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Jay McInerney        

Author of "Bright Lights, Big City", Novelist, Gastronaut and Town & Country Wine Critic

John McInerney is an American writer. His novels include Bright Lights, Big City; Ransom; Story of My Life; Brightness Falls; and The Last of the Savages. He edited The Penguin Book of New American Voices, wrote the screenplay for the 1988 film adaptation of Bright Lights, Big City, and co-wrote the screenplay for the television film Gia, which starred Angelina Jolie. He was the wine columnist for House & Garden magazine, and his essays on wine have been collected in Bacchus & Me (2000) and A Hedonist in the Cellar (2006). His most recent novel is titled The Good Life, published in 2006, and since April 2010 he is a wine columnist for The Wall Street Journal. In 2009 he published a book of short stories which spanned his entire career entitled How It Ended which was named one of the 10 best books of the year by The New York Times.

McInerney was born in Hartford, Connecticut, studied writing with Raymond Carver, and once worked as a fact-checker at The New Yorker. He achieved fame with his first published novel Bright Lights, Big City. Published in 1984, the novel was unique at the time for its depiction of cocaine culture in second-person narrative. The title is taken from a 1961 blues song by Jimmy Reed. The novel established McInerney's reputation as part of a new generation of writers. Labelled the 'literary brat pack' in a 1987 article in the Village Voice, McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis and Tama Janowitz were presented as the new face of literature: young, iconoclastic and fresh. Five novels followed in rapid succession: Ransom, Story of My Life, Brightness Falls, The Last of the Savages and Model Behavior.

After the success of Bright Lights, Big City, publishers started looking for similar works about young people in urban settings. Ellis's Less Than Zero, published in 1985, was promoted as following McInerney's example. McInerney, Ellis and Janowitz were based in New York City and their lives there were regular literary themes, chronicled by New York media.

Ellis used McInerney's character, Alison Poole (Story of My Life), in his novels American Psycho and Glamorama. McInerney revealed that the character of Alison Poole is based upon his former girlfriend, Rielle Hunter, then known as Lisa Druck. He described the character as "cocaine addled," and "sexually voracious" but also treated her with some sympathy. McInerney's roman à clef opened a prescient glimpse into the notorious horse murders scandal, which did not become known to the public until 1992, when Sports Illustrated magazine published a confession from the man who had murdered Lisa Druck's horse at her father's behest, in order to claim the insurance on its life.

McInerney also has a cameo role in Ellis's Lunar Park, attending the Halloween party Bret hosts at his house. It was later revealed that McInerney was not pleased with his representation in the novel.

Throughout his career McInerney has struggled against the strong, almost indelible, image of himself as both the author and protagonist of Bright Lights, Big City. He recently appeared at Williams College as the Commencement speaker for the Class of 2010.

His novel, The Good Life, sold only 15,000 copies, much less than anticipated.

Speech Topics

Wine-tasting with Jay


Jay McInerney on the winemaking pioneers who hit upon the ...

On Wine: Jay McInerney · The Pioneers Who Hit Upon the Willamette Valley's Sweet Spot. Ponzi Vineyards' Dick Ponzi and the rest of his winemaking family led ...

Which Champagne is Jay McInerney serving at his Christmas party ...

On Wine: Jay McInerney · A Pair of Champers for a Pampered Season. The family-owned French firms Pol Roger and Bollinger are both worthy of a sparkling  ...

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