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Story of My Life Paperback – August 28, 1989

3.8 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Jay McInerney has proven himself not only a brilliant stylist but a master of characterization, with a keen eye for incongruities of urban life.

-- the New York Times Book Review

"[McInerney's] talent for capturing the nuances and idiosyncrasies of our culture[ in Bright Lights, Big City] is even more powerful evident in Story of My Life... Underneath Alison's hip, party-girl exterior and flippant vernacular is McInerney's disturbing depiction or a young woman caught in the traumatic reality of her times." -- San Francisco Chronicle

McInerney's Story of My Life is quite as brilliant as Bright Lights, Big City and a lot funnier."

-- the Sunday Times (london)

From the Inside Flap

In his breathlessly paced new novel Jay McInerney revisits the nocturnal New York of Bright Lights, Big City. Alison Poole, twenty going on 40,000, is a budding actress already fatally well versed in hopping the clubs, shopping Chanel falling in and out of, lust, and abusing other people's credit cards. As Alison races toward emotional breakdown, McInerney gives us a hilarious yet oddly touching portrait of a postmodern Holly Golightly coming to terms with a world in which everything is permitted and nothing really matters.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (August 28, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722571
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,951,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edward Aycock on October 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Halfway through reading this book, I had to remind myself that I was reading a novel by Jay McInerney and not a female author. McInerney captures the voice, personality and hang-ups of Alison Poole so well that it's as though the novel is a transcription of an audio tape. Very few authors have been able to pull a feat like this off so convincingly (I'm thinking Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone") but then, McInerney is also the guy who made me love a novel written in the second person, so I shouldn't be too surprised.

McInerney's characters are believable and his New York singles scene still resonates after nearly twenty years. Sure people have cell phones now, but that doesn't mean Alison wouldn't face just as many answering machines (or voicemails) today as she did then; she'd just be calling a lot more and things would be even more frustrating. Story of her life. I'm surprised that this novel hasn't received better press; I hadn't even heard of it until I spotted it in a bookstore but it sure goes against the popular myth that McInerney was just a one hit wonder. "Story of My Life" is a worthy follow-up.

One complaint: I think that the ending of the novel is a bit too abrupt and somewhat of a cop-out, as though the author had written himself into a corner and wasn't quite sure where to go from there. Up until then, I was so into Alison and her crazy world that when she reaches a dead end, I was let down. Don't let that deter you from checking out this novel though; it's a look into an urban scene that's in the past but at the same time hasn't really changed at all.
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Format: Paperback
This book is often trashed by reviewers of a certain literary persuasion, but I found myself pulled to its rapid-fire prose and tales of excess and figurative (and literal) nosedives in 1987 New York City. The main character here is a would-be actress named Alison Poole (later purloined by Brett Easton Ellis in some of his novels) and she is a twenty-year-old "postmodern girl" whose tragic flaws and self destructive impulses are to an extent offset by her absolute honesty in the way she tells us about herself and her friends. As in Mcinerney's earlier Bright Lights, Big City, cocaine in all its alabaster glow is never made to seem so unappealing. Here we see the toll it takes on its user and the way it seems to extract the soul from Alison and many of those who are in this novel with her. In Story of my Life, we trail Alison through a few weeks in the year 1987, as she takes acting classes, serially sleeps with men, drinks, snorts, smokes and downs pills of every stripe and description, and screams at us about her frustration with why exactly (she can't seem to put her finger on it) her existence is so miserable. She is from a rich family, but financially needy, neglected by her divorced parents and in a state of constant competition with her sisters. Alison offers us some stinging and very accurate observations about life and her culture, but yet she misses huge facts even as they stare her in the face. ("Story of my life..." she'll say over and over about things that puzzle or anger her.) She and her cohorts, girls with names like Didi, Francesca and Jeanne, get their thrills from drugs, from stealing one another's boyfriends, and from a vicious preppie version of the old slumber party game Truth or Dare.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I recall reading McInerney's "Bright Lights, Big City" due to all then hype around it, and hating it. The main tragi-stupid, silly and self-destructive character simply got more on my nerves with every page. Thus, when one day, for some reason while listening to the radio I heard a review of this book, I was somewhat doubtful, yet decided to check it out. What followed was total inability to put the book down until I finished it, cover to cover. It is very readable. It's jazzy rhythm, with hilarious fast-paced passages interrupted by a more introspective brief slow adagio, is simply brilliant. Witnessing an intelligent person that struggles to defeat her capacity for introspection while entertaining us with the wittiest insights and wordplay is captivating. It does not have the pretense to be a masterpiece, and yet I find it one of the best books I have ever read. Bravo, Jay McInerney.
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Format: Paperback
Anyone who says this book is a dated time capsule isn't connecting the 80's Allison to our current cultural obsession with the Allisons of today like Miley, Lindsey, Paris and Nicole.

If anything 20 years later the Allisons have acquired a whole new form of American worship. 'Sex and the City's' Carrie with her self-destructive chase of Mr. Big and obsession with looking good to the point of almost going homeless are pure Allison. And the revelation that John Edward's mistress Rielle Hunter was the basis of the main character of this book brings it all home about who we admire and what they're really about.

I first read this book as a young woman in my 20s when it was first published and couldn't put it down. McInerny completely got the zeitgiest. He captured the voice of women I was surrounded by in college in another big city. Allison was narcissitic and tragic, but she was also as sharp as a knife with a lot of talent squandered to chasing men, rubbed-off status, and distraction. She might be more colorful, articulate and take a lot more drugs than most, but she was also not far off from most women I knew at her core. A strong inner life was a nice idea but was interpreted mostly as a lot of self-absorbed chatter, ala Allison.

20 years later I still quote Allison/Jay on "the chain of pain" we seem to pass to each other instead of growing up and making the world better. That's what resonated me about Allison. So much opportunity and inner gifts squandered in the near single-focused pursuit of acquiring externals. This is a lot like America itself.

The fact Reille/Allison and a 'family man' presidential candidate who looked like the American ideal ended up together make complete sense.

McInerny wrote an updated female-voiced The Great Gatsby in this one.
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