First edition, signed on the title-page, “Jay McInerney.” The author’s spectacular debut novel, which perfectly captured the mood of New York in the mid-1980s, and made the phrase “Bolivian marching powder” a clubhold if not a household phrase. On the half-title he tells us alternate titles he considered: “Sunrise at Heartbreak,” “Dancing at Heartbreak,” “Less Than Zero,” but he “ultimately went with the title from the great Jimmy Reed song.” He explains the book’s dedication to Merry: “My ex-wife, to whom I was married when I write the novel. She insisted I include her. She is more or less Vicky: the philosophy student.” The first three lines of the novel came to McInerney after he “staggered home” about 5 a.m. from a nightclub, and jotted them down on a “scrap of paper and apparently thrust it in a drawer. The scrap of paper turned up about a year later when I was reading through all my fiction to date, desperately searching for something decent to send to George Plimpton at the Paris Review. Found these lines. Sat down and wrote this chapter in one sitting.”
Many of the 1980s references prompt historical explanations! “Talking Heads was to us what Radiohead was to a later generation.” He tips his hat to “Rock Lobster,” and asks, “Remember Pauline Kael?” A very few lines cause him to write “(wince)” in the margin—when he drops French words into a sentence, for example. Of the chapter titled, “O Couture,” he says: “I regret this title. Lame!” Another line he judges “Corny, but I like it.” He provides several insights into the movie adaptation: “Much of this speech [p.90] went into dialogue in the movie. Keifer kept blowing the lines.”
McINERNEY, Jay (b. 1955). Bright Lights, Big City. New York: Vintage, 1984. 8°. Original illustrated wrappers.