Bright Lights, Big City (novel)
First edition cover
|August 12, 1984|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
Bright Lights, Big City is an American novel by Jay McInerney, published by Vintage Books on August 12, 1984. It is written about a character's time spent caught up in, and notably escaping from, the mid-1980s New York City fast lane. The novel got its title from the Jimmy Reed song of the same name.
The story's narrator is a writer who works as a fact checker for a high-brow magazine—likely based on Harpers or The New Yorker, where McInerney himself once worked as a fact checker—for which he had once hoped to write. By night, he is a cocaine-using party-goer seeking to lose himself in the hedonism of the 1980s yuppie party scene, often going to a nightclub called Heartbreak.
His wife, Amanda, recently left him, and he copes with this by pretending nothing happened and telling no one that she's gone. The two had met in Oklahoma; the narrator moves with her to New York City, where she begins a modeling career that quickly takes off. After flying out to Paris for Fashion Week, she calls the narrator to inform him that she is leaving him for another man and to pursue her career. Initially hopeful that she will return someday, the narrator eventually resorts to searching for her at a fashion event, publicly humiliating himself while failing to garner more attention from her than a brief look. He obsesses over every item she owned in his apartment, every modeling photo and every club she visited, even repeatedly visiting a mannequin based on her. His partying and his personal troubles begin to affect his work. He eventually comes to realize Amanda's superficiality, becoming both disillusioned with her and the materialistic culture of New York in general.
The novel would go on to be the source material for the 1988 film Bright Lights, Big City, which was also written by McInerney. In 1999, an off Broadway stage musical was produced by the New York Theater Workshop, written by Paul Scott Goodman and directed by Michael Grief, with orchestrations and musical direction by Richard Barone.
- Kornbluth, Jesse: "Inside Area: The Wizardry of New York's Hottest Club", New York Magazine, pg 35, March 11, 1985.
- New York Times article about the musical