Literary Birthday - 13 January
Happy Birthday, Jay McInerney, born 13 January 1955
- I made a lot for a literary novelist. Not only did I support myself but a bunch of ex-wives and kids and restaurateurs and club owners and drug dealers.
- My tenure in New York has coincided with a really long period of prosperity. As someone who writes about New York, it’s going to be fascinating to see the values of the boom being replaced by something else.
- I’ve always written about the larger social events of the moment. It just seemed like I had to confront this one.
- I’ve been interested in writing and storytelling since I learned to read, but it wasn’t until I read Dylan Thomas, when I was 14, that I became interested in language itself, and saw it as more than a transparent medium for a story.
- Being tagged a spokesman for a generation is mostly a curse, since there will always be people who don’t believe you are speaking for them. I am a chronicler, certainly, of a certain demographic slice of my generation. But I don’t write for that generation alone, and I don’t wish to be diminished with that label.
How Raymond Carver influenced Jay McInerney
Raymond Carver was someone whose work was tremendously inspiring to me. So I felt very fortunate when I had a chance to meet him in 1980. I was asked to show him around New York City prior to a reading he was giving at Columbia that fall. Instead, we stayed at my apartment and talked literature for six hours, and subsequently began a correspondence.
He convinced me that if I really wanted to write fiction I had to stop hedging my bets with jobs in publishing and journalism and make a real commitment, and the next year I followed him to Syracuse University, where he was then teaching in the creative writing program. If not for that move, I doubt I would be answering these questions today. Carver somehow convinced me to go for it, and convinced me that I had the right stuff—I’m not sure how he could have guessed that at the time, on the basis of a few early stories.
He was also influential in convincing me that the only secret to writing was to put in serious hours every day for years. I’d been under the thrall of a sort of romantic image of the writer as a genius who effortlessly produces masterpieces under the influence of a kind of divine madness. Carver convinced me that writing was 90% perspiration. He used to call me up every day to see if I had been writing. And I used to hear his typewriter every day, down the street, clacking away. That was almost as inspiring as anything he said.
He also reaffirmed my belief that good stories are made word by word; he would sit down with my pages and take each sentence apart, asking me, for instance, why I had used the word earth when the word dirt would do. I still hear his voice sometimes, chiding me for sloppy usage.
Studying with Carver was among the most important aspects of my development as a writer. I was lucky to find such a dedicated mentor. Likewise, I was extremely fortunate to have Tobias Wolff on the faculty as well. If Carver was a very instinctual teacher, Wolff was very cerebral. He was great on structure, and would take apart a story or novel and reassemble it piece by piece. Those two approaches are very complementary.
Quotes from Novels
- The capacity for friendship is God’s way of apologizing for our families.
- Everything becomes symbol and irony when you’ve been betrayed.
- 'Things happen, people change,' is what Amanda said. For her that covered it. You wanted an explanation, and ending that would assign blame and dish up justice. You considered violence and you considered reconciliation . But what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name.
- Sometimes I think the difference between what we want and what we’re afraid of is about the width of an eyelash.
- Your heartbreak is just another version of the same old story.
- It’s like, you can’t trust anybody, and if somebody you know doesn’t fuck you over it’s just because the price of selling you down the river was never high enough.
- Your presence here is is only a matter of conducting an experiment in limits, reminding yourself of what you aren’t.
- Loving isn’t the same as wanting, Luke. And it’s certainly not the same as having. It’s not about desire and self-fulfillment. In the end, it’s about wanting what’s best for the other person. It’s about giving and even, sometimes, letting go. Sometimes I think love is more about renunciation than possession.
McInerney is an American writer. His novels include Bright Lights, Big City, Ransom, Brightness Falls, and The Good Life. He edited The Penguin Book of New American Voices, wrote the screenplay for the 1988 film adaptation of Bright Lights, Big City.
He was the wine columnist for House & Garden magazine, and his essays were collected in Bacchus & Me and A Hedonist in the Cellar. He is now the wine columnist for The Wall Street Journal.
by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write