by a man rapidly losing hold of his life. If you’re into that whole drug, party, booze getup then hooray for you ...more
John
Feb 13, 2009 John rated it really liked it
You decide to read this book because it was written in the second person. This is interesting to you. You've never read a book written in that manner, at least you can't remember if you have. This seems like a pretentious idea to you, but you are curious. You like the book more than you expected to. It isn't all that dated. Sure, lots of NYC landmarks have changed, but the gist is still the same. You identify with the main character. You decide that if you lived in NYC in 1984, this would probab ...more
Marcello S
Jun 08, 2015 Marcello S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Non conoscevo McInerney ed è stata davvero una bella scoperta.
Pare quasi un Bret Easton Ellis più morbido e decisamente meno etremo.
Prosa ricca e originale con un'ottima gestione della seconda persona singolare.
Sorprendente. [75/100]
Silvia Sirea
May 23, 2016 Silvia Sirea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frenesia e inadeguatezza sono le prime parole che mi vengono in mente se penso a questo romanzo.
Ci si ritrova, fin da subito, catapultati nella vita della New York degli anni ottanta tra grattacieli, taxi, luci e discoteche. Il protagonista, un giovane uomo di nemmeno trent'anni che lavora per un'importante rivista ed è stato da poco lasciato dalla bellissima moglie, cede alle lusinghe della cocaina per evitare di pensare alla piega triste che ha preso la sua vita.

La narrazione in seconda person
...more
Kathryn
Jul 30, 2011 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Shelves: family-drama, drugs
A book which fits on very few of my shelves. I think it is good to read out of my comfort zone, though this is not the first book of this kind (drug-addled entitled and oblivious individuals in their twenties running around a city) which I have read. Less Than Zero was better but a beast of a differnet nature as well, so I am being totally unfair in comparing the two. But I simply have to compare McInerney and Ellis. They fed off of eachother, with Ellis leaning towards horror and McInerney towa ...more
Sandra
Dec 14, 2013 Sandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
Qualche domenica fa, nell’inserto del Corriere della Sera sulla lettura c’era un’intervista a tale Gary Fisketjon, editor newyorkese scopritore di talenti come Cormac Mc Carthy ed anche di Jay Mc Inerney. Non avevo mai sentito parlare di questo scrittore, lo ammetto. Ma le parole entusiastiche dell’editor su questo scrittore enfant prodige, di cui pubblicò nel 1984 “Le mille luci di New York”, del quale dice che “occuperà sempre un posto speciale. Oltre ad essere impeccabile dal punto di vista l ...more
Wynne Kontos
Oct 30, 2013 Wynne Kontos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My dad loaned this book to me right before I went abroad to Paris this summer. He had attached a yellow Post-It saying he thought I might enjoy it since it takes place in both New York and Paris (sort of).
I got no personal reading done in Paris, and this book, despite being only 230 something pages, has been on my shelf since this summer until I got to it this fall. There must have been a cosmic source making me wait to read it, since I believe books sometimes know when we need the stories insi
...more
Goran Gluščić
Mar 06, 2016 Goran Gluščić rated it really liked it
Do McInerneya sam došao zbog svoje opsjednutosti radovima Breta Eastona Ellisa. Ipak su njih dvojica, zajedno s Tamom Janowitz, u osamdesetima tvorili grupu mladih pisaca nazvanu 'The Brat Pack' koji su pisanjem romana i kratkih priča o urbanom yuppie glamuru ispunjenom bogataškom depresijom i kokainom zapravo i sami završili živeći takve živote.

Od onda je prošlo trideset godina i to su sada uspješni ljudi u pedesetim godinama, usprkos tome što neki od njih (khm, Bret, khm) još uvijek zapravo p
...more
Maria Thomarey
Jan 21, 2016 Maria Thomarey rated it liked it
3,5
Kimbofo
Nov 29, 2015 Kimbofo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a joy this Bloomsbury classic proved to be. First published in 1985, I’d long written Jay Mcinnerney’s Bright Lights, Big City off as a “drugs novel” — but how wrong could I be? Yes, there’s a little bit of cocaine use in it, but this is a brilliant and memorable novel about one of my favourite subjects in fiction: journalism. And, like many books of that ilk, it’s essentially a black comedy — and one that felt very close to my heart.

