Jay McInerney Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Jay McInerney (MAK-ih-nur-nee) achieved remarkable early success and celebrity with the publication of his first novel and has spent his career attempting to live up to that initial achievement. Born into the upper middle class, the son of an international corporate executive, McInerney grew up in several different cities, including London, England, and Vancouver, Canada, and attended eighteen elementary schools before attending high school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He completed his undergraduate degree at Williams College with a major in philosophy and a minor in English. After graduation, he and his good friend Gary Fisketjon (who later became his editor at Random House) hit the road, traveling throughout the United States and working at various odd jobs. As a reporter for the Hunterdon County Democrat newspaper in New Jersey, McInerney labored more over his prose than the facts, and his tenure there was brief.

Finding himself at loose ends, in 1977 McInerney traveled to Japan on a Princeton-in-Asia Fellowship, taking Japanese courses at the Institute for International Studies outside Tokyo and teaching English at Kyoto University. This two-year sojourn in Japan provided the budding author not only with material for his second novel but also with the traditional literary expatriate experience as well. In Japan he developed a keen interest in the martial arts, and he married his half-Japanese girlfriend, model Linda Rossiter.

In 1979 the couple moved to New York City to pursue their respective careers of writing and modeling. To support himself while writing, McInerney worked as a fact-checker for The New Yorker. Fired after seven months, he went to work as a freelance reader for Random House. During this period McInerney plunged headlong into the thriving New York City club scene; he later vividly recounted these experiences in Bright Lights, Big City.

By 1981 McInerney’s wife had left him, and his writing was taking a back seat to night life when his friend Fisketjon introduced him to writer Raymond Carver, who was then teaching at Syracuse University. Carver suggested that McInerney leave the distracting atmosphere of New York City and...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Girard, Stephanie. “‘Standing at the Corner of Walk and Don’t Walk’: Vintage Contemporaries, Bright Lights, Big City, and the Problems of Betweenness.” American Literature 68 (March, 1996). Not so much a study of McInerney’s literary qualities as an analysis of the politics and economics of publishing in the 1980’s that led to phenomena such as a literary “Brat Pack.”

Sheppard, R. Z. “Yuppie Lit: Publish or Perish.” Time, October 19, 1987. Examines the phenomenon of very young, very popular writers appearing on the literary scene in the 1980’s.

Shnayerson, Michael. “A New Jay Dawning.” Vanity Fair, May, 1992. Provides an in-depth look at McInerney’s creative and personal life.