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McInerney's lastest novel sounds a lot like his first
By Margie Heinland
"Of coarse I sleep through my
classes. When I finally open my
eyes long enough to focus on any-
thing it's almost two, and I vaguely
remember Dean getting up and
leaving for his office. I grab the
channel changer and flip on 'All
My Children'. When I finally get
my act together and go home it's
"Didi would make a good dictator
of a third world country. She
absolutely has to be the center of
attention. If someone's not talking
about something she's interested in
she shouts, boring! and changes the
subject to something more
interesting, like herself for instance.
Somehow she pulls it off. Partly
because she's gorgeous. Partly be-
cause at most social events she's
the one with the most blow."
History repeats itself.
If this sounds cliched and vaguely
familiar, it is. Could this be Tad,
whose mission in McInerney's first
novel Bright Lights, Big City was
to have the more fun than anyone
else in New York City? Is Tad's
brain transplanted into the body of
Alison Poole, the main character of
McInerney's most recent novel
Story of my Life. Or is this the
Story of my Wife ? Amanda, the
wife of the protagonist in Bright
Lights, and Alison could be one end
the same. O.K. So I'm a little dis-
Jay McInerney exploded into the
modern literary scene with Wolfe-
like courage and creativity with
Bright Lights now whines for at-
tention in his banal Story of my
Life. True, all a writer can draw
from is his own life, and if all he
knows is his experience then Jay,
you've got to get out more often.
And not to Nell's or the Odeon,
"in" New York clubs. Apparently
the elite drug scene in New York is
smaller and more contrived than
McInerney's relaxed, intimate
writing style emerges as the only
unpretentious element existing be-
tween the covers. Behind that Less
Than Zero pathos, I still get the
feeling he's still doing his superior
dance and mouthing a condescend-
ing "Weeeaaal, Isn't that special."
But what kind of novel is it?
This is not a political novel or even
a psychological novel. It's as anti-
intellectual and socially obsessive
as its characters.
In a lecture two years ago at the
'U', Thomas Wolfe called writers to
document our society, the '70s and
'80s, and giving credit where credit
is due, McInerney has answered.
The drug culture isn't going away
just because the papers say it is any
more than racism is going away
because Duderstadt says it is. The
Reagan years have left Alison high
and dry (not to be confused with
Michael Keaton's Clean and Sober).
The rent is coming due, too bad
Alison and her friends have an
emotional and moral deficit almost
larger and often more profound than
the U.S. treasury.
If McInerney attempts to elicit
sympathy for these debs he is bark-
ing up the wrong audience. I can't
tell if he wants to be a critic, a
chronicler or an illustrator. It's hard
to swallow Alison, Jeannie or Didi
as victims of parental emotional
neglect and over indulgence, espe-
cially when Jeannie's favorite
motto, as she stumbles out her
apartment door to go to happy hour
at Nell's, is "You can't rape the
willing". Well, I'm not so sure.
However, not only do the characters
know exactly what they're doing -
they work at it - it's their whole
All dressed in the esoteric
vernacular of New York debs Ali-
son "I said, then he said, then I
said's (instead of Bright Lights you
say, then he says, then you say's)
the story of her life for us. In the
time-and-setting vacuum of the club
scene, where the men are deep
pocketed and the woman are,
accordingly, deep throated, Alison
meets her stockbroker/lover Dean;
gets dumped; and questions her
friends, mankind, and existence.
McInerney does do a convincing
woman. But God what a manipula-
tive, immature bitch he turns out to
be. Handling Alison with kid
gloves when he should be beating
her with a belt (although she'd
probably get off on it), McInerney
passively, although possibly bril-
liantly, and sadly misses the poten-
tial personality of his writing and
goes for the looks.
"Jeannie comes back Sunday
morning at 9 A.M. She's a shiver-
ing wreck. For a change I'm wak-
ing up instead of going to sleep. I
give Jeannie a valium and put her
to bed. It's sort of a righteous feel-
ing, being on this end of the expe-
rience - I feel like a doctor or
She's lying in bed stiff as a
mannequin and says, I'm so afraid
Alison. She is not a happy unit."
Nor am I. U
Continued from Page 10
man who has taken Spanish each
of his seven terms and whose
transcript reads two C's, three W's
I can tell you: There simply are
no short cuts to learning a lan-
Kelly J. Howlett knows this.
She is a junior in the LS&A
school, and has accomplished the
extremely rare feat of earning per-
fect "A"s in the first two levels of
a language (Spanish). How does
she do it?
"Easy," she says. "It takes lots
of elbow grease. Just do nothing
"Isn't that a problem if you're
carrying a full load?" I ask her.
Now, far be it from me to sug-
gest this, but...in every other field
of study at the University, there
are corners that can be cut -
books left unread, lectures left
unattended, formulas just as well
forgotten as soon as they are
memorized. With a foreign lan-
guage, there can be no compro-
mises. The proverbial race, as
Howlett puts it, goes to those
who endure. "You can't quit until
you get to the end," she says.
Remember, there's no rule that
says you have to run this race
alone. Get a language partner in
c 'lass and work with him or her
every day. Nail the pronouns, get
the tenses straight, drill each other
and then drill, drill, drill some
more. Think, eat, and drink your,
language. Don't look at your lan-
guage as the enemy that needs to
be blown away with a sawed-off
shot gun; wrap your arms around
it instead and embrace it like a
Of course, the thought of Span-
w wr --m
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Continued from Page 10
B: Yeah. Charlie "Yardbird"
Parker wrote a song called "Bird of
Paradise," so it's his title. I didn't
think of it originally.
W: The Bird of Paradise is cur-
rently is its fourth year of opera-
tion. How do you rate Ann Arbor
as a jazz town?
B: I think Ann Arbor, as a
community with little more than
100,000 people, has good opportu-
nities for listening and performing.
The town has an international feel
to it. We have many people from
all over the world who seek out this
Part of the music's appeal is its
tradition. Jazz is a unique American
art form that was developed and
created by talented people and peo-
ple with a need to express them-
selves. This form of expression is
carried on by those young people
who find values in what others have
created. Jazz is not like it was in
the '40s - it is not the popular
music of today. It takes energy and
interest to pursue and understand
jazz and it is fortunate that a com-
munity of this size provides sup-
port for the music.
W: Today, are people more re-
ceptive to jazz at the Bird of Par-
adise than when you initially
opened? Have you noticed any fluc-
Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and Vocalist Betty Carter are two of the jazz
giants Ron Brooks plans to bring to his club this year. 'Jazz is not like it
was in the '40s - it is not the popular music of today. It takes energy and
interest to pursue and understand jazz, and it is fortunate that a community of
this size provides support for the music.' - Ron Brooks
B: Audience development is a
concept that's been around awhile
and we are developing a more loyal
jazz audience. We also have an op-
portunity to expose marginal peo-
ple because of the convenience to
see live performances. We hope to
get some converts. Jazz demands an
awareness from its listeners. Those
who are able to spend the energy
and time will gain personal rewards
from the music.
W: Last year you had several
big-name headliners at the Bird -
Tommy Flanagan, Betty Carter,
Dizzy Gilespie, Kirk Lightsey. Do
you plan to do the same this year?
B: Yes. About once a month we
bring in someone from from out-
side the area. This weekend guitarist
- -- MM
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PAGE 6 WEEKEND/SEPTEMBER 30, 1988
WEEKEND/SEPTEMBER 30, 1988