‘ '1: hen a former Brat
:J thor gives up the
WHEN JAY MCINERNEY WAS IN HIS TWENTIES, THE LAST thing he thought he would see was his forties. 'All my heroes tended to be dead by then — Dylan Thomas or Byron or Jimi Hendrix.’ the Tennessee and New York- based writer admits. ‘Scott Fitzgerald died precisely my age and I always thought I wouldn‘t make it. I lived pretty recklessly and had this romantic notion that I wouldn't live to a ripe old age. But then. once I hit 40. I decided that I‘d just as soon stick around — that's the moment when you feel your mortality and get scared. I never really worried about dying when l was racing motorcycles or driving incredibly recklessly with a whole lot of illegal substances coursing through my veins. But now I have kids. so I don't want to go prematurely — it would seem like a pretty shitty thing to do.’
The responsibility to others is a notion that many of his characters would probably have little truck with — the self-
century literature and the curse of celebrity — a subject with which Mclnerney is overly familiar. ‘My first book lBright Lights. Big ('ityl was so successful in the States it made me a target.‘ he recalls. 'As a writer of fiction. you deal in symbols. but it’s dangerous to become one yourself because it‘s difficult to break through the serum of preconceptions. Norman Mailer once said to me that one of the toughest things fora writer is to create a persona. but I think the toughest thing is to get rid of a persona once you have achieved one.‘
But that's what he is now trying to do. He‘s had more than his fair share of ‘hellraiser‘ headlines. but now he‘s partying less. has the kids to think about and. to his wife's disgust and his own bemusement. taken an unholy interest in golf. ‘1 don‘t know what‘s gotten into me. Actually. I think it was probably Tiger Woods that got me started. kicking ass a few years ago. But. you know. it was sort of
'I never worried about dying when I was driving recklessly with a whole lot of illegal substances coursing through my veins.’ Jay Mclnerney
destructive Will Savage in The Last Of The .S'm‘uges; the nihilistic Alison Poole in The Story ()fMy Life: the self- destructively nihilistic Jamie Conway in Bright Lights, Big City.
[.umped in with his friend Bret Iiaston Iillis as the two key prongs in the US Bratpack movement. Mclnerney is linked with 80s consumption — quick money and faster drugs. endless shopping and widespread fucking. His fast living never quite emulated the alienated excesses perpetrated upon and by his characters. but observers often lunge headlong into the easy trap of confusing the art with the artist. ‘I was never as two-dimensional as the magazine profiles would have you believe.‘ Mclnerney states. ‘I did have other interests besides drugs and models.‘
However. there he is in his latest book. Model Behaviour. writing about drugs and models. Not only that. of course. but the danger of romance. the sprawl of 20th
18 THE lIST 26 Aug—9 Sep 1999
emblematic of boredom to say that you liked watching golf on TV.‘
Soon Mclnerney will have to confront a moment all artists dread -— when their child declares an intention to follow in their footsteps. ‘l have a feeling they‘d want to be anything but.. Mclnerney laughs. more in hope than belief. ‘It‘s a very unsettling vocation to be a writer of fiction. to be re-inventing the world in front of your computer screen. I couldn‘t imagine doing anything else. but I sort of wish something easier for them and with a little more structure. Something a little less existentially fraught. And anyway. one of the first responsibilities of any child is to rebel against their parents.‘ And to allow them to separate the hell from the raising.
Jay Mclnerney (Book Festival) Post Office Theatre, 624 5050, 28 Aug. 11.30am, £6 (£4).