Bright, Precious Days
By Jay McInerney
What is it about Jay McInerney and brightness? His debut, now that most treasured of successes known as “a modern classic”, was Bright Lights, Big City, but generated its disorienting trajectory from shadowy, drug-fuelled trysts in clubs and gloomy personal tragedy. Bright, Precious Days completes a trilogy that began with Brightness Falls, before darkening with The Good Life. Are these nods to Evelyn Waugh’s bright young things, or ironic portraits of modern existence in that most neon of cities, New York, “the most shining island of letters”, as the opening chapter has it? The latter seems more likely. Our heroes (Russell and Corrine Calloway) are circling 50, still unsure whether to sell out (in high finance or by flogging blockbusting fiction) or to strive for deeper values: social welfare and great writing, respectively. What seems to really grab McInerney is how the Big Apple’s present mixes with the past: the Calloways confront and extend a golden age of Gatsby and The House of Mirth in a town “where Hemingway had punched O’Hara, and Ginsberg seduced Kerouac […] and Mailer punched everybody”. If it feels nostalgic, then perhaps that’s because nostalgia, even for financial crises and romantic infidelity, lurk beneath Russell and Corrine’s pillows. Bright, shallow but seldom dull.