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Bright Lights, Big City

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  26,971 ratings  ·  1,430 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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andrew orillion Also, keep an eye out for David Hyde Pierce as a bartender.

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3.76  · 
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 ·  26,971 ratings  ·  1,430 reviews

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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 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 narrator
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: usa, fiction

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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, usa
Enjoyed this much more than was expecting.
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
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
Maria Thomarey
Jan 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, favorites
It would be an understatement to say that I read and loved this book. It's more like snorting coke, hanging around with this Allagash dude, partying every night, struggling with writer blocks, hating get the idea, typical well-read, shallow, cynical young men with a thing for art. I've read a good chunk of second person narrated books lately - Suicide by Edouard Leve, The reluctant fundamentalist, Fall by Camus, but this is the only book that served the whole purpose of the style. Thi ...more
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
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
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
Stefania T.
Insaziabilmente spiritoso. Le battute si rincorrono come cani da caccia, tutte fanno centro, tutte divertono.
Narrare la storia in seconda persona singolare è stata senza dubbio alcuno una mossa intrigante.
Il finale è scenografico e poetico al tempo stesso.
Ma, purtroppo, il romanzo mi è rimasto addosso come una distratta passata di smalto scadente: troppi i fatti - schiacciati come sardine (elencati) in centocinquanta paginette, e personaggi di plastica, come condannato ad essere plastificato ris
Julie Ehlers
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I recall the exact circumstances under which I obtained my copy of Bright Lights, Big City. Home from college on a break, I was at the local Waldenbooks perusing a cart full of remainders that were advertised at 90 percent off their already low sale prices. Among them was this book, remaindered at 99 cents and now discounted even further. I brought it up to the register, where it was rung up by the brother of a girl I went to middle school with. "Ten cents," he intoned. I looked in my wallet and ...more
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.

Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a joy this Bloomsbury classic proved to be. First published in 1985, I’d long written Jay Mcinnerney’s Bright Lights, Big City off as a “drugs novel” — but how wrong could I be? Yes, there’s a little bit of cocaine use in it, but this is a brilliant and memorable novel about one of my favourite subjects in fiction: journalism. And, like many books of that ilk, it’s essentially a black comedy — and one that felt very close to my heart.

The story revolves around a young man living a precarious
Goran Gluščić
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Do McInerneya sam došao zbog svoje opsjednutosti radovima Breta Eastona Ellisa. Ipak su njih dvojica, zajedno s Tamom Janowitz, u osamdesetima tvorili grupu mladih pisaca nazvanu 'The Brat Pack' koji su pisanjem romana i kratkih priča o urbanom yuppie glamuru ispunjenom bogataškom depresijom i kokainom zapravo i sami završili živeći takve živote.

Od onda je prošlo trideset godina i to su sada uspješni ljudi u pedesetim godinama, usprkos tome što neki od njih (khm, Bret, khm) još uvijek zapravo p
May 30, 2009 rated it liked it
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
May 22, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I've been reading literature seriously for 15 years, and I have no idea how I've just now read Bright Lights, Big City. My first impression is that this is a classic. It's shocking to me that this book, which made a huge splash during its 1984 release, seems to have been largely forgotten. The writing is perfect from a technical standpoint; the story is a page-turner, and the portrait of the protagonist is raw, verisimilitudinous, and in the end deeply moving.
Rachel Louise Atkin
Read for the second time and oh my god this book is just so good. It’s ever better than Less Than Zero which really hurts me to admit.

Incredible. Oh my god. It had a different tone than I expected but I soon got used to it, and when I did I just couldn't stop reading. Finished it in less than 12 hours. Definitely going to be reading more McInerney after this one. If you like books about writers stumbling about New York and getting drunk with no real direction then read this now.
Aug 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, americana
Although this book is tiny, the writing is sassy and smart. Set in the 80's New York young professional coke scene, think American Psycho but with less mutilation and more moping. Apparently they made a movie out of it with Michael J. Fox. I have no desire to see it.
Sep 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Not so ludicrous as its oft-noted companion, Less Than Zero, but also not exactly on four corners with that novel, either. There, a lumpenized university student, here a proletarianized post-university kid. Both are more or less clueless, though this narrator (whose annoying second-person becomes synonymous with first-person fairly quickly) experiences routine domestic trauma sufficient to cause his difficulties.

As the text intones, "suffering is supposed to be the raw stuff of art" (39), and n
Amanda Patterson
Dec 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-remember
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
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Moira Russell
Dec 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: underwhelmed
Dreadfully overrated. I think every professor in every single writing workshop I ever attended quoted that opening.
George K.
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century
Είναι το πρώτο βιβλίο του Μακίνερνι που διαβάζω, είναι και το πρώτο που έγραψε ο συγγραφέας το 1984. Μπαίνει στην ίδια κατηγορία με βιβλία του Μπρετ Ίστον Έλις, ίσως και του Ντάγκλας Κόπλαντ, (και άλλων παρόμοιων συγγραφέων), αν και το στιλ του είναι φυσικά διαφορετικό.

Το βιβλίο είναι γραμμένο σε δεύτερο πρόσωπο και το στιλ αυτό λειτούργησε πάρα πολύ καλά (μόλις το δεύτερο βιβλίο που έχω διαβάσει και είναι γραμμένο σε δεύτερο πρόσωπο, το άλλο είναι το Ψευδή σημεία επαφής του Ανδρούτσου).

Το μυθ
Eveline Chao
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
May 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
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The Literati: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney 8 8 Jan 08, 2018 02:56PM  
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It's six a.m. Do you know where you are? 4 88 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
“Everything becomes symbol and irony when you've been betrayed” 98 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.” 57 likes
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