How It Ended: New and Collected Stories [NOOK Book]

Overview

How It Ended Witty, Acerbic and Pellucid, McInerney's writing examines worlds in collision, relationships fragmenting and the dark underbelly of the American dream. A transsexual prostitute accidentally propositions his own father; a senator's serial infidelities leave him in hot water; two young lovers spend Christmas together high on different drugs. McInerney's characters are perfectly observed, struggling together in a shifting world where old certainties dissolve and nobody can be sure of where they stand. ...
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How It Ended: New and Collected Stories

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Overview

How It Ended Witty, Acerbic and Pellucid, McInerney's writing examines worlds in collision, relationships fragmenting and the dark underbelly of the American dream. A transsexual prostitute accidentally propositions his own father; a senator's serial infidelities leave him in hot water; two young lovers spend Christmas together high on different drugs. McInerney's characters are perfectly observed, struggling together in a shifting world where old certainties dissolve and nobody can be sure of where they stand. This is a powerful, funny and moving collection by one of the great storytellers of our time.
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Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
Mr. McInerney was a callow, facile and extremely entertaining writer from the very first. He had a smart student's command of technical virtues and an eagerness to show them off. He also had such a tiresome infatuation with 1980s-style decadence that it lingers sentimentally even now. But his stories have grown more elegant, subtle, shapely and reflective over time, to the point where some of the recent works are perfect specimens. He has quietly achieved the literary stature to which he once so noisily laid claim.
—The New York Times
Sam Tanenhaus
How It Ended reminds us how impressively broad McInerney's scope has been and how confidently he has ranged across wide swaths of our national experience. It reminds us too that for all the many literary influences he has absorbed, McInerney's contribution—and it is a major one—is to have revitalized the Irish Catholic expiatory tradition of F. Scott Fitzgerald and John O'Hara, with its emphasis not only on guilt but also on shame: on sins committed and never quite expunged, always in open view of the sorrowing punitive clan…[McInerney] possesses the literary naturalist's full tool kit: empathy and curiosity, a peeled eye and a well-tuned ear, a talent for building narratives at once intimate and expansive, plausible and inventive.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly

These 26 stories-some new, some previously published-go back as many years and take readers to a time when the stock market was bullish and a young writer made his name with an ingeniously packaged first novel that perfectly captured a brief moment in time. In this collection, we become reacquainted with the nameless night-crawling narrator of Bright Lights, Big City; with Alison Poole, the party girl of Story of My Life(and who McInerney has said was based on John Edwards's former mistress Rielle Hunter); and Collin McNab, a would-be screenwriter who enjoys a tortuous relationship with his model girlfriend. We also meet new characters, among them a novice screenwriter who learns to play the Hollywood game a little too well, a woman who contemplates sleeping with an old flame on the eve of his wedding, and, in the title story, a drug dealer whose good luck streak repulses the lawyer to whom he confides his tale. While nobody can channel urban strivers and their shallow pursuits as well as McInerney, after a while, the stories all tend to blur together with a depressing predictability. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

If the stories in this new collection from McInerney (Bright Lights, Big City) have a common ground, it's cocaine and parties. Some of these stories are about characters at opposite ends of the universe. Others feel like Noah Baumbach films, concerned with selfish, chemically imbalanced rich families, making it nearly impossible to identify with them despite what are supposed to be universal problems. The writing here is clearly good and the narration calm, understated, and nicely controlled-a trait McInerney probably picked up while studying under Raymond Carver, though these stories don't feel necessary, as Carver's do. In fact, these bite-sized stories are so smooth, each encapsulating a snippet of its characters' lives, that they can be read in just a few minutes. Some do get to universal truths on heartbreaking relationships, but only in the last few lines; mostly, they're like sitcoms. Not recommended, though libraries where McInerney is popular should consider. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/08.]
—Stephen Morrow

Kirkus Reviews
From McInerney (The Good Life, 2006, etc.), a collection of 26 stories spanning some three decades. The stories fall into two general categories. Many of the earliest ones provided the seeds for novels, and they remind us how fresh the young writer's voice seemed when he made his breakthrough with Bright Lights, Big City (1984). Other stories similarly introduce the characters, voice and themes that would be extended in novels such as Story of My Life (1988), Brightness Falls (1992) and Model Behavior (1998). Comparatively disappointing are the later stories, many of them written since his 2000 story collection published in England (also titled How It Ended). Some of the same obsessions remain-glamour, drugs, nightlife, the endless redundancy of parties-yet the freshness of tone has curdled into cliche. It's hard to determine whether the author is writing about protagonists who are pretentiously shallow, adulterous, often aspiring writers who have fallen short of their potential, or whether such protagonists are merely stand-ins for the writer. It's also hard to write about these stories without giving the endings away, but too many of them rely on twists that O. Henry might have rejected as ironically glib, resolutions that are just too pat in their climactic revelations. Then there's the sledgehammer imagery: A dog's invisible fence serves as a metaphor for a couple's sexual transgressions, a potbellied pig in the conjugal bed provides commentary on a husband's proclivities. And so on. The wit and the engaging voice in the best of these stories aren't enough to offset the impression that neither the third nor the second acts of the novelist's career have fulfilled the promise or equaledthe accomplishment of the first. First printing of 40,000. Author tour to Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle
From the Publisher
“Extremely entertaining. . .  elegant, subtle, shapely and reflective. . . . Perfect specimens.” —The New York Times

