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July 07, 1993 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1993-07-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Wednesday, July 7, 1993 - The MichganDay Summer Weekly -11
Bi K

Brightness Falls
Jay McInerney
Vintage Press
Russell and Corrine Calloway
lookedjustSTUNNEDafter theyheard
the crash of the stock market -and of
their lives. Sigh.
In his latest novel, "Brightness
Falls,"JayMcInemey("BrightLights,
Big City") treats the late '80s as a
dramawithepic proportions.Yeah, the
market crashed - but it was no '29.
Enter our hero, Russell Calloway.
Midwest born. East Coast educated.
Up-and-coming publisher who feeds
on the '80s take-over frenzy and at-
tempts to buy out his employer so he
will be able to publish novels and po-
etry laden with social consciousness.
ButRussellcompletelymissestheirony
of his sell-out of idealism to capital-
ism.
Enter his wife, Corrine Calloway.
Rich girl. Met Russell at college. Fell
in love with his best friend. (Pay atten-
tion to this plot line. It has the most
potentialof being rewarding.)Decided
togetout of the apartment and getajob
as astockbroker. Has ornamental func-
tions (Doesn't Corrine look lovely in
that Calvin Klein dress?).
S McInerney's pair adds up to be a
stereotypicalpower-grabbingrmaleand
his over-sensitive wife.
Puhleeze, give the woman some
credit for being the brains and emotion
ofthecouple.Theirhigh-society(now-
trite)New York lifestyle is juxtaposed
with slivers of the lives of a homeless
man,veryrichfriends,aDonaldTrump-

esque financialmanipulator anda gos-
sip columnist.
Well, every book needs a writer
and McInemey makes sure our pub-
lishing hero gets his. Enter the afore-
mentioned best friend and drugged
doppleganger, Jeff, who haunts our
beautiful couple.
Jeff's character embodies the ro-
manticidealizationofwritersaspeople
who must destroy themselves to cre-
ate. His presence serves tocritique the
free-wheeling attitude of investment
bankers and businesspeople (and yes,
idealistic English majors, publishers
are businesspeople). Russell knows
he's not living up to his dreams of
poetic existence.Corrine knows being
astockbroker is a cop-out or a sell-out.
And they bothknow(almost)thatJeff's
self-destructive lifestyle isn't the ideal
either.
The predictable maturity comes
with the predictable end. Russell and
Corrinesurvive theirperiodofestrange-
ment from each other and tentatively
reach for each other once again. Jeff's
irresponsible and self-destructive
lifestyle leads him to an end that holds
no poetic justice.
In "Brightness Falls" McInerney
grasps for the spirit that was the junk-
bond spree of the '80s and he almost
reaches it. Unfortunately, his charac-
ters, who long to break into three di-
mensions, remain flat. But the gossipy
tone and moralistic banter make for
good summer reading - if it's bor-
rowed from a friend.
-Hope Calati

Above the Clouds:
A Reunion of
Father and Son
Jonathan Bach
William Morrow and Company
JonathanBach -the name sounds
familiar, doesn't it? Reminds you of
that book by Richard Bach about a
seagull named Jonathan, right? But
Richard never had any children - or
did he?
Meet Jonathan Bach, the 25-year-
old namesake of the acrobatic, inde-
pendent seagull created by Richard
Bach("Jonathan Livingston Seagull");
whose uplifting novels, such as "Illu-
sions," conjure up images of a deeply
sensitive and caring man. According to
a journal entry cited in his son's first
work, "Above the Clouds: A Reunion
of Father and Son," however, Richard
isn't"the guruof souimates that people
say he is." He's the father who aban-
doned his six children when Jonathan
was two; the famous writer "who re-
fused to talk about the family on radio
talk shows"; a man who, for nearly 20
years, seemed as distant and frigid as
the Arctic Circle.
"Like a cat coughing up a fur ball,"
JOnathan Bach felt compelled to write
a novel that would sear the film of
mysticism from the eyes of Richard
Bach readers with its glaring reality,
revealing that the preacher of love,
choices and soulmates was a deserter,
a coward and a hypocrite.
Jonathan's anger and confusion
certainly boil in "Above the Clouds."
Anyone who has not experienced the
pain of a divorce will at last empathize
withsomeonewhohas,whileRichard's
fans will find themselves as suspicious
of thefather as young Jonathan is.Like
a hot scalpel, Bach's matter-of-fact
tone cauterizes ostensibly innocuous
descriptions toexpose the raw emotion
swelling beneath:
"Crying nurses.
' TORE jS

I had a feeling they weren't crying
about my broken wrist.
'Jon, your sister ... ' one of them
tried to say. Another nurse broke out
into soft sobs. Both of them tried to
mask their tears with smiles as they
prepared things from cupboards.
That explains the sedative."
Journal entries and letters inter-
spersed throughout the work express
Jonathan's resentment of his
stepfather's strict rules, his numbing
griefathissister'ssudden death and his
fear of betraying his mother by accept-
ing his father. They reveal, too, the
gradual reconciliation between father
and son, for "Above the Clouds" con-
veys as much hope as it does hurt.
Longing to feel good about being
Richard'sson,Jonathan wrote thenovel
to rise above the clouds, sohe wouldn't
"have to be a slave to them on the
ground."
The pain behind the tell-allmemoir
stillremainsin the mindof the Jonathan
who chose to stay hurt rather than to

establish arelationship withhis father.
Yes, there is more than one Jonathan,
just as in "One," there are multiple
Richards and Leslies.In fact, Jonathan
agrees with much of his father's phi-
losophy -for example, that we create
our own illusions and that we are not
the products of circumstances, such as
divorce, but the products of our re-
sponses to these circumstances.
AlthoughJonathaneventually takes
pride in knowing how much his father
has influenced him, he assures readers
thathe ishisown person and thathehas
his own voice. While Richard'smysti-
cal philosophy induced a calming eu-
phoria in readers recovering from the
turbulent '60s, Jonathan's down-to-
earth outlook satisfies the more skepti-
cal reader of the1990s.
Unfortunately, after278pages that
detail his own personal growth, the
epilogue tells too little, merely whet-
ting our appetites for more of Jonathan
See ClOUDs, PAGE 12

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The premier articulator of '80s yuppie angst, Jay McInerney.

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