Drew's Reviews > Bright Lights, Big City

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
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Jun 17, 12

Read from June 16 to 17, 2012

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 protagonist's ennui. To which I say, does anyone need a justification for ennui?

Plus, he crucially drops the ball on a couple of scenes near the end. More specifically, all the important scenes toward the end are very much hit or miss. His failed hookup with the angelic but still believable Megan was great, as was the scene at the very end with the bread. But the scene where he runs into the wife who abandoned him? Suddenly we have lines like "'How's it going?' You start to laugh. She laughs too. You slap your thigh. She wants to know how it's going. A very funny question. Hilarious. Amanda is a riot. You are laughing so hard that you choke . . . You are laughing. People are pounding your back. It's funny. People are funny. Everything's so funny you could die laughing." Is it a commentary on the insipidness of unrequited obsession? Maybe, but that doesn't make me like it.

Despite all that, though, it's a fundamentally good book, or so I think. Everything from the first two thirds, plus a few strangely touching scenes near the end, makes it worth it.

*Which seems like it should be just a cheap trick, but McInerney makes it seem like the only way the book could have been written.
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