Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book Review: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

1980's Decadence in Manhattan

What a ride!

The title sounded vaguely familiar when I picked up this book but I thought perhaps it was just a cliche... As I read this book, I kept visualizing Robert Downey Jr. in "Less Than Zero" (or actually in his real life escapades before he got sober). It was only after I finished the book and went looking for a picture of the cover for the blog that I realized this was indeed made into a movie but starred Michael J. Fox, Phoebe Cates and Keifer Sutherland. I will have to check it out. I imagine that I will simultaneously enjoy it while I cringe at how dated it is. Actually this movie came out in 1988, a year AFTER Less Than Zero.

I digress. . . Back to the actual book and plot. This book is a chronicle of the 1980's. . . social angst and party scene, cocaine is the rage and it's what all those social climbers are doing. We follow the life and thoughts of our protagonist or should I say we become him? This book is written in second person, placing YOU at the scene and experiencing all of the emotions.

From the opening line,  "You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning", I was drawn into his world and his struggles. You are a fact checker for a large magazine who wants to be a writer during the day. At night you are a young man trying to connect with others in all the wrong places, looking for intimacy in a drug induced cloud, seeking meaningful human contact with a bunch of party-goers. All of the time you are disillusioned.

Somehow, even though a lot of it is his own doing, I ended up sympathizing with this guy who  just can't seem to figure out that he is addicted to coke, unable to function in the real world, and is unable to get over the loss of his model wife who abandoned him. Self medication is not working despite his best efforts to drown out the real world, and his friend Tad ("fiend" would be a Freudian slip up) is like the little devil on his shoulder just encouraging the descent. Rock bottom is a hard place to be.

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