David Lentz's Reviews > The Good Life

The Good Life by Jay McInerney
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Jun 20, 11


Jay McInerney's title is an germinal answer seeking the roots of a mystical question: what makes life good? New Yorkers tend to become immersed in lifestyles meant to accumulate maximum wealth in pursuit of their visions of the good life. They measure their worth by their clothes, cars, homes, jobs, children's schools, alma maters and their recognition on the vast moving ladder of a highly competitive, high society. 911 changed the perceptions of how many people viewed their own lives. Many came to realize that the relentless pursuit of wealth is a kind of life-denying madness. That materialistic pursuits are shallow and unfulfilling and short-lived. That a fixation upon status, and its symbols, shows a certain lack of depth and imagination. That the dogged pursuit of the good life means trading time one cannot regain to acquire material goods one really doesn't need. The meaning of McInerney's good life emerges as lessons from the Jay Gatsby School of Life. You can have everything and yet have nothing. You can make Faustian trades and lose your soul in the process and end up in a zero sum game with time expiring. To find the meaning of the good life, one must dig deeper. And 911 was a driver which hammered many complacent New Yorkers finally to ask the basic existential questions: What am I doing with my life? Where can I find sense in the wake of epic madness? Who am I really supposed to be? What really matters in life? 911 in New York for McInerney was a bit like Napoleon marching past Tolstoy's estate on the way to conquer Moscow: the writer so proximate to catastrophe and death on a grand scale needed to surge against and come to terms with both. I give him credit as a writer living in New York during 911 for taking on the task. I admire his, undoubtedly, highly autobiographical writing with its probable influence by Fitzgerald (Great Gatsby), Updike (Rabbit Run) and Saul Bellow (Augie March). He is an articulate voice with a fine editor. He poses many of the right questions arising from the ashes of 911 and then leaves it to his readers to determine what the good life really means.
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