From the ashes

By MIKE MILIARD  |  February 22, 2006

In a Q&A included with Knopf’s press materials, McInerney says of his newest novel, “Lately I have been thinking that The Good Life may be my first book about adults.... I had to finally consider the fact that I couldn’t keep writing bildungsroman forever.” It represents, he says, the beginning of a “phase two” for him.

But wait. McInerney is a great admirer of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s penned voluminous reviews of his books. He recently passed on an offer to write a biography of him. And he’s been compared by more than one critic — not always favorably — to the man himself. One of them, perhaps unfortunately, was the disgraced “memoirist” James Frey, who, in The Good Life’s first review on, rhapsodized that “McInerney ... is producing the kind of books we might have expected from Fitzgerald had he lived past the age of 44.”

(“I have a funny history with that book,” McInerney says of A Million Little Pieces. “I was a judge for the National Book Award that year, and I read it as a novel. I just assumed or I didn’t read the cover letter or something. I thought it was a pretty good novel. But I don’t wanna pile on ol’ James Frey. What am I supposed to do? I didn’t ask for the review, and I can’t ask it to be retracted.”)

But F. Scott Fitzgerald also famously averred that “there are no second acts in American lives.” (Something Frey must surely wish for.) McInerney disagrees. “The whole idea of America is second acts. Self-invention and reinvention. The country was founded on the idea of second chances. People from Europe came here to start again.”

And, anyway, “He was dead at 44. As much as I admired Fitzgerald, he was in many ways a terrible role model. “Once I outlived him, I had to find a new one.”


On the Web:

Jay McInerney:
The Good Life:
Jay McInerney's podcast:

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Mike Miliard:

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