Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney 1984
Thoughts Going InI have (for whatever reason) always associated this title with Less Than Zero. I saw Less Than Zero as a movie, but I never read the book. I don't think that I have ever seen Bright Lights, Big City. And now, I intend to read the book.
I got rid of a whole stack of dead-end books the other day: books that I knew I wasn't going to read, that something else would always come along and sound better. Well, this new arrival does sound better.
I've flipped open the book, read the back cover, and my expectation is a bit of visceral thrill, a bit of visceral living, maybe do some fictional pharmaceuticals and have a one night stand or two. Good dirty living.
I, also, like that the books is (or appears to be so far) written in what I will call third-person experiential.
You are about to read a book. You don't really know much about it. But you have high hopes. You are hoping that at some point you will wake up in strange bed with a pounding headache, the last thing your remember being a short conversation in which you said, 'Yeah! Sure! Fine!' as you swallowed a handful of strange pills. And now this. Maybe you should get up and find out whose taking that shower. Or maybe you should sneak out the back door, while the getting is good.It's got the same sort of feel (after reading two sentences) as Fight Club.
Yeah. You could probably go on writing like this forever. But the water in the shower has turned off and you need to make-up your mind as to what to do... and pronto.
All that said, I expect to get bored if the tone isn't right, if that tightrope between success, sex, failure, and self-destruction isn't walked with exacting precision. I don't want a Fairy Tale nor do I want a Morality Play. But on the other hand, I don't want a Wet Dream. I want realistic actions to have realistic consequences. But more than that (oh, so much more than that), I want to enjoy the ride.
I've got three books going: Vanity Fair (not past the first chapter), Voyager in Night (I must admit to growing bored with that one), and this. At some point, it will be time to kill one... or not. Maybe, the problem is that I haven't had enough variance.
Come on, Jay!
Let's snort some coke in the first sentence and do this trip right!
emotion reflected in tranquillity
The writing is good. There are more nuggets. But I must admit, I'm tending to shy away from direct quotes as of late, so there are not as many in this review. All of which is to say, despite a near total lack of entries in this section, one should not read too much into that. There were many turns of phrases that I would be hard pressed to emulate. So much so, I know, I could not.
- No coke.
- But the sneak-peek preview indicates I nailed the opening hangover scene.
- Oh, hot darn!
- I misinterpreted that first sentence.
- We have lift off!
- It's got a rhythm.
- Let's party!
- Last one who OD's is a Rotten Egg!
- I can't write like that.
- But then, those parts don't ring as smooth and true.
- Not to my ears, anyway.
- Sex Killer
- The previous reader did not know why the phrase was double capitalized.
- I do.
- It's the first margin note in the book.
- A+ for me!
- He's been in a downward death spiral since I've known him.
- That's who he is.
- So, it's sort of hard for me to care about the fact that he is in a downward death spiral.
- I don't even know his name.
- Though, maybe I should.
- The sex was not sexy.
- In fact, it was a bit of a downer.
- Or in other words, it was exactly as expected.
- I'd rather be taking a trip up than a trip down.
- I like that she's a mannequin.
- It's a wonderful portrait.
- I'm reading so fast, it's actually mentally exerting.
- I'm in a rush.
- It's a race.
- It's, also, a bit empty.
- After all, it's not my way to give too many compliments.
- I'm susceptible enough, when the author admonished me not to speed through his book, I stopped reading for the day.
- Short asides...
- Left unexplained...
- Because, you know...
- And everyone else knows, as well.
- Some joke about actresses.
- So good, it was worth writing down.
- But I don't want to steal it...
- And ruin the fun for others.
- In my next life, I'm forgoing all knowledge of cooking, baking, and other domestic drudgery.
- This guy's a train wreck.
- Such a liar.
- A person could learn a thing or two.
- Don't fall out of character.
- I don't want you to be human.
- Two birds. One Stone.
- I didn't sign up for either.
- It explains the critical acclaim.
- But I didn't sign up for it.
- I don't like the end story.
- It's not the story I signed up for.
- Basically, the ending is crap.
- Or to be kinder, it completely misses the mark for me.
- I could read into it.
- But I haven't had to read into anything else.
- So, why should I have to start on the last line?
- All the same, I read it lickity-split.
- The story hit a lot of notes.
- Until it didn't.
The DebriefingThis was not the story I wanted to read. Parts of it were. But as a whole, it was not.
The writing was good, solid. It has a pace. And I wanted to keep up with it. So, let's not knock the author... too much.
But I wanted hookers and blow. I wanted the upward ascent. And I got the Downward Death Spiral.
I could care less about what's-his-name's redemption. Heck, I don't even know his name. And I do not care about his problems. You know, what I do care about? I want to know the narrator's financial status. He blows money left and right. How? That's what really interests me. I want to know about his money.
The lead, also, seems to be good with women. So, be good. Only, he's not. He's a train wreck from beginning to end.
Eh, I cannot recommend the ride. Where are the Hookers & Blow? Better yet, where are the Hookers & Heroin?
We go to other interesting places (call them plot points), instead. And I am sure this is the cause of the critical acclaim. But it's not why I decided to read this book.
You wonder if you could write a better story. You wonder if it is possible to write such a story without the Downward Death Spiral? And even if there needs to be a Downward Death Spiral in story such as this, you wonder if you could construct a better one?It's got a nice rhythm, Bright Lights, Big City it does. But I think it misses on the high notes. I could care less of about the bass. And the lyrics? Well, let's just say, the only Blues I care about are my Blue F'ing Balls.
I mean, the joker in this other story was given everything... and he blew it. You have nothing. And you wonder, could you make it? Do you have what it takes?
The phone is ringing. You know that you should not answer it. That it will be Tiffany. That she will be your downfall. And by the end of the last chapter, it will be like falling through space, total free fall, a weightlessness.
Of course, by then, you'll be so tranq'ed on heroin, you won't care.
You roll over.
You pick up the phone.
You don't care what she has to say. But you buzz her in all the same. Oh, sure. It's a mistake, even you know that. But you got a book to fill. And if there's one thing Tiffany can do, it's fill the blank space between the covers with that luscious body of hers...
<something-something, gonna have to come back later and fill this in with some more filler in order to complete the transition>...
While the void in her head can only be matched by the void in your heart.
You haven't had any action in two days. You can feel the semen rising. You can see the little guys swimming behind your eyeballs. You're at the edge. You ain't got time for Tiffany, her small talk, or her mindless complaints. That's what the ball-gag is for.I think from there maybe I'd go with...
Five minutes later, and she's secured, all spread eagle like. You used the belts your mom keeps on giving you for your Birthday and Christmas.
'Thanks, mom,' you whisper silently to the air.
Tiffany would like to weigh in, maybe lodge another one of her mindless complaints, but, you know, ball-gag.
And instead of paying her any mind, you walk into the other room, pour yourself a drink, and turn on the game.
You got five bucks riding on the game, five bucks that says Tiffany will be furious in a half-hour when you finally return to the bedroom and see how's she doing.
But that's a half an hour from now, and you've never been very good about planning for the future.
You start chopping the heroin on the coffee table. At the half-time, the Bulls are ahead 52-36, so the fiver is in the bag. As is Tiffany. You know her anger will dissipate just as soon as she starts licking the table clean. No sense saving her a line. It teaches bad manners. She's got to earn that line.Fun.
But not a story, not yet.
Bright Lights, Big City, on the other hand, was much more of a story... unfortunately, for me, it was not nearly as much fun.