Top critical review
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on June 29, 2000
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.