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Title: Model Behavior
Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included
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About this title
With five novels over the past fourteen years, Jay McInerney has demonstrated time and again "his talent for capturing the nuances and idiosyncrasies of our culture" (San Francisco Chronicle), and nowhere is this more apparent than in Model Behavior, in which he returns to the locale of Bright Lights, Big City, Story of My Life, and Brightness Falls: the restless isle of Manhattan, where neither wishes nor even dreams ever sleep.
Connor McKnight--former acolyte of film, Zen and Japanese literature--is not unaware that these avocations are wildly remote from his present occupation (fledgling celebrity journalist). Moreover, his longtime girlfriend, the fashion model Philomena, suddenly seems curiously remote herself--and soon enough appears to have decamped, avec diaphragm, for the other coast. Then there's the sister with whom he shared a flamboyantly addled childhood, and who now matches her brilliance for theoretical abstraction with a compassion for world suffering so acute that her own well-being is imperiled.
These and other anxieties, Connor finds, can scarcely be assuaged by his trio of flirting obsessions--a gorgeous stripper, a screenplay-in-progress in his drawer, the notion of a meaningful future--or by his principal ally and best friend, a monkishly neurotic, militantly vegetarian writer whose sanity balances precisely on the publication of his new story collection and on the fate of his Irish terrier.
So now, as Thanksgiving and Christmas bear down upon him, not to mention a female admirer who's stalking him by e-mail, Connor gropes his hapless, hilarious way toward not so much salvation as self-preservation, favoring the right things as he is relentlessly pursued by all the wrong, bad, ill-advised or plain unlucky.
Model Behavior is McInerney at full tilt--while the seven stories included trace the arc of his career and, in their exploration of the varieties of delusion, fame and experience, display anew his rare ability to comprehend and re-create the manic flux of our society.
Readers familiar with Jay McInerney's Bright Lights Big City may feel a sense of déjà vu when reading Model Behavior. Once again our hero is a small cog in the glamorous Manhattan media machine. Yet although the players may look the same, the rules of the game have changed--their ambitions and expectations are not the same as they were a decade or more ago. Connor McKnight is not brought low by drugs and other symbols of 1980s-style excess; instead, his relationship is destroyed by premillennial ennui and the numbing effects of his career as a celebrity journalist (celebrity being to the '90s what cocaine was to the '80s). The fact that all these shiny happy people really aren't happy at all is hardly news, but McInerney is both a chronicler and a satirist of this glitzy corner of the world, and his astute wit saves the novel from being as shallow as its subjects. This is not poisonous satire à la Martin Amis but a more affectionate (yet equally effective) mocking of modern pretensions, such as P.G. Wodehouse in Hugo Boss. McInerney's comic timing is best demonstrated in one of the longest scenes, a Thanksgiving dinner that ends in chaos when Connor's father exposes himself to the turkey-munching patrons of a tony Manhattan eatery. While the author's sixth book may not be very far removed from his first, that isn't necessarily a criticism. Like a botanist who studies only pondweed, McInerney has narrowed his focus to perfect it. Model Behavior, and the seven stories collected with it, demonstrate that no one else can render this peculiar little social set as accurately, or as artfully as McInerney. --Simon Leake
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