18 Jan 2012

Review: "Story of My Life" by Jay McInerney

A few months ago I read a collection of short stories by Jay McInerney, "How It Ended", and I absolutely loved the style and the subject matter so I decided to try one of his novels. One of the great things about McInerney (apart from his cool name) is the fact the he has been quite a prolific writer so there is lots to choose from! In the end I went with "Story of My Life" based on what little I could read about it on the back of it and it turned out to be a great and very captivating choice!

The narrator is one very difficult young lady. Alison is a 20-year-old girl who makes Lindsay Lohan look like a saint by comparison. Living in New York, she fancies herself a bit of an actress but in reality she spends most of her time drunk or high or having sex or all three things more or less at the same time. She is a rich daddy's girl - only daddy has run off with a bimbo - and she is a train wreck. Her room mate Jeannie is a little bit better but the rest of Alison's friends, not to mention her sister, are just as bad as Alison and together they seem to finance a large part of the bars and clubs in 1980's New York.

When it comes to guys, Alison is blasé. She doesn't fall in love, she falls in lust and she has random sex. That is the range of her emotional commitment. When she falls in lust with (or is it love?) bond trader and Shakespeare lover Dean, she takes him with him on her ride through the excesses of New York where it is no surprise to her to enter a room where she has slept with all males present. Alison is the kind of girl that makes you want to send your daughters to convent school or move far far into the countryside. At twenty she has gotten herself into so much trouble that as a reader, I found it hard to imagine how she would ever survive to 25. We - the reader - never find out if she does, but following her in her quest for self-destruction up to her 21st birthday is fascinating. And in the end there is a twist that makes everything fall into place.

According to that trusted source Wikipedia, Alison Poole is based on a real woman whom McInerney dated and the fictional character Alision Poole appears in works by Bret Easton Ellis. Intriguing.

I loved this book. It is fast-paced and it forces you to focus on difficult questions and topics that are really important today. The extravagance and excess, the lack of parents. This girl could probably be one of the it-girls depicted in glossy magazines... The story is incredibly well-written and oh so funny. Hilarious. Alison is absolutely thick with little self-awareness and following her exploits is not for the faint-hearted. However, if you like a good laugh and a bit of drama, you should be okay.

Read it if: You like a book to both touch you and make you laugh. If you find yourself strangely attracted to stories about Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and similar "graceful" young ladies...


  1. Thanks for the recommendation! I'm going to look for this at the library.

  2. I'm not familiar with McInerney, but if it all started with his short stories for you, I'm onboard. Love a great short story and glad there's more to choose from afterwards. :)

  3. @Steph: You absolutely should :-)

    @Andi: I can recommend starting with the short stories, it worked really well for me.