If “you” have ever wanted to know what it was like being a mid-twenties cokehead businessman in New York in the 80’s – “Bright Lights, Big City” by Jay McInerney would be your cup of tea.
I say “you” because this is one of few novels actually written in second person, which is quite possibly the greatest part about this book. When reading, you don’t have to worry about what you’re doing or how you’re feeling – the book spoon-feeds all of it to you, since you are the main character.
This book was published in 1984, so it’s not new, but since I have so much extra time on my hands to read in the summer, I went for a second person narrative and heard this was a great option.
I was never let down. The not-too-lengthy novel was full of a whirlwind weeklong tale of a young gentleman living a very appealing life in New York City. You get engulfed in the feeling of his drug addiction, and feel like a complete badass when you realize it’s 6 a.m. and you’ve got work in a couple hours.
For anyone particularly interested in newspapers (forgive me, I’m a journalism major and I can’t help my addiction to news), there are several references to the main character’s guilty pleasure of the New York Post and the so-called respectable opinions of the New York Times.
The book is also loaded with references that us New York-going people love to hear: shopping on Fifth Avenue, rooftop parties, skyscrapers, and the many ins and out of Times Square.
Luckily, the scene descriptions are just as good as being there. Apparently, this book was made into a movie some time ago, but I can’t imagine it has any comparison to the way your imagination explains everything through this book.
To say this book becomes an escape is an understatement. Everything that your main character goes though – anger, fights, exhaustion, worry, excitement, guilt and remorse – you feel all of it first hand and the thoughts about all of the feelings are explained to you.
Besides the feelings and being the characters, the book creates a lot of experiences, including job promotions, high-class parties, fashion shows in the Waldorf Astoria ballroom (thank God your friend could score you an invite on behalf of Vogue) and arguing with your model girlfriend (I can’t believe she would leave for a career in modeling!).
This is hands down a must read, particularly if you’re looking for feeling what it’s like to be somebody else for a few hours.
Once I picked it up, I certainly couldn’t put it down. And when it was over, I wished there was more.