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Bright Lights, Big City

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  17,226 ratings  ·  952 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 CardWatchmen by Alan MooreMatilda by Roald Dahl
Best Books of the Decade: 1980's
73rd out of 1,029 books — 1,186 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
39th out of 903 books — 840 voters

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Community Reviews

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Apr 07, 2008 Jessica rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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

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
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
Marcello S
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]
Bel romanzo sull’inadeguatezza dell’esistenza. Non bisogna certo essere Sartre per riuscire a sentire lo scarto che permane tra il mondo ed il nostro esserci, anche dopo diversi tentativi di integrazione. E, infatti, McInerney crea un personaggio che incarna questo disagio universale che spesso viene anestetizzato dal bisogno di certezze e di appigli sicuri. Cosa succede se si mette sempre in discussione il proprio posto nel mondo? Si vedono gli altri, sempre ben ritti sulle loro gambe, farsi st ...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
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
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
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
Wynne Kontos
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
May 22, 2008 Liz rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
May 19, 2010 Jake rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
Fantastic, such a funny and smart read. This novel is about a young man who works as a fact checker for a high-end magazine that seems to have his life in order. However his wife left him, he's got troubles at work, a raging coke habit, insensitive friends, and a conscience that's creeping up on him. Every sentence in this book works, it's delicately put together and powerful. It reminds me of early Bret Easton Ellis with less emphasis on emotionally empty characters and graphic detail. Read thi ...more
Eveline Chao
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
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Honestly this is one of the worse books I've ever read. I was ready to put it down half way through but I kept on reading in hope that it would pick up or something would happen but clearly I was expecting too much.

It wouldn't even bother me that the book doesn't have a direct plot if the character was interesting or at least had a bit of a story to them, but the characters in this book are all completely charmless, one dimensional cliché's I couldn't experience any sort of concern or interest f
If Jay McInerney and Brett Easton Ellis are brothers in prose, then McInerney is definitely the quieter one, less interested in chainsawing you to pieces, and more interested in just being your friend.

"You" being the key word here, as McInerney's debut novel is told exclusively in the second person point of view (You do this. You do that. You find yourself in a bathroom stall, snorting Bolivian marching powder with a green-haired punk/model, etc, etc). But the POV never gets old, or comes off g
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.
Amanda Patterson
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
Read in high school as the 80s were winding to a close, or perhaps the 90s were just beginning, although I'd argue that 90-91 (my final year of HS) was just the decade's death throes before grunge and Generation X rose from its ashes. I don't remember much about the book that I can separate in my mind from the Michael J. Fox film. I liked it, liked the writing, liked the ending. It did not make me want to run off to New York, nor did it dampen my adolescent desire to do so (I never did, except o ...more
Like Jack Kerouac's On the Road , but for the 80s, except without the road trip or waxing of pseudo-poetics. If you like New York, this book will make you hate it. ...more
In my social policy class, Pittaway tells us that you can't draw distinctions between citizens of the third world and the first world, saying that countries and their domestic economies should look after less advantaged citizens.

I don't feel too much sympathy for characters who feel betrayal in the realms of love. I don't even think the protagonist is disadvantaged and deserving of first world sympathy. Being drawn to a vacuous person is a monetary and emotional lesson, but the protagonist has
Jim Sheridan
I read this because it recently entered as choice in the curriculum of a class I'm teaching. Of course, I remember when it came out; Jay McInerney and Brett Easton Ellis were the Hot Young Authors of the 1980s. For no good reason, I did not read it then but I absorbed its feel somehow. My own failed attempt at the Great American Novel in the early 90s had a lot in common with this book, for better and for worse. This is the only novel I've read that's entirely in second person, and it's a grippi ...more
Gregory Knapp
The best "I'm Gonna Move to New York and Make It There" novel ever written.

In the same way that Garp defined the '70s, you can think of this as the novel that defined the 1980s.

If you were in college when this book came out you will never forget the thrill of reading it for the first time.

But, more than a cultural icon, it's a good book.

Well-written with a wonderful voice (oft copied but seldom if ever equaled), strong and compelling characters, and a transporting setting, it has rewarded many
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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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Story of My Life Brightness Falls The Good Life The Last Of The Savages Model Behaviour

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“Everything becomes symbol and irony when you've been betrayed” 77 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.” 36 likes
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