Monday, March 27, 2006

#19 - The Good Life

Jay McInerney's latest book The Good Life sets a love story against the backdrop of 9/11 New York. The novel's central relationship between two middle aged people having affairs outside their own unhappy marriages portends the very real and very modern changes that affected New York after the wake of the terrorist attacks. It's not a story of young love, but rather true love, which is an interesting point of view.

Yet, as much as a reader wants this novel to be about 9/11, it's really not, and I think that's kind of a shame. The cataclysmic event remains a setting, and an adept one at that, but there's a sense of emotional depth missing, which sort of ruined the book for me. There's none of that lingering Rescue Me psychological meltdowns among the rich and famous New Yorkers depicted in The Good Life. There's none of the celebration of New York found in Sex and the City and the book reads more like Bonfire of the Vanities (a novel I hated) then I would have liked.

McInerney's a good, lyrical writer, with long, luscious sentences, but he relies on repetitive phrases and stereotypical characters too much. The idea of "the good life" at once challenged and then ultimately revered throughout the novel comes across as a bit vain and even self-indulgent. I found it hard to care about the hearts of the two main characters because, quite simply, I didn't care about them. There's a bit of sloppiness to the novel too, with characters introduced at critical times and never brought up again, and situations explored but never truly resolved.

But mainly, I didn't like the female lead, Corinne. I thought she was actually kind of ridiculous and a lot of her dialogue was utterly unbelievable. The male lead, Luke, was more interesting and the novel might have been more successful if it hinged entirely upon him, although that would mean putting up with his absolutely annoying wife, Sasha. Just tying a love story to the events of 9/11 isn't enough. I kept thinking: what is this book about? The vapid nature of the rich and famous or how hard it is to change when you're at a stage of life where there are dire consequences (broken marriages, children, career changes). But really, because there's no emotional depth to the characters, the truly emotionally charged situation they find themselves in is kind of redundant.

Give me Denis Leary any day.

(And thank goodness I finished the Book A Day challenge today, it was tough!)

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