Bright Lights Big City by Jay McInerney

Night time skyline NYC

Night time skyline NYC

Another recommendation for my recent trip to New York, BLBC is unusual in that it is entirely written in the third person. First published in 1984 ,it is set in the coke-fulled days of Reaganomics .We never discover the name of the hero,who as the book opens, is reeling from a failed marriage and trying desperately to hang on to his job working in the Orwellian sounding Department of Factual Verification for a prestigious but un-named magazine.

The front pages quotes from The Sun Also Rises : ‘How did you go bankrupt ?’ Bill asked. ‘Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and the suddenly.’ And this indeed mirrors your journey through the city streets aided and abetted by your friend Tad Allagash.

The writing at times is highly comic and very reminiscent of Henry Miller particularly when ‘You’ are recounting your struggle to be a writer rather than a lowly fact checker : “You wanted to be Dylan Thomas without the paunch, F. Scott Fitzgerald without the crack up.” or when describing ‘Your’ relationship with Tad…….here is Tad detailing, in a note, the latest blind date he has set up : Described you as cross between young F. Scott-Heminway and the later Wittgenstein, so dress accordingly.  Yrs in Christ, Tad

The book however is more than a very atmospheric and now nostalgic romp through the 1980s with nods to the pop music of the time and the greats of modern American Literature. ‘ You’ are on a similar journey to Holden Caulfield and the final section of the book is raw with the emotion of your real loss . I sobbed as the crisis was reached and the reason for your current breakdown became clear.The book is short , only 174pp, but it packs a massive punch.

 

     

 

 

 

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