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Model Behavior by Jay McInerney
reviewed by J.M. Frank

McInerney is known for taking stylistic risks and Model Behavior is yet one more example. Probably his best known book, Bright Lights, Big City, took the unusual approach of a second-person narrative (i.e. the protagonist was referred to as "you"). What was more impressive to me than the fact that this narrative style worked seamlessly was the fact that he got somebody to publish such a non-traditional work without already being a household name. In Model Behavior, McInerney plays with point of view, this time by switching between first, second, and third person freely throughout the book. McInerney also takes us through the first half of the book without much trace of a plot. Both these risks work. Despite any experimentation, the prose is easier to follow than just about any work of fiction, including Dr. Seuss. McInerney also managed to keep me wanting to read more, even when not much of anything was happening.

The protagonist's girlfriend, a model, disappears on a "shoot", but he starts to suspect that she may be having an affair or leaving him altogether. That's the plot. All of it. The main character doesn't go chasing her around the country or actively digging for answers. He mainly just waits for her to call. Don't get me wrong, stuff happens while he waits---interesting stuff, funny stuff, unusual stuff. But they do not really form a plot so much as a series of amusing anecdotes that take place while a guy mopes around New York city. Fortunately, these little snippets are involving enough to keep the reader not just going, but thoroughly entertained.

This book is entertaining because McInerney has a talent for his craft. The characters are lovably depressed, cynical, and neurotic. The novel is filled with contemporary humor (such as jokes about hollywood clichés---like actors wanting to live the simple life by getting a little piece of land in Montana). And the novel keeps the reader turning pages---not so much because of anything compelling in the story as it is because the book is just that readable.

But unlike McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City, this book will not be remembered by the reader a few days later, let alone years later. This is contemporary entertainment, nothing more. Unless it is a shocking revelation to the reader that models and actors can often be shallow, there is not a whole lot to be learned here. But rides can be fun, even if you get off the track exactly where you started, and this one is funny and enjoyable enough to be worth hopping on board.

Model Behavior

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