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John Barrett McInerney Jr. (pron.: ; born January 13, 1955) 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 has been 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 Janet Maslin of The New York Times.
Life and work
McInerney was born in Hartford, Connecticut and graduated from Williams College in 1976. At Syracuse University, he earned a master's degree in English and studied writing with Raymond Carver. After working 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.
His first wife was fashion model Linda Rossiter. His second wife was writer Merry Reymond. For four years he lived with fashion model Marla Hanson. His third marriage with Helen Bransford lasted nine years. In 2006, he married Anne Hearst.
- Bright Lights, Big City (1984)
- Ransom (1985)
- Story of My Life (1988)
- Brightness Falls (1992)
- The Last of the Savages (1997)
- Model Behavior (1998)
- The Good Life (2006)
- How It Ended (short story collection) (2009)
- Bacchus and Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar (2000)
- A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine (2006)
- The Juice: Vinous Veritas (2012)
- Bright Lights, Big City adapted in 1988, screenplay McInerney, directed by James Bridges, starring Michael J. Fox, Kiefer Sutherland, Phoebe Cates
- "Everything is Lost" (2009, Sunday Times 4th Jan, online text)
- How It Ended: New and Collected Stories (2009 331 pp. Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95). Titles, with descriptions from The New York Times book review by Sam Tanenhaus, included:
- "Con Doctor," about a drug-addicted doctor, exiled to a southeast town after a stint in rehab, tending to inmates at the local prison and cohabiting with a lady friend, "herself a recovering alcoholic, brassy and voluptuous", with whom sex makes him feel "simultaneously that he is slumming and sleeping above his economic station.";
- "My Public Service," in which he explores one of "the many varieties of the strangling embrace, [with] star-struck political hirelings reduced to pimping for a philandering senator;
- "The Madonna of Turkey Season": "Irish-American brothers locked in competitive mother-love";
- "Invisible Fences": "a Bible Belt couple whose sexual dysfunction degrades them into sick rituals of voyeurism";
- "Smoke": "[I]ntroduced Russell and Corrine Calloway, the Manhattan couple-with-everything whose marital vicissitudes animate McInerney's two most ambitious novels, Brightness Falls and its sequel, The Good Life."
- "In the North-West Frontier Province": "[E]erily predicts our current postterrorist age[;] ... a glimpse of hell, set in the parched hilly borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Maslin, Janet. "Janet Maslin's Top 10 Books of 2009". New York Times.
- In the September/October 2005 issue of Pages magazine, the "literary brat pack" was identified retrospectively as Bret Easton Ellis, Tama Janowitz, and McInerney. Other associated authors included Donna Tartt, Susan Minot, Peter Farrelly, Mark Lindquist, Peter J. Smith, and Mary Robison.
- Nack, William, & Munson, Lester, Sports Illustrated (1992-11-16). "Blood Money: In the rich, clubby world of horsemen, some greedy owners have hired killers to murder their animals for the insurance payoffs". CNN. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
- Brinbaum, Robert, The Morning News (2006-01-19). "Birnbaum v. Bret Easton Ellis". Retrieved 2007-02-25.
- Written By Roger Friedman. Published March 28, 2006 FoxNews.com Jacko: New Authorized Book in Three Weeks?
- Barber, Lynn, The Observer (September 10, 2000) Interview: Jay McInerney "The beautiful and the damned"
- "Rake's Progress" Review by Sam Tanenhaus, The New York Times Book Review, April 26, 2009. Retrieved 4/25/09.