Thanksgiving Audiobook Review: Jay McInerney’s “Model Behavior”

Thanksgiving Audiobook Review: Jay McInerney’s “Model Behavior”

About the book: Jay McInerney’s sixth novel was published in 1998, to unenthusiastic reviews. He still hadn’t fulfilled the promise of his acclaimed debut Bright Lights, Big City (1984), and the unmistakable similarities of the new novel to that book were seen as an attempt — perhaps a cynical one — to put a ’90s spin on his most famous story.

Model Behavior centers on Connor McKnight, a celebrity journalist whose girlfriend, a model, is off on what increasingly looks to be a permanent business trip. The book follows the bereft McKnight through November, as he takes inconsistent solace from both his literary wunderkind BFF (in a meta touch, a reviewer compares the fictional friend to McInerney himself) and his sister Brooke, whose fixation on war crimes and genocide contrasts with Connor’s self-absorption. All in all, it makes for a pretty pissy read.

About the audiobook: Narrator Richard Cox amplifies all the problems with the book, mumbling through the pages like a high-schooler doing Raymond Chandler for a speech tournament. Connor is a defeated man; we get it. You didn’t have to get drunk and lie on the floor for verisimilitude.

What’s for dinner? A booze-soaked Thanksgiving meal at the St. Regis (“they serve the fancy, lumpy cranberry sauce with real berries, but I prefer the cheap jellied kind”), which takes a turn when Brooke’s surgeon boyfriend is induced to tell the story of a penis he recently reaffixed. When Connor tries to steer the conversation back to safe territory by asking his parents how they met, that veers into his mom’s mention of a hand job in the back of a Buick. Indignant, Connor’s dad cries, “Why don’t we just have a show-and-tell?” Things devolve from there.

Something to be thankful for: McInerney’s sarcastic description of the McKnight family’s seasonal beverage preferences.

Recently in the New York Times Frank Prial wrestled with that perennial question: what wine to match with your Thanksgiving turkey and traditional fixings. Some say champagne, some chardonnay. Frank leans toward zinfandel, and there’s even a case to be made for a young cabernet sauvignon. Be advised that my father recommends Johnnie Walker Black, over ice, mixed with moderate amounts of club soda or seltzer water. Cuts right through the tart sweetness of the cranberry sauce which makes Thanksgiving wine matching so tricky. And none of these pretentious single malts, thank you very much.

Jay Gabler is listening his way through literature’s most notable Thanksgiving novels. He welcomes suggestions.

Photo by Alan Levine (CC BY 2.0)