Bright Lights, Big City: Book Review

Updated on September 5, 2017
PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award-nominated author based out of Juneau, Alaska.

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

Bright Lights, Big City
Bright Lights, Big City

The Vitals


Author: Jay McInerney

Pages: 182

1984, Vintage Contemporaries


Rating:


Readability/entertainment value: 19/20

Educational value: 7/10

Writing/Editing 10/10


Total: 36/40

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

Jay McInerney’s debut novel, Bright Lights, Big City, was published in 1984. I just read it for the first time and found the message behind the novel to be as powerful and poignant today as it likely was when it was first released. Dealing with universal themes of loss and growing up in a confusing world, the novel cuts through straight to the heart—an unexpected emotional connection is formed.

A brisk, 181 pages, the novel covers one week in the life of an unnamed protagonist. At first, hedonistic and debauched, the first pages of the novel describe the effects of cocaine and the protagonists’ search for cocaine throughout the night clubs of Manhattan. We follow our protagonist through a feverish week of clubbing and aimless wandering. Often forgoing food and sleep in search of the ultimate high and meaning, we discover, that despite the potential of this young man, he has nothing. McInenry asks the question: Would you rather live in an illusion or lose your illusion?

From page on , we see our twenty-four year old protagonist resisting the lifestyle in search of a normal life, though influences and circumstances deny his best laid plans. Tad Allagash the best friend of the protagonist (and debauchee extraordinaire), continually pulls the protagonist down into the spiral with him. After all, what’s the fun of going down the rabbit hole by yourself?

The protagonist, an aspiring writer and fact checker for a prestigious magazine, in one scene longs for a normal night at home, and even tries to do some writing. Tad Allagash pops over and our protagonist says to him: “Have you ever experienced this nearly overwhelming urge for a quiet night at home?” Allagash responds with a simple “No.” Our protagonist gives in, every time in this short novel, going against his desires for normalcy.

As the novel progresses, we learn that his supermodel wife has left him. He loses his job (Proceeded by a hilarious revenge scene involving a ferret named Fred) and his life spirals out of control. This is where we get to the heart of the matter.

The novel is not about debauchery and hedonism for their own sakes. The novel is about dealing with loss and life ad coming to grips with being a grown up. It is about losing everything and starting over and learning to make better decisions and choose better friends. There is a purpose to everything our protagonist goes this.

Bright Lights, Big City, is an ambitious debut novel. Funny and vicious, emotionally wrenching and utterly accessible, the novel is an important tale and coping with a changing world and changing personal circumstances.

Told in second person present tense, the “you” narrator is engrossing, and this s further enhanced by the fact that our narrator remains nameless throughout (though, in the film version, starring Michael J. Fox, he is given the name Jamey). The urgency of the present tense slows down the action while the second person (“you”) narration draws you into the story. It’s a bold move as second person narration often leads to resistance on the part of the reader. McInerney pulls it off masterfully in this stunning debut novel.

Any writer aspiring to write a novel using second person narration would be advised to read this novel.

On the surface, Bright Lights, Big City may have a limited scope of appeal, however, the themes of loss and life and growing up in an ever-changing world are universal themes and McInerney goes straight for the heart.

Jay McInerney
Jay McInerney | Source

SECOND PERSON NARRATION

A rarely used narrative voice (especially in novels) where the second person ("you") narrator is used (as opposed to "I" in first person, or the "her, her, them, they, used in third person narration). Other novels that use Second person present tense include "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern and "Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas" by Tom Robbins.

Bright Lights Big City

Have you read Bright Lights, Big City?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Justin W Price

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)