Thursday, January 12, 2012
Book Review: How It Ended: New and Collected Stories, by Jay McInerney
by Jay McInerney
Alfred A. Knopf
OK, so here's one of my guilty literary pleasures. I absolutely love me some Jay McInerney. I adore the guy and his writing, and have for quite some time. But here's the thing about me and McInerney: as much as I hate to admit it, I've come to the conclusion that I can only take him in smallish doses, and How It Ended: New and Collected Stories confirms that theory. This is not a collection of stories that is meant to be read straight through, as I did over the New Years weekend. (Especially over such a weekend made for debauchery such as New Years.)
By page 110 or so of this collection of stories, I felt like I needed to check myself into the likes of the Betty Ford Clinic because I was feeling in needed of a detox. The coke! The parties! The beautiful people! The affairs! New York! It's all here, and it's the stuff that Jay McInerney's stories are made of (and why I love him so).
Escaping into a McInerney book is like spending an evening in the company of that friend of yours who is living la vida loca - you know, the one who goes to all the great concerts and all the cool parties, the One Who Has A Life while you're in your PJs by 7 p.m. It's fun, in a way, to live vicariously through such people, which again, is why these stories are good but just not read back to back.
The characters in these stories are, for the most part, gorgeous and rich and incredibly lonely and sad. They're adulterers. They're living in the aftermath of the 80s and 9/11. Several make re-appearances from their starring roles in other McInerney novels (notably, Russell and Corrine Calloway from Brightness Falls and Alison from Story of My Life).
How It Ended is comprised of 26 stories. In my opinion, among the best are:
"The Madonna of Turkey Season" about a family struggling to celebrate the holidays each year after the passing of their mother;
"Sleeping with Pigs", a brilliant story about a woman's fetish for sleeping with a pig and how that is connected with her grieving her deceased brother;
"My Public Service," about an idealistic staffer on a political campaign who quickly becomes jaded;
"The Queen and I," about the enduring spirit of friendship over family;
"Con Doctor," about a doctor in a prison who can't come to terms with his own past;
"I Love You, Honey," about the lengths one will go for revenge and possessiveness, and
"Getting in Touch with Lonnie," where a celebrity gets a surprise when visiting his wife in a rehab clinic.
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