Jay McInerney writes about characters on on the verge of insanity. They grip what little sanity they have left by a frayed rope that no doubt will soon break. In Story of My Life that character is Alison Poole, a twenty-year-old debutante living in New York, and who hangs out with other twenty-year-old debutantes, all whose frayed ropes had already snapped. Alison’s frayed rope, her grip on reality, is her fledging relationship with a bonds broker named Dean, but Dean seems more interested in living that crazy drug-fueled, sex-fest lifestyle Alison and her friends represent than in helping Alison retain her sanity.
A strength of this story is Alison’s voice. She tells her story herself, in a strong, passionate, convincing voice, full of hyperboles, colorful metaphors, and random digressions. This is Alison pouring out her heart and sole to a dear friend, and that is the feel of this book–those long talks late at night when a good friend just needs to let it all out. This is why I’m collapsing! In truth, if I were to meet Alison in real life, I wouldn’t care a rat’s ass about her. She’s too superficial and she makes too many bad decisions. But bad decisions are fertile seeds for good fiction, and this is good fiction. McInerney makes me care about Alison.
Unfortunately, I fear the strong voice interfered with my enjoyment of the novel in parts. Alison is the type of person who introduces dialogue with phrases like I’m like or he goes. Though this was honest to the mood of the book, I found myself very early in its pages missing that wonderfully over-used verb to say and all its inflections. McInerney further complicated this by choosing not to enclose dialogue in quotation marks. On almost every page I was broken out of my trance to wonder whether a line was something said or just thought. When I encountered he goes, the visual image in my mind was someone leaving the room, not someone talking.
Besides that stylistic criticism, I have nothing bad to say about this book. I wanted to read a short novel that I could finish in a weekend, and this was a good choice.