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Bright Lights, Big City

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  29,084 ratings  ·  1,542 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
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andrew orillion Also, keep an eye out for David Hyde Pierce as a bartender.

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Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So it remains to say, which one's better? This, or Bret Easton Ellis's smash mid-80s literary debut, "Less Than Zero"? These two novels are comparable because they crystallized the 1980's and with style to spare. They both have that quality that makes a reader almost fanatically impatient for their next written work.

My opinion is that THIS ONE gets top prize. (Although Ellis's "Rules of Attraction" is better than both of these). The protagonist gets some help from the ever-elusive second person
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
Tu non sei esattamente il tipo di persona che ci si aspetterebbe di vedere in un posto come questo a quest’ora del mattino.

Questo è l’incipit, comincia proprio così.

Bright Lights, Big City – Le mille luci di New York.

E perché lui e il posto e l’ora del giorno non si accordano?
Perché a quell’ora, le 4 del mattino, lui dovrebbe essere a casa a dormire, la mattina dopo deve andare al lavoro.
Sarà uno straccio per aver passato la notte in piedi.
Averla passata sniffando coc
Glenn Russell
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing

“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 have sharp razo
Lisa Eckstein
Apr 26, 2013 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
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 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. ...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
Dec 06, 2007 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
Feb 09, 2009 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
Aug 27, 2009 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
Steven Godin
The ONLY McInerney novel worth reading and a masterpiece of 80's literature, New York is the setting and it's awash with money, excess, fashion, music, clubbing and of course the most important ingredient of all...Bolivian Marching Powder!, or for those not familiar-Cocaine. A brilliant comic morality tale told in first person narrative that is sharp, witty and a whole lot of fun, easily read in a couple of sittings, think American Psycho without the psychotic violence and dark humour and your o ...more
Mar 05, 2016 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
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bright Lights, big city really does capture the essence of New York City in the early 80’s. It’s got a great beat to it. Written in the second person our protagonist is still grieving his dead mother and his failed marriage and a fast crumbling career. To overcome his falling apart life he’s seduced by the bright lights of the party life, fast women and lots of drugs. The momentary escape provides lots of exciting times but as anything that is done in excess it all comes crashing down and he has ...more
~Theresa Kennedy~
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely LOVED this little book and I only just read it for the first time in early 2018. What can I say? Its funny, its honest, its creative and amusing. I'd heard about this book for so many years and had never taken the time to read it. I really enjoyed how it was written in second person narrative voice and also the rumor that so much of it was based on Jay Mcinerny's life in New York. One of my favorite books, and a part of my permanent collection. ...more
Jun 16, 2012 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
Dec 07, 2013 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
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've no idea why I'd never read Bright Lights, Big City (1984), despite it being renowned as something of a classic. Or indeed anything written by Jay McInerney.

I loved it - from the first page to the last. It's a mere 192 pages and a quick and easy read. The story's narrator is a 24 year old would-be writer who works as a fact checker for a highbrow magazine. Most nights he is being led astray by his friend Tad Allagash: snorting cocaine, chasing the illusory nightlife dream, whilst also tryin
John Blumenthal
Dec 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Back in the day, this was considered a groundbreaking novel although I don't remember exactly why, other than the fact that it was written neither in the first nor the third person but in the second person. The character telling the story was referred to as "You." So it was "I" but McInerney called the "I" "You." Mixed up enough now? Anyway, it's about suffering through New York City nightlife in the mid-1980s and its publication made the author an instant literary sensation or, what the critics ...more
Paul E. Morph
A deeply personal book about grief that moved me to tears, holding up a broken mirror to my own life. I’ve loved the movie adaptation for years; I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get around to reading the original book. Idiot...
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
Jun 22, 2007 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
Apr 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drugs, family-drama
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
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, usa
Enjoyed this much more than was expecting.
Wynne Kontos
Dec 02, 2012 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
Silvia Sirea
Jan 09, 2016 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
Sep 21, 2009 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
Apr 15, 2015 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.

Maria Thomarey
Jan 21, 2016 rated it liked it
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Libro che ha la capacità di trascinare in un vortice temporale diretto verso gli anni ’80: inizia come un mix fra Afterhours di Scorsese e alcune delle migliori pagine di Bret Easton Ellis, continua come Office Space di Mike Judge per poi trovare una sua via originale che va oltre e supera tutti questi riferimenti. E per forza: sono tutti successivi al 1984 di questo libro. In questo sta la grandezza di McInerney: nell’aver messo su carta, prima di tutti, un immaginario fatto di cocaina, modelle ...more
May 16, 2010 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
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Edd McCracken
Mar 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Makes everyone who ever existed in the 1980s seem like an arse. And I think that's pretty accurate. ...more
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Apr 26, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this because I am a fact-checker and recently moved to New York full of aspirational dreams, but didn't enjoy it as I thought I would. I don't recognize the unique or masterful qualities of the writing, I don't find the plot exceptionally interesting, and the characters aren't compelling at all. My conclusion was that Bright Lights, Big City epitomized something about its particular place and time. It was worth reading for that, I think. ...more
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Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nearly-perfect
The first sentence of this book is said to be unmatched and that sentence alone immediately taught me of the type of reader i was and would eventually be.
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It's six a.m. Do you know where you are? 4 95 Nov 20, 2012 02:41PM  

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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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