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Brightness Falls

(The Calloway Trilogy #1)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  3,117 ratings  ·  157 reviews
Brightness Falls is the story of Russell and Corrine Calloway. Set against the world of New York publishing, McInerney provides a stunningly accomplished portrayal of people contending with early success, then getting lost in the middle of their lives.
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 31st 1993 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1992)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,117 ratings  ·  157 reviews

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David Lentz
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Brightness Falls is a great American novel, which owes a great deal to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his Gatsby. At times, it seems as if McInerney wants to re-tell the Gatsby tale on Wall Street during the Crash of '87. McInerney's Nick Carraway is, after all, Crash Galloway. However, the meaning of this novel transcends this decade and its hideous "greed is good" mantra: it's not simply a "period piece." The story is about the mad pursuit of wealth, the shallowness of the great Faustian trade and th ...more
Jan 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Have you ever attended a long cocktail party at an elegant hotel with crowds of well dressed people chattering while a piano player provides background music and after the ball is over find yourself at home with the vague impression that you have not actually been anywhere? If so, you have a good idea of what this book is about.

Jay McInerney enjoyed some acclaim for "Bright Lights, Big City," but this effort is eminently forgettable. It is well written, mildly humorous at times but ultimately in
Mar 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: doneanddone
this reminded me of how "the beautiful and damned" is technically better than "the great gatsby" but not as well-known. this is better than "bright lights, big city."
Angus McKeogh
Nov 21, 2018 rated it liked it
There were certainly slow points through this book (I actually reshelved it for many months). But considering it’s about a failing marriage in the late 80s it has many surprisingly prescient themes. Betrayal, divorce, drugs, death, economic collapse, careers, ennui, infidelity, friendship, white privilege, and racism. And different than a lot of books I’ve recently read it became more and more engaging as it went along. There are two more books in the series with the same characters, and while I ...more
Sep 28, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: defenestrated
Found this in the laundry room.
I don't want any giddy expectations to get in the way of an eventual critical response, but in the early going, it's already showing signs ...: this one looks like it might have "dumpster" written all over it ...
Emilia Barnes
This is one of those books which, if you read it at a certain time in your life, might very well make you weep with its truthfulness. At other times you might read it loathing everybody in it. I'm the exact age of the protagonists and honestly some things struck me as incredibly true. It's well-written too, in a way I had not expected. Yet there were times when I thought I would not finish it because for large stretches nothing's going on and it seems to be going nowhere. I suppose read into tha ...more
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, literary
Brightness Falls -- what an appropriate title. How could McInerney have gone from Bright Lights, a narrative tour de force, to this sprawling, turgid mess? Occasional sharp turns of phrase remind us of what he can do, but they're lost among excruciating passages of (sometimes repetitive) exposition and a narrative voice that's often too distant and disengaged. That distance comes from ambition: McInerney has set up too many threads and doesn't have space to tie them all together convincingly.

John McDermott
Jul 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly brilliant novel. Without question, one of my all time favourites.
Jay Gabler
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a sucker for anything '80s and culture-industries in general, a novel about hostile takeover drama in the publishing world? Done, sign me up.
Ignatius Vonnegut
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
A love story at the 'end of the world'. Rapid and smart and a descent read.
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
From the doldrums of his rehab facility, Jeff Pierce, the party boy novelist reflects "begin with an individual and you'll find you've got nothing but ambiguity and compassion; if you intend violence, stick with type." He is referring to his best friends, Corrine and Russell, the perfect power couple, or so it seems. Thirty-one and together since college, they are the stabilizing force for their group of friends who are still navigating the Bacchanalian frontier that is New York of 1987.

Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jack by: Matt Tanner
Possibly my favorite book from the entire literary brat pack canon, this book goes beyond New England undergrads in orgies of blow and manages to fully explore the relationship of a Manhattan power couple. The novel opens on a storybook marriage between Corrine and Russell with Russell on the cusp of becoming head editor of a large publishing house, replete with coke fueled parties filled with models and the life of the jet set. Everything crashes down at once: the stock market crashes, Russell ...more
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Holy shit this book was good. I decided recently that because it is possible to read all of McInerney's fiction in a month that one should do so. This whole book really rocked. I like the characters and the arc. I've said this before but a few years ago McInerney seemed dated, but now it's more like his eighties books are a perfect time capsule of a forgotten era that came on the heels of a depressed, near bankrupt 70s. I turned the last page and immediately went on to read his next and then ord ...more
Edijkelly Salvatore
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Though the story may be dated, mired as it is in the M&A craze of the late '80s, this is one of the few books I've desired to go back to and re-read. I remember getting to a critical part on an airplane and not realizing I was sobbing until the elderly lady next to me offered a tissue. Truly a moving story about characters you hate, but still care about. ...more
May 31, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dicklit
God, I think I'm finally ready to let go of my love for the 80s brat pack writers (save janowitz).
Dec 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: oneofmyfaves, fiction
A+ Fantastic story of two couples and their love, affairs, and complications in NYC--the kind of book that takes you over
Jul 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I could read this book a hundred times. I may already have; I don't know why, maybe child of the 80s mentality. I just love it.
Charlie Rosenthal
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Could not recommend more.
May 22, 2014 rated it liked it
A passage to adulthood tale set in '80s New York. Loved the writing - clever and pretty. My review here:
Justin Hall
Aug 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I will thoroughly review soon don't worry
Gumble's Yard
Jan 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
The first in what became (at least so far) a trilogy of zeitgeist novels about fashionable and affluent New York art (particularly literary) and financial (particularly investment banking) circles at the time of crises impacting on New York: the 1987 crash, Aids (both in this book, September 11th (The Good Life), 2008 global financial crisis (Bright, Precious Days).

