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Bright Lights, Big City [Paperback]

Jay McInerney
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 18.95
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Book Description

Aug. 12 1984 Vintage Contemporaries
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 goodwill, controlled substances, and wit to sustain him in this anti-quest, he runs until he reaches his reckoning point, where he is forced to acknowledge loss and, possibly, to rediscover his better instincts. This remarkable novel of youth and New York remains one of the most beloved, imitated, and iconic novels in America.

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Bright Lights, Big City + Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
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Product Description

Review

"Bright Lights, Big City is a brilliant and moving work—unique, refreshing, imaginatively powerful and authentically conceived."
The New York Times

"Bright Lights, Big City defined, and even determined, the mood of this whole town."
Vanity Fair

"Short, sleek and very funny.... Beneath it's surface, though, a heart's cry for a saner, sweeter, more thoughtful and restrained existence."
Chicago Tribune

"Each generation needs its Manhattan novel, and many ache to write it. But it was McInerney who succeeded."
The New York Times Book Review 

From the Back Cover

New York, années 80. Un garçon de vingt-quatre ans tente d'oublier son chagrin et sa déception (sa femme vient de le quitter) à l'aide de diverses méthodes éprouvées : l'échec professionnel, la dope, les boîtes. Et la littérature. Entre un défilé de haute couture, une fête ratée et une orgie de coke dans les toilettes de l'Odeon, il lui reste peu de temps pour rassembler ses esprits. Heureusement, le Destin veille au grain... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Superficial and tired Sept. 3 2003
Format:Paperback
This novel reads much like an entertaining article in a magazine; it's light, with little insight into the human condition or, more specifically, into the psyches of the central characters. The word surface has a gloss, which is pleasant enough, but which falls far short of sustaining repeated readings. It is disposable literature, masquerading as something more permanent.
*
The protagonist identifies himself swiftly as enjoying an elite, Ivy League, background, with an accompanying modest cushion of wealth. His talents and, more desperately, his potential are hailed as grand and admirable. His interest in literature, in particular, is implicitly cited as rescuing and validating his moral worth. All this is somewhat tiresome and self-satisfied, and does recall the basic scenario of Catcher in the Rye (for better or for worse). Unlike in that alleged classic, here the author feels obliged to explain the protagonist's lack of direction, and he does so clumsily, resorting to a poorly realised appeal to grief.
*
The minor characters fair still less well. Amanda, the prodigal model cum wife, is empty and vacuous - no attempt is made into fathoming how or why this might be so. Similarly, Tad, an accomplice in drugs and clubbing, is rendered flatly. The surface might well be amusing, or even alluring, but in a novel one could expect more than what could be provided in the space of a thirty second television commercial (and that's all that's offered).
*
The eighties in New York might have been interesting in some sense, but the source of that interest remains opaque after reading this ultimately rather dull book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated, mediocre. June 29 2000
Format:Paperback
Well, contrary to the stereotype, here's a pretty anti-Bright Lights review from a New Yorker. I found the book a mildly amusing, but very shallowly rendered, portrait of a very specific time, place, profession, and lifestyle. McInerey seems undecided about exactly what he is undertaking. At times the book is straight satire, at times real tragedy. And the genres blend like oil and water in BLBC, each undermining the other and leaving the book without foundation. Admittedly, there are very moving passages (very late in the book), where McInerey seems to have decided which direction he'd like to take, but by then the damage is done. His use of the second-person makes the story feel partially formed. While he doesn't use the POV poorly, it is inherently flawed in that the reader is invited to bring more of him or herself into the novel, only to find a clash with the story told. Because of this it feels more a novelty device than a means of rendering the protagonist an everyman.
The final flaw of the book is the target of its criticism. One review claimed that the book was dead on satire of "the MBA set" (or something to this effect), missing the point entirely that it is not the MBA set being satirized. Rather, there are a hodge-podge of targets: Ivy League literati, ad men, models, designers, Rastas, Hasidim, Greek diner owners and Greek gigolos--all told about half of New York. Thus McInerey's barbs seem thrown wild as buckshot at a skeetshoot and come across as one-liners about 1980s stereotypes. For a much better, and better focused, work of 80s satire, see Ellis's American Psycho (which -is- aimed at the MBA set and which uses deliberate, stylized, shallow representation).
Not a timeless book.
Frankly, I'm a little surprised it outlived its decade of origin.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brightly lit March 7 2007
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
"Here you go again. All messed up and no place to go."

That line sets the tone for "Bright Lights, Big City." Jay McInerney's bestselling debut stands above other urban-angst novels of the time, which tended to go with shock value. Instead, McInerney experimented with second-person narratives and a vision of a fragmented, coke-dusted New York.

"You" are a young man living in New York, and wife Amanda has recently left you for a French photographer she met on a modelling shoot. Understandably you are depressed and unhappy, and the loss of Amanda haunts your moods, especially when her lawyer urges you to sue her for "sexual abandonment," even though you don't want a divorce.

By day, you work in the fact-checking department of a prestigious magazine, where your malignant boss is getting tired of you. By night, you halfheartedly prowl clubs with your pal Tad, doing drugs and meeting women you care nothing for. Will you be able to move past your problems and become happy again?

Consider that summary a little slice of what "Bright Lights, Big City" sounds like -- the reader is the main character, which allows the reader to slip into another's skin for a brief time. Second-person narratives are often annoying, but McInerney's style is so starkly compelling that the little narrative trick pays off.

The New York of "Bright Lights, Big City" is basically a big, glitzy, hollow place, but still strangely appealing. And McInerney adds splinters of reality here and there, like the tattooed girl and Coma Baby, which add to the gritty you-are-there feel of the novel itself.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars What I expected
I bought this used for 2 cents! Been wanting to read it since forever ago, it's amazing. The cover was different then the pictured product, it's a different edition, but for 2... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Jesse
5.0 out of 5 stars Crazy 80s
If you are seduced by stories taking place in the ‘crazy’ 80s this book won’t disappoint. The setting is comparable to a more sane version of that in American Psycho. Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2012 by Capital
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a big book, but big on ideas
I loved this book when it came out decades ago. I originally had a copy of the American version (which sports the two world trade center towers in the background on the cover) and... Read more
Published on March 2 2006 by Katie the Cat
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly bright star in the firmament
This novel falls just short of the American classics Huck Finn, Sun Also Rises, Gatsby, Holden Caufield, True Grit. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2005 by ThomsEBynum
3.0 out of 5 stars cocaine decisions
In this supposedly zeitgeist novel of the '80's we see a protagonist who incorporates the essence of that decade: hedonism, urbanity, wealth, cocaine-fuelled nightlife in a... Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by "jmhayes108"
3.0 out of 5 stars The Ferret Incident was about my college professor!
Believe it or not, my College Professor for English Composition 201 was the roommate of Jay McInerney, the author of this book, when they both lived in New York City! Read more
Published on July 1 2004 by Trekkintheplains
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a very very good one
Once in a while, a book surfaces that can deliver a stronger message than most novels, yet retain a contemporary sense. This book is one of the few. Read more
Published on June 1 2004 by Jim Steele
5.0 out of 5 stars describe a broken heart
This books describes a person with a broken heart and how it really feels. It also describes the ups and downs of starting out on your own after college. I love this book!
Published on May 25 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely perfect
This book is sheer beauty. Jay McInerney has ineffably captured the rogue spirit and disillusionment of the decadent 1980s, and has honed a sincere, manic story that defines an... Read more
Published on May 25 2004 by Montese C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless
At once meaningless, yet meaning laden, Bright Lights Big City is an allegory for our times.
Published on Feb. 10 2004
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