Sunday, August 03, 2008

Bright Lights, Big City

Huh. I remember that I have read a Jay McInerney novel, Model Behavior, from the late 1990s, and Bright Lights, Big City seems identical, as far as I can tell. I enjoyed Model Behavior in a guilty pleasures mode, mostly because it fit into a very particular genre of male fantasy novel that is the male equivalent of chick lit - the novel of manners in which the hero is some version of an intellectual or writer or anyway nothing very manly or hunky or rich or famous or powerful, but somehow gets the model or actress or some-such, of whom he is obviously completely unworthy. She leaves him but then, of course, comes back to him. Or they break up and get back together. The fantasy point is that she would be interested in the first place. In McInerney’s novels, the model seems to want to get married when in fact she would be looking to trade up. But you see what I mean about the equivalent of chick lit. I also find intriguing, as a fantasy point or maybe it’s just something from a now-gone era, that the New York young writer of fiction, short stories, novels, etc., seems like a figure of sexy up and coming power and consequence. Writers? Who are we kidding? Girls these days are not foolish enough to fall for boys who studied literature in college, rather than economics, unless said male is already known to be headed to Yale Law School. Other examples in this genre include the movie Notting Hill which, contrary to all wisdom, is not a chick flick at all but a male fantasy, and of course the very great, in its own sweetly wrong, wrong way, AA Gill, Starcrossed. I started into Bright Lights, Big City at the Stanford gym, on the cross-trainer, at 20% O2, which seems about right. But what is this thing for first person, present tense fiction?

ps. Okay, it all becomes clear, now that I have finished reading BLBC at the gym, and have launched into Less Than Zero. I didn’t do drugs, didn’t drink, didn’t have the money for either of those two things, and didn’t really know anyone who did all that cocaine in the 1980s. Less Than Zero is a bore, even as reading on an exercise machine; I can sort of imagine that it shocked people when it came out in the mid-1980s, but the complete absence of anything below the surface save for some dated psychoanalytic schlock that was dying even as this was being published is just ... dull. Someone at the bookstore commented to me in the checkout line that Ellis is a better writer than McInerney. Not as far as I can tell - at least McInerney tells a rather sweet romance, plus more of the lost-mother psychological schtick; Ellis is just dull. Not sure I’ll manage to finish Less Than Zero. I saw a $2.50 Dover edition of The Sorrows of Young Werther in the bookstore, too, maybe I’ll reread that. Same general trend, more content.

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