The key protagonists in the book are Corrine and Russell Calloway, both attractive and married young they are seen by their friends
Nov 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
Flawed "Falls" Feels Flat

Brightness Falls feels like a novel it's author, Jay McInerney, considers his most mature work to date. Going out of his way to sound like a grown-up, his prose is all but indecipherable. Seemingly going on forever, his sentences consist of too many thirty-cent words, the likes of which a child might memorize right before taking his seat at the adults' table. I constantly had to go back and re-read entire paragraphs just to figure out what simple action or description h
Leigh Swinbourne
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Revising an MS, I felt the need of some whip-smart prose to keep me up to the mark, and there are few more accomplished stylists in modern fiction than Jay McInerney. Recently I enjoyed The Good Life, McInerney’s take on 9/11, so I thought I’d revisit Brightness Falls, his take on the ’87 stock market crash, which I read when it was published back in the nineties, and which features many of the same fictional characters earlier in their careers. And what an upbeat virtuosic ride it was, again. E ...more
Dec 09, 2017 rated it liked it
For readers indisposed to hate New Yorkers, McInerney builds you a monument of encouragement. He celebrates such a cast of corrosive and privileged monsters, only an ash of redemption remains by the last chapter--and only for the city, itself. Greedy yuppies suffer too? Maybe. But to endure so many shopping trips, angsty temper-tantrums over social engagements, so much infidelity and character assassination based on income, designer labels, etc. is to find no sympathy, no tragedy, and no heart b ...more
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-novel
Another book left long unread on my shelves, picked up on a whim during the coronavirus health emergency.

Set in New York in the late 1980s, at a point when Reagan's bull markets seemed to be offering the prospect of wealth to everyone. Russell and Corrine Calloway ae an attractive young couple, educated, intelligent and cultured and both doing underpowered and under-paid jobs. Russell is an editor in a old, established book publishing company which has become fusty and conservative in its output
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In his novel Brightness Falls, Jay McInerney pieces together all the important elements that make a great novel. The accuracy with which he depicts the characters and their situations is intimate and thorough. His characters’ development shows the true irregular rhythms of real life: they evolve naturally and organically. He achieved truth in detail physically, psychologically, socially, culturally, emotionally.

The difficult thing, which he pulled off exquisitely, is to not (noticeably) compromi
Pavel Linshits
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read Bright Lights, Big City a few years ago and was impressed with the formal conceit and how short and punchy it was, so when I saw this in a used bookshop for 6 bucks, I thought what the hell and gave it a shot. And boy, am I glad I did. I recently read Franzen's Freedom and loved it until it dropped in quality and engagement a bit at the end. This has one of the best final sentences in my recent memory and stays warm, funny, observant, and gripping until the very end.

It satirises the exces
Jayne Charles
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There was something wonderfully escapist and other-worldly about reading this - set in New York (a place I've never been) amongst people who just love socialising (I hate socialising). Fascinating and informative and safe, reading about all that mingling without actually having to mingle myself. Perfect. It manages to make management buyouts sexy, and it also contributed vast swathes of new words to my vocabulary - at one point in the early stages I was having to consult the online dictionary ar ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love the last paragraph of the last page of this book. The book took me back to my own 20’s and 30’s when I was busy building a career, working long hours, and focused on financial growth. The author describes young lives in the heart of New York City, but his descriptions could apply to almost any big city, young people building social lives, questioning their own purpose, struggling with new marriages. And learning life lessons, becoming stronger through loss and adversity. The book is still ...more
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Four stars for the first 200 pages of Brightness Falls. Great, but not quite up to McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City standards. Two stars for the mind-numbing, over-reaching, name-dropping middle hundred-or-so pages, during which I almost threw in the towel. Then perhaps a touch more twinkle than 4, for the final, sobering, sweetly crashing 14 chapters. Given my questionable math skills, along with a self-diagnosed Freudian aversion to thirds, let's round it off here to three-and-a-half stars.
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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

Other books in the series

The Calloway Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Good Life
  • Bright, Precious Days

Related Articles

The Bright Lights, Big City author's love affair with New York continues in Bright, Precious Days, his third book about the glamorous Calloways.
13 likes · 14 comments
“He looks out the window at the falling snow, then turns and takes his wife in his arms, feeling grateful to be here even as he wonders what he is going to do with his life in strictly practical terms. For years he had trained himself to do one thing, and he did it well, but he doesn't know whether he wants to keep doing it for the rest of his life, for that matter, whether anyone will let him. He is still worrying when they go to bed.

Feeling his wife's head nesting in the pillow below his shoulder, he is almost certain that they will find ways to manage. They've been learning to get by with less, and they'll keep learning. It seems to him as if they're taking a course in loss lately. And as he feels himself falling asleep he has an insight he believes is important, which he hopes he will remember in the morning, although it is one of those thoughts that seldom survive translation to the language of daylight hours: knowing that whatever plenty befalls them together or separately in the future, they will become more and more intimate with loss as the years accumulate, friends dying or slipping away undramatically into the crowded past, memory itself finally flickering and growing treacherous toward the end; knowing that even the children who may be in their future will eventually school them in the pain of growth and separation, as their own parents and mentors die off and leave them alone in the world, shivering at the dark threshold.”
“It’s a very long penis Johnny has, and a smooth one, smooth as ivory. She compliments him on it and he says thank you. But they have to hide it. It is too big to hide under the sheets, and it keeps getting bigger as she talks about it and touches it. It’s so big that it disappears over the edge of the bed and out the window.” 0 likes
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