The story revolves around a young man living a precarious
...more
Jake
May 19, 2010 Jake rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
I didn't expect to enjoy "Bright Lights, Big City", because the premise sounds so vile: cocaine-addled yuppie cracks up amid the glitzy world of 1980s Manhattan. But from the first pages, I realized something no one had ever told me about McInerney: he's a very funny writer. What's more, he makes the main character very sympathetic, so despite all the ridiculous, self-indulgent bullshit he pulls, you don't feel like he's a bad person, and you want him to be okay in the end. McInerney also does a ...more
Patrick
Nov 29, 2009 Patrick rated it it was amazing
I finally read Bright Lights, Big City. I wanted to dislike it, to put it in the same category as American Psycho and move on. But I ended up liking the book. I liked it a lot, actually.

My main impressions were:

(1) This is not the best book I'll ever read, but it's better than 95 percent of the books I pick up. The plot is very undeveloped, but the story hangs together extremely well. A series of collages tells you what you need to know without connecting the dots for you. This is uncommon in
...more
Scott
Jun 02, 2009 Scott rated it liked it
If Delillo is the master philosopher of the post-modern novel, Rushdie the satiric fantasist, and Bret Easton Ellis the brazen provocateur, then, based solely upon this, my initial introduction, Jay MacInerney seems to be the genre's humanist. For a book that laments the breakdown of human identity and significance in 80s New York, where even the very fate of literature and film is left in the hands of "pygmies" where giants once stood, the tenderness of the book's final 50 pages come as a real ...more
Liz
May 22, 2008 Liz rated it liked it
Shelves: library
Is this really a book all New Yorkers have to read? That's how it was brought to my attention and, perhaps because of that, I found it disappointingly 80s. I was expecting the city to be more of a character but instead it's all coke and bars and mocking of lit magazines - Gawker before Gawker existed. I feel like "Bright Lights, Big City" belongs on a shelf with "American Psycho" and "Bonfire of the Vanities." The literary brat pack connection is obvious, the Tom Wolfe one maybe less so, but all ...more
LATOYA SAUNDERS
Sep 30, 2015 LATOYA SAUNDERS rated it liked it
Love the use of second person. Love feeling like I'm hitting all the best parties in NYC. Love all the fun names for cocaine. I even love the twin towers depicted on the cover.
Maybe a little short on plot and character but this is a fun novel not a sleep inducing, thought provoking, literary work.

Amanda Patterson
Dec 05, 2009 Amanda Patterson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-remember
The unnamed protagonist of this brilliant novel is a writer who works as a fact checker for a high-brow magazine. At night he loses himself in parties, using and abusing cocaine.
Our protagonist does not want to find himself sober. If he does, he'll have to accept that his wife, Amanda, has left him. His answer is to embrace the hedonism of the 1980s yuppie party scene.
Told from the second person narrative viewpoint, the novel is perfect for the disassociation with self and soullessness of this d
...more
Andrew
Jul 12, 2014 Andrew rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. McInerney pulls off this narrative all in the second person. He moves from to scene to scene in such a fluid way that the book's end comes as a shock, not because of content but because it snuck up. There's a tremendous amount of courage in ending a book at page 180. Sure, there is more to know, greater depths to dip down into, but often those can live in our imaginations.
Eveline Chao
May 09, 2015 Eveline Chao rated it it was amazing
LOVED this. There's at least 1 representation (of a ballbreaker female boss) that I find a little problematic, and some of the revealed psychological motivations behind the character's actions are a tad cliched, but the author gets a pass for how young he was when he wrote this. In the end it was all just SO funny and clever and moved so fast and packed so much information and sharpness and heartache into such simple short sentences, that I couldn't get enough of it. Really enjoyed the unusual s ...more
Carl R.
Apr 02, 2014 Carl R. rated it did not like it
So you decide pick a book or two off a must-read list of 25, and one of them is Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney and you open it up to find that it's a first person narrator writing in the second person. You've heard of this phenomenon, but never encountered it and are fascinated with how it goes. For a while. Then, more and more, you feel like the narrator is calling "you" "you" and you object that you aren't in this night club at all but reading about someone who's in this night club a ...more
Tubs
Feb 20, 2011 Tubs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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John Barrett McInerney Jr. is an American writer. His novels include Bright Lights, Big City, Ransom, Story of My Life, Brightness Falls, and The Last of the Savages. He edited The Penguin Book of New American Voices, wrote the screenplay for the 1988 film adaptation of Bright Lights, Big City, and co-wrote the screenplay for the television film Gia, which starred Angelina Jolie. He is the wine co ...more
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“Everything becomes symbol and irony when you've been betrayed” 87 likes
“Things happen, people change,' is what Amanda said. For her that covered it. You wanted an explanation, and ending that would assign blame and dish up justice. You considered violence and you considered reconciliation . But what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name.” 44 likes
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