This is a collection of twenty-six short stories written by Jay McInerney over twenty-six years, from 1982 to 2008. Sad to say, I simply do not understand the quality differences in his writing.
This grouping starts off with the brilliant drug-induced piece, “It’s Six A.M. – Do You Know Where You Are?” which became the base for the well-known novel and screenplay Bright Lights, Big City. Unfortunately, the other stories that follow dim by comparison.
“Smoke” is a Roald Dahl-ish piece in which nothing is as it seems. “Invisible Fences” is a crude sex tale that might have been written for a men’s magazine twenty to forty years ago. “The Madonna of Turkey Season,” about a family’s travails made worse by holiday gatherings, reads like Joan Didion but without her charm or cool, laser-like, focus. Except for “It’s Six A.M.” we never, in fact, feel the presence of a human narrator.
Based on his reputation and/or press clippings, McInerney is the next great American writer; a fact that is not easy to see in these twenty-six tales. Rather, How it Ended reads quite like a career-spanning collection of the music of the Doors, complete with a brilliant start, weak middle, and middling finish.
Knopf, $25.95, 331 pages
Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.