I absolutely love it when I can get books for cheap, so I was ecstatic when I found Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney for one dollar in the clearance section of my local bookstore! I’d heard about it before because I went through a stage where I read a lot of writing books, and they always use it as pretty much the only example of an effective use of the second-person tense. (“You walk down the street. You feel happy.” etc…) So I’d been meaning to read it for a long time, but it was one of those books I figured would be kind of dry and old and weird, because of the second-tense thing, so I didn’t exactly go out of my way to look for it.
Anyway, so I started reading it and I absolutely could not put it down. Rather than being odd and distracting, the second-person tense fit the story and the narrator’s voice perfectly, and instead of forcing actions and emotions on me, the reader, as I thought it would, it really allowed me to empathize with the character and feel precisely what he was feeling.
The book takes place over the course of a few weeks in the life of a young man holding on tenuously to his job as a fact-checker for a prominent New York magazine. He parties and does drugs (lots and lots of drugs) and meets new people and comes to terms with his past. The whole book is very clever and funny while still managing to be poignant and affecting. The pitch-perfect details add up to a completely convincing view of youth and loneliness in a big city. And I thought the ending was simply brilliant.
It’s always amazing when an author manages to make readers fully empathize with a character very different from themselves. I’m sixteen and basically live in a suburban/rural town, and I still felt completely connected to the narrator of Bright Lights, Big City. For those hours when I was reading the book, I felt like I was in the narrator’s shoes, walking the streets of New York, seeing and feeling everything he saw and felt. I’m definitely going to check out more of Jay McInerney’s work if it’s always this personal and detailed and spot-on.
On other new: we’re reading Lord of The Flies by William Golding in school. (Of course we are, it’s such a sophomore-year-of-high-school type of book.) Golding is obviously talented at weaving symbolism and meaning into his story (especially in his descriptions of the nature on the island) but on the other hand, I feel like this hinders my ability to fully enjoy reading the story. Because there is so much symbolism, teachers seem to want to treat the book as a scavenger hunt of meaning and subtext, which gets very old after a while. I would so much rather just read the book for what it is, and notice the meaning for myself, without having to pull apart paragraph after paragraph until all the joy of reading Golding’s beautiful words is gone.
- From plonk to plonkers with Jay McInerney (sedimentblog.blogspot.com)
- Bright Lights, Big Cities at Little Fish (curatedtable.com)
- Bright lights, big city (housemats.wordpress.com)