'How It Ended'
By JAY MCINERNEY
Reviewed By Janet Maslin
Jay McInerney’s writing career has lasted nearly three decades, and what has Mr. McInerney got to show for it? Seven novels, but the world at large can name only his first (“Bright Lights, Big City”). Two essay collections devoted to wine. Prizes (from the James Beard Foundation and the Deauville Film Festival), but not the ones to which literary lights usually aspire. A party-guy reputation borne out by the elements (drugs, infidelity, name dropping and social climbing) that loom large in his fiction. And an etiquette that dictates that when a woman is about to snort cocaine, a gentleman helps by holding back her hair.
Now comes the game changer: “How It Ended,” a collection that comprises 26 short stories spanning 26 years. From afar this concept does not seem promising. The stories’ consistent length (an average of 12 pages) suggests an author who can hack them out as magazine filler.
The contention that seven of them belong in this collection because they were published in hardcover but not in paperback sounds feeble. And Mr. McInerney’s introductory comment that the short story is like a one-night stand also has the ring of an excuse. On the frequent occasions when his characters enjoy one-night stands, they’re guilty about it in the morning.