Blasts from the Past: Brightness Falls by Jay McInerney (1992)

Cover image A very happy 2019 to you! I’m starting my posting year with the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy into as many hands as I could.

I fell in love with this book to such an extent that I remember sending H off for a walk into the lovely Corsican maquis on his own so that I could finish it. Tom Wolfe’s potboiler The Bonfire of the Vanities is seen as the quintessential yuppie novel but for me Brightness Falls summed up the folly of the ’80s very much better and with a great deal more humanity. It was the first in a trilogy which continued with The Good Life, a grave disappointment after Brightness Falls, and finished with Bright, Precious, Days which fell somewhere in the middle of the two in literary terms. All three follow Corinne and Russell Calloway.

Corrine and Russell are a glittering New York couple, in love with each other and pursuing successful careers in a world where anything seems possible if you are young, bright and fearless. To their friends, they epitomize the perfect marriage but when Russell becomes caught up in an audacious plan to take over the publishing company in which he is the rising editorial star, things begin to fall apart. The adrenaline-fuelled atmosphere of the deal take its toll on both Russell and Corrine, just as the excesses of the ’80s have taken their toll on many others in New York City, from their close friend Jeff, now in detox, to the homeless crack addicts on every street corner. With the knowledge gained from her job as a stockbroker, Corrine begins to realize that the heady days of the rising Dow must surely come to an end. The reckoning finally comes on 19 October 1987 when the bubble bursts with the Wall Street crash.

I reviewed Bright, Precious, Days in the midst of the 2016 election campaign which seems a world away now. McInerney has said that he has no intention of extending his trilogy into a quartet but I can’t help wondering how Corinne and Russell would be faring under the current regime.

What about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?

You can find more posts like this here.

6 thoughts on “Blasts from the Past: Brightness Falls by Jay McInerney (1992)”

  1. Happy New Year, Susan. I hope you’ve had a good break.

    I do recall you writing about this series before, probably back in 2016 when the third one was released. You know, I can’t actually recall if I’ve ever read any of this author’s novels as my memory for books read more than twenty years ago is pretty patchy to say the least.

    1. Mine, too, Jacqui. Something has to have struck a very loud chord to have stayed with me for such a long time and this one did. He’s better known for Bright Lights, Big City – also a book very much of its time.

      1. Sorry, I pressed reply by accident when I was halfway through writing my comment. I meant to add that Bright Lights, Big City is the one I may have read many years ago. He seems to have a knack for capturing the mood of the relevant moment.

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