You were in a Big City and there were Bright Lights

West 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues (1984). Photo by TedQuackenbush [CC BY SA 3.0] via Wikimedia.

Bright Lights, Big CityBright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I "discovered" Jay McInerney when I watched the BBC2 documentary Sincerely, F. Scott Fitzgerald. McInerney's first novel remains a winner. 

Set in Mahattan in 1984, the story covers how almost everyone felt in the 1980s. That time when you were done with nightclubs, but there was nothing else to do. You kept going back, but all you wanted to do was something else. 

This is the first novel I have ever read in the second person. McInerney makes it work. Apparently it was turned into a film starring Michael J. Fox (I never saw it) and also an Off-Broadway rock musical from 1999. 

I often listen to music while reading and writing, usually minimalism and John Adams in particular. The trouble is I have been listening to the same music over and over for more than ten years and sometimes I have to change. 

Lately I have been in the habit of listening to music from the time the book was written or from the country of origin of the author. Most of the books I read tend to be older, so listening to 1984 was never going to happen. 

I typed "bright lights big city" into Spotify, and hey presto! There was the rock musical version of the book. This was the funniest experience I have had with music and reading. 

Many of the songs use the exact words from the book and I had to change the music when I found myself reading the exact words of the book while listening to them at the same time in the musical's soundtrack. 

The song "Coma Baby" had me cacking myself. 

Part of the story reminds me of Guy de Maupassant's Bel Ami sans the cocaine. But it finishes a bit like Tom Cruise's Risky Business or Matthew Broderick's Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It reads like a young person's novel but there is certainly genius there. 

I am yet to read another McInerney, but it is worth exploring more of his work. But the most memorable thing for me was the incident with the music and the book. Not to take away from the book, but the experience fitted right in with the tone of the novel. 

What it must have been like to be so young and write so well.

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