Brightness Falls Paperback – 6 Feb 2006
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'A funny, self-mocking, sometimes brilliant portrait of Manhattan's young literary and Wall Street crowd, our latest Lost Generation ... McInerney's version of Thackeray's Vanity Fair' Time 'Smart, funny and brilliant' Independent 'McInerney has a gift for the simultaneous perception of the glamour and tawdriness of city life and the novel pulsates with his trademark sense of excitement about living in New York' Evening Standard 'It works greatly to McInerney's advantage - and our entertainment - that he is fascinated by what he flagellates ... this book rolls along to an ominous beat ... powerfully affecting' Independent
The classic novel, introducing the characters from McInerney's new novel Bright, Precious Things --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product description
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The Calloways are Hollywoodishly-attractive - Corinne is a runway model-thin blonde stock broker struggling to leave behind her eating disorder. Russell, a would-be-poet who inevitably gave up his literary aspirations and `settled' for a more corporate position as a promising junior editor at the esteemed publishing firm, which he eventually tries to buy over with the help of a shady mafia boss-like player in the industry, Bernie Melman. Russell still retains traces of his manchild persona, but is fast approaching the use-by-date for clumsy oafish cuteness (his nickname is `Crash Calloway' and Corinne knowingly alludes to this lost of appeal when relating to their friend Washington, that he had been crashing less into things these days). Washington leads another story arc that deals with the woes of being black in corporate America. McInerney somewhat succeeds to this end, if only he hadn't made Washington exhibit all the custom shenanigans that ironically make him the very stereotype that McInerney seems to be protesting.
But in case the reader misreads the Calloways as mere caricatures of the opportunistic and excessive eighties, McInerney frames the introduction through (we later find out) the eyes of Jeff, their writer friend, in danger of becoming a one-hit wonder in the literary world, and recovering at rehab. Jeff, qualifies his ambivalent view of them as such: "Begin with an individual and you'll find you've got nothing but ambiguity and compassion: if you intend violence, stick with the type." McInerney fashions Corinne as a somewhat a redemptive figure. While retaining her grip on the gritty reality of New York and its ways, she volunteers at a soup kitchen downtown, but ultimately her view of the underprivileged is still rose-tinted, despite her nobler intentions, as she finds out later in the novel when encountering personal violence. She acts as the voice of conscience, though unsuccessfully, to Russell, whom we see gets drawn into the lure of power and money, even as she backs away from it. Corinne could potentially be an effective character, but she too, is too weak, and eventually succumbs to the trappings of various trademark flailing, betrayed female characters on the verge of a meltdown. In other words, she retreats into her shell and lets her demons take over as Russell flounders.
In a way, having read McInerney's later book about the Calloways circa 9/11 "The Good Life", in which Corinne takes centrestage as a middle-aged woman fighting infidelity, before this novel, may have skewed my impressions of characters and storylines, but it also gives me a feeling of pathos towards these failed characters and their private dramas. As is seen in his other novels, McInerney's prose is sharp and clean, and befitting the brusque and fast-paced life in the city.
In bits, some episodes are enjoyable and funny and could even be read at random since they are so loosely connected to the "plot". However, as a whole, the book is tedious, slow and never ending.
There are poisonous portrayals of the usual caricatures of the time - greedy yuppies, insecure artistic types, unfaithful couples, upstart outsiders, usually Jewish or token blacks, trying to break into the WASP establishment that refuses to accept them.
There are all the usual scenes in upmarket restaurants, trendy bars, Caribbean hideaways, art exhibitions etc. with references to characters wanting to buy their way onto the board of the Museum of Modern Art or real-life politicians, financiers and actors.
It has been all done before - by McInerny himself and Tom Wolfe in fiction and in non-fiction books like "Barbarians at the Gate". Don't expect any surprises.
'Brightness Falls' revolves around the 'golden' couple - Russell and Corrine Calloway - and their social and work-related highs and lows. Russell is a fantastically easy-to-read (and easy-to-like) character, displaying his every emotion to the people around him, whilst Corrine is the quieter and more withdrawn of the two, preferring to keep her problems bottled up.
McInerney's vivid account of their lives presents the reader with a gripping insider's look at 1980s New York City. Only he could make a very basic domestic set-up like this so utterly compelling and tremendously captivating.
I adore the simplicity of this book and McInerney's witty 'see-it-tell-it' style that distinguishes him from other over-embellishing authors of this era.
A must read.
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