by Jay McInerney
I picked up McInerney’s novel on a whim, judging a book by its cover, more or less. I will admit that I did not love it from the beginning––the shallow debauchery and translucent euphemisms for cocaine use––but it slowly grew on me as the heart came forth. McInerney constructed a sturdy narrative, demonstrating the after-effects as one finds his life spiralling out of control, failing no matter how much he tries to do good.
While it could be my own writing leading me to this interpretation, I greatly enjoyed the character of Tad Allagash, who I saw as the veritable Satan of this story. But, perhaps that’s too harsh a judgment; I doubt Allagash had any intention of active corruption. He seemed to be more of a man who was merely in the right time and place and acted accordingly. Tad’s ephemeral solutions to the protagonist’s problems seemed to be a good idea at the time, but they kept dragging said protagonist back down into the mud he was so struggling from which to emerge.
When all is said and done, however, the largest factor elevating this story from a good one to a great one is the amount of emotion it evokes, or at least it evoked from me. I don’t think I can fully express the sadness I felt at the end of chapter five––compounded by a return to my vehicle only to be greeted with Karma Police by Radiohead––leaving me deeply melancholic before arriving at work. All in all, Bright Lights, Big City was a short but satisfying tale that will, if you’re anything like me, cause you to be unsure whether you should laugh or cry by the end.