Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Good Life by Jay McInerney

Jay McInerney is one of those happily public figures whose smirking media presence continually raises the question: is it possible for a reader to separate the man from his work, and simply enjoy the work?

The answer: yes — we do it all the time. Moving on.

I ate up McInerney's Brightness Falls back in the day. I thought it was fabulously sentimental; as a reader I tucked into every juicy detail McInerney cared to throw my way. There are images I can summon with little provocation: the beached whales, the ever-present yellow tie, the literary assistant who is outraged that her boss just requested she remove that "Eat The Rich" pin.

In The Good Life McInerney takes this cast and introduces them to 9/11. As the dust from the towers settles over everything, an extra-marital affair begins. It's all tentative at first, but it blooms and becomes (as these things are prone to do) all-consuming. The lovers can't believe the insight they now have — common stuff they once took for granted is seen in a whole new light. A new future is planned, a better future, one they never have conceived had they not met. Even now, it seems too good to be true, too fantastic to be possible, but every potential roadblock they can think of is met and dealt with and simply melts out of existence. Can this go on?

McInerney is suggesting, I think, that the insights we were privy to when the towers fell were analogous to those that come with an extra-marital affair. I know I had my "a-ha" moment, following 9/11. There were any number that occurred, to any number of people. But as with the insights that come with an extra-marital affair, some are more helpful than others. And only a precious few will go the distance. Which ones?

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