Book Review #61: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

15 Sep

Bright lights, big city is a phrase I’ve heard a thousand times, applied to New York. I always associated it with the physicality of New York, and the hope that people have when they move there. I haven’t seen the movie adaptation (starring Michael J. Fox and Kiefer Sutherland), and this book was unexpected. This phrase really speaks to how the bright lights can blind you and the big city will swallow you up.

Jamie Conway is kind of everything people hate about New York. He’s a fact checker for a famous magazine, and when he finally “makes it” to New York (and makes it in New York?) he can’t help but over inflate his self importance. When we meet Jamie, his wife has abandoned him and he’s living the life that many people associate with New York. Cruising the hottest bars, clubs and restaurants with his partner in crime Tad Allagash, drugging himself into oblivion and having shallow conversations and empty sex with women as soulless as he is.

We’re meant to feel sorry for Jamie. I think. Or at understand how he became the quintessential, arrogant asshole that he is. As the book goes on, and he begins to burn the “glamorous” life he built for himself with his magazine job to the ground, we learn more about the abandonment, tragedy and desertions that brought him to such a wretched place in his life.

But the book sort of feels like…an explanation. Or an excuse. Like it’s ok that Jamie treats women like objects, slacks off to the point of no return at work and erases his family from his life. Because he’s damaged, and hurting. Pain isn’t an excuse for his despicable behavior. Feeling lost isn’t an excuse for becoming a terrible human being. I just felt frustrated reading his story.

The prose of this book is sharp, and observational, and well suited to the story. It’s definitely worth a read – as much as I hated Jamie, I really liked this book. It makes you think a lot about your future, and what you value, and what trade offs will be worth it.

One Response to “Book Review #61: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney”


  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Book Review #61: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney « Cannonball Read IV - September 15, 2012

    […] There’s more! Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookEmailDiggStumbleUpon Posted by HelloKatieO in 3 stars – a good book and tagged Bright Lights Big City, CBR4, hellokatieo, New York […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: