Jay McInerney revives from 6-year break with a taste of The Good Life

Continuing his fictional documentation of New York with his latest novel, The Good Life, a true New Yorker and author of the cultural phenomenon Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney captivated audiences once again at a recent reading at Books and Books in downtown Coral Gables.

The Good Life serves as one of the nation’s first fictional novels to deal with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The novel begins a few days prior to that date but concentrates on the following three months. Set in New York, The Good Life shows the fragility of love and the effects it has on individuals, concentrating on two socialite couples who, like everyone else, are forced to re-examine their lives post-9/11.

“After the events of 9/11, everyone feels like they’ve lost their innocence. [The characters] are clinging precariously to existence in Manhattan,” McInerney said. “It is a book about love, fidelity and infidelity.”

Two of the characters, Russell and Corrine, appeared first in his fourth (and personal favorite) novel, Brightness Falls. A stay-at-home screenwriter/hopeful mother, Corrine is the novel’s central character, who finds herself seemingly stuck in her marriage to her long-time sweetheart Russell. While volunteering at a soup kitchen after Sept. 11, Corrine rediscovers love with Luke, a fellow disheartened spouse, and tries once again to find meaning in her life.

“Corrine was the center of the story. I love writing from a woman’s point of view: I’m a literary drag queen,” McInerney said. “I’ve been married three times so I have a lot of experience.”

McInerney describes himself as a writer of New York. Throughout his eight novels, New York City is a recurring setting, and after the attacks, McInerney wasn’t sure how, or even if, he could approach the matter in his writings.

“I hated writing this book,” McInerney said. “I was working on another novel, then 9/11 happened and the thought of writing fiction seemed frivolous and irrelevant. Eventually I felt that maybe it was up to the novelist to shape the emotions and mythologize it for us to tell future generations about what happened; we have to write about this, it is a duty.”

McInerney is often compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald for his similar early success and its ensuing expectations. However, after a six-year break after his last novel, the early success of The Good Life and a new novel in the works, McInerney feels as if he has entered the second phase of his career, one which Fitzgerald was not able to make it to.

“I have finally remembered how to write again,” McInerney said.

Bari Lieberman can be contacted at b.lieberman@umiami.edu.