Jay McInerney was an ’80s literary wunderkind after the publishing of his first novel, Bright Lights, Big City (one of Time’s most influential books of the 20th century). He spent a lot of time in New York City clubs during that hedonistic era with his pal Bret Easton Ellis. Together, they indulged in what they called “Bolivian Marching Powder” (read: cocaine), hung out with hot chicks, and churned out books, becoming the New Guard in the ’80s book scene. McInerney’s glam debauchery and fast-paced writing style are likely what earned the now 54-year-old a spot on Gossip Girl, where he plays Dan’s hard-drinking, flaky author mentor.
Between Gossip guest spots and jaunts as a wine critic, McInerney found time to revisit a selection of short stories written throughout his career with the release of How It Ended, a 26-story collection.
|how it ended by jay mcinerney. published by knopf doubleday (2009). $25.95.|
The book begins with “It’s Six A.M. Do You Know Where You Are?” (1982), the short story that would become Bright Lights, while “Story of My Life,” originally published in Esquire, also became its own novel.
“Story of My Life” (1987) focuses on the beautiful, dysfunctional and wealthy Alison Poole and her circle of fabulous friends with coke problems. During the John Edwards affair scandal last year, it was discovered that McInerney had based Ms. Poole on his real-life acquaintance, the Rielle Hunter with whom Edwards was carrying on an affair.
McInerney, perhaps eager to capitalize on that turn of events, revisits Poole (who also appeared in two Bret Easton Ellis books) again in How it Ended with the story “Penelope on the Pond.” In it, Alison languishes in a mountain cabin as a presidential candidate’s mistress. Clever.
McInerney revisits some of his other characters, like the Calloways from “Brightness Falls,” as they try to give up 20-plus years of smoking in “Smoke.” Often, characters end within the confines of their novels, but McInerney reuses his favorites to update his readers on their lives.
Most of the characters in How it Ended are dealing with infidelity, addictions and troubled marriages. They’re the things one can encounter later on in life, but McInerny makes them accessible to a 20-something reader by writing with an intellectual wit that is imagery-filled rather than high-reaching or esoteric.
McInerney is notable for his flexible, modern writing style that jumps from first-person to third-person and inhabits both male and female perspectives with comfort. McInerney’s honest observations hit their stride in the disenchanted voice of a middle-aged man.
McInerney is a great capturer of all time periods and trends. Sure, he might write more amusingly about his ’80s heyday, but he casts a prying eye into our times too. He’s always been, like his partyboy compadre Ellis, a sort of debauched Edith Wharton or F. Scott Fitzgerald, sending up society in a wry but spot-on and smart manner.
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