Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Beautiful and Damned

IT SAYS EVERYTHING about the insularity of the New York literary world that in this time of economic calamity it conducts a massive hype campaign for rich guy author Jay McInerney. (Including an egregious cover story in Poets and Writers.) The photos of the recent Brooke Geahan-hosted soiree say more than everything:

Curious, isn't it, that the best and bravest outsider writers are ostracized, while the superwealthy are feted? Dare we say that McInerney's days of relevance were over circa 1989?
Jay McInerney has forever posited himself as another F. Scott Fitzgerald, in that both chronicled the wealthy, but there's an enormous difference between the two writers. Scott Fitzgerald's best work is imbued with an intense sense of striving. As much as any writer ever has, he captured the desperate melancholy of the born outsider. It's the very theme of Gatsby-- that most class conscious of American novels. By contrast, the closest careless McInerney would ever come to identifying an American underdog is if he ran over one with his limousine.

Jay McInerney, son of a prosperous insurance exec, has been at the top of American society his entire life. His only brush with economic hardship, as once-documented by the now defunct Saturday Review, was not having a summer retreat during college days.

Scott Fitzgerald's moment at the top was spectacularly brief. By the end of his life he was barely hanging on, physically and financially, in Hollywood, writing stories in which his point-of-view was again on the outside.

If any Fitzgerald novel is relevant to Jay McInerney, it's The Beautiful and Damned; a tale of the dissolute lifestyle, puerility, and intellectual feebleness of a clique of wealthy people during the Jazz Age. The title of the book, IN THESE DAYS, during these scrambling-hard-times, is a fitting appelation for carelessly clueless Brooke Geahan and her white-clothed partygoers, including red-faced, talent-passed-him-by Jay McInerney.

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Note a related story from June 7th at

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