Readers familiar with Jay McInerney's Bright Lights Big City
may feel a sense of déjà vu when reading Model Behavior
. Once again our hero is a small cog in the glamorous Manhattan media machine. Yet although the players may look the same, the rules of the game have changed--their ambitions and expectations are not the same as they were a decade or more ago. Connor McKnight is not brought low by drugs and other symbols of 1980s-style excess; instead, his relationship is destroyed by premillennial ennui and the numbing effects of his career as a celebrity journalist (celebrity being to the '90s what cocaine was to the '80s). The fact that all these shiny happy people really aren't happy at all is hardly news, but McInerney is both a chronicler and a satirist of this glitzy corner of the world, and his astute wit saves the novel from being as shallow as its subjects. This is not poisonous satire à la Martin Amis but a more affectionate (yet equally effective) mocking of modern pretensions, such as P.G. Wodehouse in Hugo Boss. McInerney's comic timing is best demonstrated in one of the longest scenes, a Thanksgiving dinner that ends in chaos when Connor's father exposes himself to the turkey-munching patrons of a tony Manhattan eatery. While the author's sixth book may not be very far removed from his first, that isn't necessarily a criticism. Like a botanist who studies only pondweed, McInerney has narrowed his focus to perfect it. Model Behavior
, and the seven stories collected with it, demonstrate that no one else can render this peculiar little social set as accurately, or as artfully as McInerney. --Simon Leake
--This text refers to the
From Publishers Weekly
The protagonists of these witty stories tend to be outsiders, never quite at home in their seemingly glamorous milieus: a young New York movie reviewer who hopes to sell screenplays in Hollywood; a famous actor who visits his wife at a mental institution; an aspiring writer who becomes a crackhead and lives among Manhattan's transvestite hookers. Connor McKnight, the hero of the first-person novel from which the collection takes its title, is no exception to this rule. He abandons his study of Zen and Japanese literature to write for a celebrity magazine in Manhattan and live with a model. At the same time, his best friend, Jeremy Green, a brooding, self-consciously Jewish short-story writer, becomes an unwilling socialite and fears jeopardizing his artistic reputation. Always scrupulous in demonstrating the comparative in-ness of his out-crowd, McInerney impresses here with his trenchant humor and keen eye for detail, as he vengefully skewers the New York literary scene and other, equally unforgiving cliques. (In a typical exchange, Jeremy asks whether Christopher Lehmann-Haupt is Jewish, then complains, "What's-her-fucking-name hates everybody except Anne fucking Tyler and Amy fucking Tan. I don't stand a chance. Wrong initials, wrong sex.") Although the novel ends abruptly and the seven stories, which span McInerny's career, seem tacked on, there is no question but that the aging 1980s wunderkind follows the scene of his early glory (Bright Lights, Big City) with a more savage, jaundiced eye. Say what you will, McInerny has few peers in chronicling a certain segment of contemporary society that he loves and hates at the same time.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to the