Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bright, precious days, by Jay McInerney

Thirty-two years after McInerney’s novel Bright Lights, Big City made his reputation, he is back again on his old stomping grounds.  Yet another New York City story, which references his earlier book in the title.  I, however, found the word “precious” in the title to be more descriptive.  Although it is a compulsive read and very well written, it is hard to sympathize overly with the privileged characters’ problems, most of which are of their own making.  Corrine and Russell Calloway are a long married couple with twin children in their early adolescence.  Although successful -- Russell heads a small but well-respected literary publishing house -- they are not as financially comfortable as some of their peers and still live in their original, crumbling, loft apartment in Tribeca.  Corrine left a better-paying career post-9/11 to work for a non-profit that distributes healthy vegetables to poorer residents.  She began a short-lived affair with a wealthy man she met working at a soup kitchen immediately following the terrorist attacks.  When he reappears six years later, she is once again drawn into a relationship with him.  Meanwhile, Russell has bet everything on a book by an acquaintance who has written an account of his kidnapping and escape from the Taliban in Pakistan while at the same time dealing with a volatile young author whose book of short stories has become a literary sensation.  The Calloways best friends are also involved in various infidelities (and Russell has had more than one dalliance himself).  Inevitably, these deceptions, as well as the book deal, all blow up in their faces right in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis.  The writing is vivid and the author is obviously well-entrenched in both the fashionable and rarified world his characters move in and the publishing scene he describes.  But it left me cold. 397 pp.

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