Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bright Lights, Big City

Look at this picture of a 1980's Jay McInerny from last Sunday's Times book section. This essentially embodies my every fantasy of being a writer - to be that celebrant in a room full of beautiful revelers who are intoxicated with booze, drugs and an intransigent adoration of my genius.

I think I read Bright Lights Big City when I was seventeen. It was a time when I was rounding out my high school years in Tennessee while obsessively dreaming of New York City. It is a common ambition to write a book like Bright Lights. A torch is passed that started with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Boy goes to the city, boy falls in love, boy gets lost in the excess of his generation and the jungle of New York, boy somehow survives to tell his tale. F. Scott gave this experience its voice in the roaring 20's. McInerney brought us the pulse of the coke-fueled 1980's. I've tried to capture on paper what it was like to be young while living and loving in the New York of the late 90's. Of course, no text ever emerged and now the flavor of those days is lost amid the AYSO Soccer games I coach and concrete days spent (CPA) Accounting for dear life.

But if anything, the oft-maligned second-person narration of Bright Lights taught me at a young age that it was okay to break conventions when writing. It was also the first real contemporary fiction I'd read by a living author. It was important for me to read something and say - no, really -this guy's still alive just like you. maybe you can do this too. The book was of course, my brother's, and like my Lee Mazzilli baseball card, I stole it from his room while he was away at college.

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