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. Hedonism and excess are almost a constant in the story. It is easy to see McInerney’s place in the ‘literary brat pack’. At its heart Bright Lights, Big City is a break-up...
Published 15 months ago by Capital
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, mildly overrated
"Bright Lights, Big City" is a good novel, but not quite the masterpiece some people say it is. BLBC is often funny and never boring, and shows that second-person narration can be quite effective. The hero was dumped by his wife who pursued a modeling career, and his party habits (which include lots of cocaine) are preventing him from being competent at his...
Published on Nov. 17 2000 by Joshua David
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4.0 out of 5 stars What I expected,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Bright Lights, Big City (Paperback)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 cents I won't complain!
5.0 out of 5 stars Crazy 80s,
This review is from: Bright Lights, Big City (Paperback)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. Hedonism and excess are almost a constant in the story. It is easy to see McInerney’s place in the ‘literary brat pack’. At its heart Bright Lights, Big City is a break-up story. The narrator searches for any outlet to get over his ex, to the point of repeatedly visiting a mannequin that is based on her likeness. It deals with the powerful seduction that fame can have on some people even those that are aware and critical of it. I didn’t find the second person narrative distracting, it takes some getting used to but it is achieved with ease. The book isn’t solemn, there are quite a few opportunities where it shows its sense of humor. Bright Lights, Big City may feel like a familiar story because so many similar stories have been produced since but it has a feel and uniqueness that the others don’t. Please check out my first published work Defenseless
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, mildly overrated,
This review is from: Bright Lights, Big City (Paperback)"Bright Lights, Big City" is a good novel, but not quite the masterpiece some people say it is. BLBC is often funny and never boring, and shows that second-person narration can be quite effective. The hero was dumped by his wife who pursued a modeling career, and his party habits (which include lots of cocaine) are preventing him from being competent at his job, which becomes less and less important to him. Reading this novel, I wish there would have been more of Tad Allagash, one of the hero's friends, who unfortunately is much more interesting than the hero himself. I thought too much time was spent on the hero obsessing over his ex-wife, time that could have been spent on the hero's and Tad's fast-living New York lifestyle. Even so, there is much to be admired. Anyone who has ever had a cocaine habit will identify with these characters, and the ending of the book is an emotional powerhouse, all the more amazing because of its simplicity. Even though it is far from perfect, reading "Bright Lights, Big City" is time well spent.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Superficial and tired,
This review is from: Bright Lights, Big City (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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated, mediocre.,
This review is from: Bright Lights, Big City (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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Brightly lit,
This review is from: Bright Lights, Big City (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. His dark sense of humour comes out in "your" thoughts: "your" boss resembles "one of those ageless disciplinarians who believe that little boys are evil and little girls frivolous, that an idle mind is the devil's playground."
And while many trendy novels of the time relied on shock value and obnoxious characters, McInerney keeps it low-key. The young man is likable and sympathetic, despite his tendency towards self-pity. And the people around him -- the self-absorbed Amanda, likable Tad and nasty "Clingwrap" -- seem surprisingly realistic, as well as the minor people who flit in and out of our hero's vision.
"Bright Lights, Big City" has gained a reputation as a trendy urban novel of the 1980s. Too bad. Though the trendiness has worn off, McInerney's style and story are still worth reading.
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a big book, but big on ideas,
This review is from: Bright Lights, Big City (Paperback)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 recently dug it out and read it again. This novel is not big, but the ideas it incorporates are enormous. Likened to McCrae's "Katzenjammer" with its NY arts and publishing scenes, this is one book that will not disappoint.
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly bright star in the firmament,
This review is from: Bright Lights, Big City (Mass Market Paperback)This novel falls just short of the American classics Huck Finn, Sun Also Rises, Gatsby, Holden Caufield, True Grit. MacInerney captured being young in New York in the 80's which means he captured being young and confused for all times. The smell of bread in the beginning brings you to the smell of bread at the end. The only other author who comes this close to sensory reproduction and getting to the "heart" is Jackson McCrae (think his BARK OF THE DOGWOOD or his CHILDREN'S CORNER with their incredible descriptions et al. The people and situations are as true to the rules of reality as fiction can be. And the walk that you and Tad's cousin take through the Village is most fetching indeed. The bricks and wooden Dutch shoes at the end of the book point beautifully to the Dutch sailor's eyes that first contemplated this continent at the end of Gatsby. The only problem I have with the book is it's a little too New Yorker, polished fiction--he never let loose the reins. Still, this is a fantastic piece of fiction, nay, history, and should be read by everyone.
3.0 out of 5 stars cocaine decisions,
This review is from: Bright Lights, Big City (Paperback)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 competitive social minefield. Coming to think of it, not alot has changed really. Speaking in the second person singular, the writer is following himself around New York as though singing an extended version of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" by David Bowie.
The structure is innovative and the tone is innane and babbling at times, which reflects our coke-head heroes mentality perfectly. Anything to drown out the sorrow beneath. From his rash decisions to the reasons behind his nihilistic spiral, all questions are answered slowly.
It may seem like I am slating this book but I am not. He is describing a character who is a complete mess. It would be criminal to give cerebral insights and flowery desciptions about such a sullen, defunct lifestyle. Yet pity grows for him as his unfortunate past is revealed. For anyone who has lost someone close to them, his passage of loss is a touching and painful reminder.
It was once described as the Trainspotting of the '80s. Perhaps in an obvious drugs/dilemmas/adventures kind of way, but this novel is more about one man who is a heretic of a scene rather than of how or why a scene works. He is not from a poor background, he is not unemployed, he is not living in a dreary council estate in middle fof Sotland. It is too personal to be considered a social commentary and its singular tragedy surpasses even those of Welsh's protagonists.
So overall, not a fantastic book, not something to bring on holidays, not something to cheer you up, not essentially something to learn from, as the heroes coping mechanisms leave a lot to be desired. A tale of self-indulgent decadence and why. Certainly a book to read at some time in your life. It has its time.
3.0 out of 5 stars The Ferret Incident was about my college professor!,
This review is from: Bright Lights, Big City (Paperback)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! I was forced to read this for that class and in the course, found out a bit about the author and his life before the book. On page 109, the incident about releasing the ferret into Clara's office was about an incident that actually happened to my professor, in fact, I have seen the scars on his hand! He tells me that ferrets have VERY sharp, hard teeth. Both my professor (to protect his privacy he will remain nameless) and Jay McInerney worked for a magazine in the Department of Factual Verification.
But to get to my review, I must say this was not one of my favorite books. Like my review of Saul Bellow's "Seize the Day", I found this book to be depressing. Also, both characters have drug addictions, are separated from their wives, have lost or are losing their jobs and have major issues with their parents.
However, the interesting aspect of this book is that it is told from "second person perspective" meaning that the author never gives a name to the main character, his is simply known as "You". An example: "You are both in high spirits. You have decided that you are better off without that p***-ant job, that it is a good thing you got out when you did." The book is almost as if it is about the reader, as if the book is talking to the reader. I like that it is an interesting new twist on story telling.
The basic plot is that You is a fact checker for a magazine in New York City, he slacks off in his job and is about to be fired for submitting an article that he didn't check. You is a cocaine addict and is fueled on by his incidious friend Tad Allagash, an incurable player. You was married to Amanda, a midwest girl-turned model who went to Paris and never came back. You is struggling with his life in general, he once wanted to be a writer but all ambition is gone. You also has Mom issues, she died of cancer before he ever got to know her and he has regretted it ever since. You also feels trapped, his is at times overcome with the desire to escape his life, jump out a window and fly away. His apartment is unkempt, he parties too much, forgets too many things and cannot get over Amanda in order to have a healthy relationship. Also, there are references throughout the book to an article about a pregnant mother in a coma and speculation as to whether she will live long enough to extract the child alive. This is an allusion to You, he still feels as if he cannot cut the cord that ties him to his mother, he is caught between life and death, existence and nonexistence.
To live, You must overcome his problem of settling for cheap imitations, his love for women who are never coming back, his reliance on drugs as an escape from life and surpass the shock of his mother's death. You also must find a way to trade his fast-paced, empty life for reality, we see allusions to this in the end. Altogether, this is not a bad book. But, it had a rather depressing effect on me and is full of the seediness of life in New York in the 1980's.
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Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney (Paperback - Aug. 12 1984)
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