Jay McInerney - The Last Bachelor (3 stars)

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Jay McInerney - The Last Bachelor

(Bloomsbury)

SHORT STORIES

The vice that spices up this short story collection by Jay McInerney – a peeping tom on modern, urban American life – is not the overtly debauched or instantly shocking kind. Instead, his characters toy with taboos, flirt with socially acceptable deviances, and generally get their kicks on the frills of moral safe ground. As a former party animal, McInerney’s string of model girlfriends and drug-fuelled benders with friends including Bret Easton Ellis earned him notoriety, and gelled well with the image he flaunted after publishing his breakthrough 1984 novel, Bright Lights, Big City, about a coke addict who pines for his ex-girlfriend, Alison Poole. Easton Ellis also used Poole’s character in Glamorama and American Psycho.

But now in his 50s, the substance-free New Yorker’s writing reflects a personal post-9/11 epiphany, and a search for more meaning behind the hedonism. In these peeks between the curtains of American coupledom, where filmmakers cheat on pregnant wives, WASPy girls sleep with the help, or loved-up rednecks dabble in threesomes, he pays special attention to the complexities of conscience they’re going through. ‘It sounds boring,’ says one of his characters after describing a romantic night in. ‘But boring is better than all-nighters and strange panties, I guess.’ McInerney’s characters feel they’ve stayed too long at the party, and are tired with 6am swigs from frozen bottles of Absolut. Examining how they care for elderly parents, or behave at political marches is definitely less racy – and occasionally worthy – but it shows a more real, still addictive and sharply observant writer.

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