Alison, as McInerney fans will remember well, is the main character from Story of my Life, the novel immediately following cult classic Bright Lights, Big City. Ray Porter has got the rapid-fire sarcasm of this wannabe actress and aspiring rich girl calibrated precisely for laughs in all the right places. Those looking for an introduction to Alison will find the opening novel chapter, there titled "Getting in Touch with Your Inner Child" here as "Story of my Life". But there is also a new gem for Alison presented toward the end of this collection, in "Penelope on the Pond". The character was originally based on McInerney's ex-girlfriend, Rielle Hunter, subsequently made famous for ruining John Edwards when news of their affair was made public during his 2008 presidential campaign. McInerney crafts a delightful and hardly veiled tale of the affair's particulars.
The collection is filled with a gloriously large heap of cheats and betrayals, Porter filling his nimble voice by turns with the appropriate sense of vengeance, fearfulness, melancholy, or nostalgia. The author spins many fine webs of self-deceit to be wrapped deftly around skeletons in the family closet. With his best common sense Southern twang, Porter narrates in "Invisible Fences" that "sometimes I think the difference between what we want and what we're afraid of is about the width of an eyelash". Porter differentiates between several brothers and their father having an annual drunken argument at Thanksgiving dinner. He gives a soft sadness to an assortment of bruised and broken couples telling the story of how they each got together. Porter slyly recounts an allegedly senile mother who shoots her own son in the butt for being a thief. He speaks of cigarettes with a reverence known only to those to have tried and failed to quit smoking. Ray Porter is working broad strokes of magic on the incredibly complex psychological dilemmas of a slew of guilty characters.
There is much to love in Jay McInerney's first short story collection to be released in the U.S. From the deja vu of opening with the first chapter from Bright Lights, Big City to ending on the deeply emblematic phrase "the last sparks dying on the dewy lawn below", new readers will find a killer compendium of what they have been missing, and old friends will find that the passage of time has only sharpened McInerney's troublingly keen sense of how human beings damage each other. Megan Volpert
©2009 Bright Lights Big City, Inc.; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"[N]obody can channel urban strivers and their shallow pursuits as well as McInerney." (Publishers Weekly)
“Extremely entertaining. . . elegant, subtle, shapely and reflective. . . . Perfect specimens.” (The New York Times)
“Brim[s] with all the attendant guilt and thrills and self-defeating impulses of an extramarital tryst…. Brilliant.” (The Boston Globe)
I am a Jay McInerney fan and read most of his work. While not at all the same style writer as Ian McEwan [there's a lightweight jaunty cynicism to McInerney thankfully absent in the richness of McEwan] McInerney's work often has the same impact on me as McEwan - you read an entire novel...not sure you like it or how good it really is...but then you come across a single page or a gloriously constructed single paragraph that gives it all meaning and pulls everything together in a manner you can only say "wow" to. These McInerney stories here are missing that coupe de grace for the most part. The audio is fine and the narration solid, but there's nothing to grab on to, no "wow" factor and I can't think of a single story I wanted to listen to twice [no Updike-quality to cherish here]. The coke and sex seem dated and tiresome and each and every story revolves around marital affairs. Life is not that singular. The torture of life expressed in humor - a bit like M.A.S.H. Worth a credit? Maybe, maybe not. If you've read McInerney's work you already know these stories.
I loved these stories--masterful writing, and the narrator is perfect: captures every irony and nuance, does a particularly good--often hilarious--job with the female characters.
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