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Bright Lights, Big City Hardcover – 16 May 1985

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Hardcover, 16 May 1985
£356.84 £4.76

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First ediiton edition (16 May 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224022911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224022910
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,152,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`A rambunctious, deadly funny novel that goes for the right mark -
the human heart' -- Raymond Carver

`McInerney earns his place in literary history with Bright Lights,
Big City, the comic morality tale' -- Guardian

`Probably the best book ever written about being young, about
doing drugs and about music' -- Tony Parsons, Daily Express

`The seminal novel of the 1980s'
-- New York Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

Hailed as one of the classic New York novels of the 80s,
alongside Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, Slaves of New York by Tama
Janowitz and The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolff --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 July 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Here you go again. All messed up and no place to go."

That line sets the tone for "Bright Lights, Big City." Jay McInerney's bestselling debut stands above other urban-angst novels of the time, which tended to go with shock value. Instead, McInerney experimented with second-person narratives and a vision of a fragmented, coke-dusted New York.

"You" are a young man living in New York, and wife Amanda has recently left you for a French photographer she met on a modelling shoot. Understandably you are depressed and unhappy, and the loss of Amanda haunts your moods, especially when her lawyer urges you to sue her for "sexual abandonment," even though you don't want a divorce.

By day, you work in the fact-checking department of a prestigious magazine, where your malignant boss is getting tired of you. By night, you halfheartedly prowl clubs with your pal Tad, doing drugs and meeting women you care nothing for. Will you be able to move past your problems and become happy again?

Consider that summary a little slice of what "Bright Lights, Big City" sounds like -- the reader is the main character, which allows the reader to slip into another's skin for a brief time. Second-person narratives are often annoying, but McInerney's style is so starkly compelling that the little narrative trick pays off.

The New York of "Bright Lights, Big City" is basically a big, glitzy, hollow place, but still strangely appealing. And McInerney adds splinters of reality here and there, like the tattooed girl and Coma Baby, which add to the gritty you-are-there feel of the novel itself.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By craftyBison on 19 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
It's difficult to write about what Bright Lights, Big City is REALLY about without giving away a major plot point, so I won't. But I'm incredulous that no one yet seems to have made the comparison with J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. The protagonist here is essentially an updated, older Holden Caulfield in an updated, older New York. In the same way that Allie's death was really the key to what was happening in Catcher, a past event that isn't mentioned until the last quarter of Bright Lights is even more so the key to understanding the book.

This novel has been woefully mischaracterised as an ode to the high-life 1980s, probably due to its ill-advised title. It's not American Psycho. It's not even about the rich; the protagonist works on a magazine, as a fact-checker. By no means does he live the high life. By no means is this a book "about being young, about doing drugs and about music", as the cover quote by Tony Parsons indicates with alarming inaccuracy. This is a book about a guy whose life has crumbled apart, and you navigate through a series of red herrings before at last you discover the real, and heartbreaking, reason.

It's Holden Caulfield for the 1980s.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
You are in your early twenties and living in Manhattan, it's 1980s and you work for a prestigious magazine proud of its record for factual accuracy, and you work in the department responsible for checking those facts, The Department of Factual Verification. But you aspire to writing fiction and disdain you work, and that combined with your hedonistic lifestyle results in you not always coming up to par, so your boss has it in for you. To add to your troubles your wife has left you, but you don't tell anyone other than your friend Tad Allagash, the one who leads you in your life of pleasure seeking and frequent use of drugs.

Written unusually in the second person, McInerney's first novel, which caused a stir on its firs publication, is a funny and observant account of a young man whose life is getting out of control and running down hill, a young man who refuses all offers of help to get him back on track. The problem with that is that I find it hard to empathise with the character, and if I am going to enjoy a novel that is a prerequisite. "You" are a nice enough chap, but you have too many faults that I find you hard to relate to, and very soon hard to care about, and that is important if I am really going to get involved in your story. Of course this is also a very funny account, probably much funnier than I found it to be, perhaps I tend to read too earnestly, maybe I should get someone else to read it aloud to me to appreciate the humour.

Novels written in the second person are rare, and after reading this I am not surprised, McInerney undoubtedly pulls it off, yet at the same time the constant you-you-you can grate a little.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 9 May 2006
Format: Hardcover
Tracing a few days in the life of a 24-year-old writer whose brain is frequently inhabited by "brigades of Bolivian soldiers...tired and muddy from their long march through the night," Jay McInerney takes the reader into the world of cocaine, club-hopping (at the "right" clubs), casual sex, avoidance of responsibility, and full-time self-indulgence in the early 1980s. With absurd humor, he satirizes the "high" life of New York City and the non-stop action and party scene of young professionals whose frantic activity keeps them from having to deal with the real world.

The unnamed main character becomes the reader as the author uses the second person point of view, telling the story as "you" go to work and clubs, and jaunt around the city. "You" work for a magazine at which no one has ever been fired, and where old, burnt-out columnists maunder in the hallways (a satire of The New Yorker, perhaps). "Your" immediate assignment is to translate and fact-check an article about the French elections by a deadline that "you" cannot possibly meet.

Gradually, "your" story unfolds. Your marriage to Amanda, a fashion model from the Midwest, has collapsed after less than a year--you are devastated by her desertion, and you have told no one of your divorce. Your article for the magazine is a disaster. You avoid dealing with these issues and the death of your mother (more than a year ago) by creating a new reality for yourself through cocaine. The turning point of the action comes with the arrival of your brother Michael, who summons you back home for your mother's memorial service and the scattering of her ashes.
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