Monday, September 14, 2009

On "If Wishes Were Porsches" by Jay McInerney (5171 words) ***

I first read McInerney on my high school senior trip. I bought Bright Lights, Big City at Crown Books in San Diego. The book had been mentioned by my English teacher in conjunction with the Lost Generation, with Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (an amazing work I just finished rereading this past winter--twenty-some years after my previous reading, twenty-some years to forget just how amazing). So I wanted to read this new Lost Generation. McInerney was the first; I would read Bret Easton Ellis the next fall. Ellis I did not care for, except in the way he captured a certain milieu; McInerney I cared for a lot. I finished Bright Lights, Big City by the weekend after I returned from the trip and immediately started it again. I must have read it three times that summer. It was good. It was very good.

I went on to read Ransom, a book I also loved. And then Story of My Life (brand new, in hardcover), which proved disappointing. On the anniversary of my first reading of Bright Lights, Big City, I read it again and was again enthused. Other reading interfered then, and I didn't touch Bright Lights again for a long time. I did, however, somewhere in here get around Brightness Falls and was again disappointed. I began to think either McInerney had fallen in form, or I had been young and enthusiastic over writing that age was proving to be less than stellar.

About two years ago, I finally got around to rereading McInerney. I started with Bright Lights, Big City, and you know what? It was still great. I found the last half a bit contrived, but it still had heart and great, great writing. Ransom, unfortunately, proved not to live up to my memories of it--I had loved the portrayal of that strange world of Japan, but now it seemed like a very contrived novel. And then I read Model Behavior. The latter proved that McInerney was not a fluke. He was back in form for that novella, back in the world of Bright Lights.

Here is a story written by a master chronicler of the New York scene. Sure, I don't know how it is that McInerney's male protagonist always seems to have a model or future celebrity fall for him--and then leave him once the woman becomes famous. Sure, I wonder sometimes how people in such financial straits manage to lead such rich social lives (especially among the seemingly well-to-do). Maybe it's all my own lack of social skills that causes me to doubt these things. But for sheer force of New York City, for its moments of craziness one is unlikely to find elsewhere (the old man's story in the bath house here made me laugh out loud), for the energy of language and turns of phrase, McInerney is a wonderful and enjoyable writer to soak in. Read the story here at Five Chapters.

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