Bright Lights, Bummed City

Jay McInerney aims for dignified post-9/11 but cant ditch the soap opera of the yuppie class

McInerney is at his best in the relationship that develops between Luke and Corinne—he captures pretty well the highs of new love's promise and the lows that come from the guilt they both feel at their extramarital affair. And he works up a pretty fair head of narrative steam as the two are forced to decide whether to ditch their marriages or not. The ending may surprise readers—involving, as it does, an act of renunciation in the name of "family and community" that feels more like Edith Wharton than Fitzgerald—and I suppose that's McInerney trying to be moral and dignified, but I felt less moved by the selflessness of the characters than annoyed with McInerney's altar boy goodness. Plus, 9/11 gets fairly lost. Early on, Corrine asks herself about her marriage to Russell, "Would this new apocalypse strengthen them, or reveal the weakness of their foundations?" By the end, the collapse of the towers, the war with Afghanistan, the "new normal"—it all becomes vague backdrop. What new apocalypse? It turns out that what McInerney has to say about 9/11—man, it was terrible, and people really got back to their "real lives" real quick—isn't that interesting, even to him, so he goes back to his bread-and-butter, which is sophisticated soap opera for the yuppie classes. I'm guessing his audience will be pleased, which ought to make McInerney at least momentarily happy, until it comes time to please again.

McInerney: "Craves the love." Photo by Lisa Carpenter
McInerney: "Craves the love." Photo by Lisa Carpenter


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