Friday, September 02, 2005

Jay McInerney the Wonk

McInerney in the 8/28 New York Times Book Review:

"Benjamin Kunkel's 'Indecision,' which manages to make the whole flailing, postadolescent, prelife crisis feel fresh and funny again, even as it sometimes resembles nothing so much as a self-conscious, postmodern homage/parody of the genre. In the end, though, it might just yearn to be something more daring than that, like, maybe, a post-9/11, postironic novel: a tentative response to David Foster Wallace's call for a new generation of sincere anti-rebels 'who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles.'"

Say what? Single entendre? McInerney isn't being ironic.

Who's Jay McInerney? A well-connected rich guy who made a career out of one Plimpton-mentored Paris Review short story later padded into his only decent novel. Since, he's been mainly a wine taster. That this (yet another) scion of wealth who can't write OR think has the lead essay in our nation's highest circulation literary publication marks the decayed condition of American letters.

The entire tired turgid essay shows two things:
1.) McInerney has forgotten how to write like a human being. Instead, he tries to be a literary intellectual like Foster Wallace-- without accompanying intellect.
2.) Establishment lit-figures like Jay Mac are struggling fitfully, with "tentativeness," toward the solid ground of where the ULA stands now. He calls for clarity in writing without being able to clearly describe it or accomplish it. He applauds "the birth of social conscience"-- "alienated from the status quo and politically awakened"-- which to him has meaning ONLY if members of the status quo like himself or Kunkel embrace the concept!

Contradictions and confusion abound. They want to question and attack the status quo and hang onto it at the same time. They suspect a literary revolution might be taking place. "Wait!" they yell. "Let WE the approved cultural leaders get to the front!"

As in everything, this privileged crowd expects to always be first in line. The Marquis de Lafayette advocating democracy while expecting himself and his friends to remain aristocrats and retain the biggest say.

(Quiz: Spot the blatant typo on the NYTBR's front page.)

1 comment:

King said...

Most bizarre is for a fop like McInerney-- who's lived his entire life in pampered comfort-- to even use the word "alienated." Alienated are those writers who've not been at the center of things, but on the margins-- many in the ULA for their entire lives.
Alienated is what you'll find in the very strong writings of ULAers like Joe Pachinko and James Nowlan, for starters, or underground poets like Mike Grover.
For the word to come from someone like McInerney is pure comedy.
Here's a guy, incidentally, who was given every opportunity to be a great writer, and has failed, utterly, completely.