Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
Five years ago, I was spending a summer “home” in Kansas City. It was the summer before I would start my senior year, and my parents had just moved out there. I, too, would eventually make it home (for a short-lived time) but in 2013, it was just a place for me to stay. And the place where I would repeatedly ask myself, “Why am I here?” In a bid to occupy myself in a town where I knew no one, I went to a used bookshop. Nestled in the stack I left with was a 1980s copy of Bright Lights, Big City. I read a new book every few days, but Bright Lights, Big City, is the only one I remember because it stuck with me instantly, in the same way people become struck by a piece of art or a song. It comes out of almost nowhere, but it feels like it was made just for you. That you and you only were meant to experience it or hear it. If you could write, or paint, you think, you just maybe could have come up with the same thing.
I started and finished Bright Lights, Big City, in one afternoon, warmed by the sun that had managed to shine for a brief window on the apartment terrace. Within a couple of hours and by the last page, I had a new favorite book, and a new favorite writer, Jay McInerney. While there was a lot in the book I had no reference for (The Odeon, the city’s energy, the difference in uptown and downtown Manhattan cultures that are marked by an invisible divide) it transcended its own setting. It was an incorporeal reassurance that I was not alone in that being-in-your-20s duality, the one that has you constantly asking yourself, “Will I get where I want to go?” “Oh, wait, where am I going again?” no matter where you live – New York or the middle of nowhere.
In 2013, New York was not a dream of mine, although being a writer always has been, as long as I can remember But this week, and four years later, as an NYC resident – I got my copy of Bright Lights, Big City signed by McInerney himself. Two years ago, I moved to New York to further my writing career, and after the signing I was reminded where I started two, three, four, and five years ago, back in 2013. It is in those kind of moments where you learn that you’ve been going the right way the whole time, just not the way you expected.