How It Ended reminds us how impressively broad McInerney’s scope has been and how confidently he has ranged across wide swaths of our national experience.... He possesses the literary naturalist’s full tool kit: empathy and curiosity, a peeled eye and a well-tuned ear, a talent for building narratives at once intimate and expansive, plausible and inventive.” —Sam Tanenhaus, The New York Times Book Review, front page

“A master of short fiction…. The characters [McInerney] crafts are so strong, the reader continues to care about them after the last page is turned.” —The Miami Herald
 
“Brim[s] with all the attendant guilt and thrills and self-defeating impulses of an extramarital tryst…. Brilliant.” —The Boston Globe
 
“Fresh and smart…. Without losing his early jokey way with language or his ironic wit, [McInerney] finds new depths of understanding.” —The Oregonian
 
“McInerney's star burns as bright as ever.” —Vanity Fair
 
“Immediately enveloping…. This collection highlights a powerful contemporary American writer.” —The Plain Dealer

“Alongside old hits . . . [How It Ended includes] an impressive selection of new work that touches upon his usual themes: money, marriage, and the social jostling involved in both. . . . McInerney’s characters are engaging because they are continually falling into a trap that even their wealth cannot protect them from: They cannot tell the difference between living fully, and living without limits.” —The Dallas Morning News
 
“As this new collection stylishly demonstrates, McInerney writes with elegance and wit. . . . Surprising and affecting.” —Houston Chronicle
 
“[McInerney’s] stories are so immediately enveloping and powerful that we don’t notice how few words he uses to conjure his rich, complicated characters. . . . How It Ended is more than a victory lap for McInerney.” —The Plain Dealer
 
“Superb examples of the form.” —Slate
 
“Jay McInerney’s collection displays his growth as a writer. . . . Heavy on sexual betrayal and social climbing.” —USA Today
 
“[McInerney] is so much fun to read, especially in short story form.” —The Detroit News
 
“They are hyped and hungover, rueful party animals and sapped social climbers, wayward spouses and strangers in the night. . . . Characters in Jay McInerney’s How It Ended are fresh, fraught personalities.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
 
“A century from now, cultural historians will plumb the works of Jay McInerney to discern what life was like in the two decades between the explosion of Wall Street wealth and the grim aftermath of 9/11. His keen-eyed depiction of that period is generously displayed in How it Ended. . . . Perceptive and real.” —BookPage
 
“Sure crowd-pleasers.” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Sharp and precisely observed. . . . What’s impressive is just how good—sometimes extraordinarily so—McInerney has been. . . . Precision is precisely what separates the short story from the novel.  It’s the art of letting the detail stand in for the whole, and this is where many of the stories in How It Ended make the cut as fine examples of their form.” —The Toronto Star

The Barnes & Noble Review
Jay McInerney seems stubbornly determined to write about cocaine, infidelity, and cigarette smoking for the rest of his career; if, that is, he's not writing about money, models, and wanton fame seekers. If these plot elements seem overdone and '80s-like, however, the author of Bright Lights, Big City can still salvage diamonds from the overworked mine. In How It Ended: New and Collected Stories, the arc of his short-story career is laid out, from beginning to present: The story he wrote as an undergraduate at Syracuse, "In the North-West Frontier Province," attracting the attention of George Plimpton at the The Paris Review, up to and including his most recent tale, "The Last Bachelor," written in 2008, which features so many of those aforementioned plot points, here reassembled to demonstrate the sad, pathetic actions of a lascivious, drug-addled playboy on the night before his marriage, when he calls an old girlfriend at 1:45 a.m. and drops by her summer house in the Hamptons. "Though it had been years since she'd done blow herself, it seemed perfectly normal to watch him chopping lines, since that's what they'd always done. Being transported back a decade wasn't such a bad thing for a girl. Plus, she was morbidly fascinated with his recklessness on the eve of his wedding. She couldn't help wondering just how far he would push it." As you'd expect with McInerney's characters, "The Last Bachelor" pushes it further than you or I probably would, which makes for exhilarating and repulsive reading. --Cameron Martin
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307271525
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/7/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Jay McInerney
The author of seven novels and two collections of essays on wine, Jay McInerney is a regular contributor to New York, The New York Times Book Review, The Independent and Corriere della Sera. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Playboy, and Granta. In 2006, Time cited his 1984 debut, Bright Lights, Big City, as one of nine generation-defining novels of the twentieth century. He was the recipient of the 2006 James Beard Foundation’s M.F.K. Fisher Award for Distinguished Writing and his novel The Good Life received the Prix Littéraire at the Deauville Film Festival in 2007. He lives in Manhattan and Bridgehampton, New York.
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Read an Excerpt

The Madonna of Turkey Season

It came to seem like our own special Thanksgiving tradition-one of us inevitably behaving very badly. The role was passed around the table from year to year like some kind of ceremonial torch, or a seasonal virus: the weeping and gnashing of teeth, the breaking of glass, the hurling of accusations, the final nosedive into the mashed potatoes or the shag carpet. Sometimes it even fell to our guests-friends, girlfriends, wives-the disease apparently communicable. We were three boys who'd lost their mother-four if you counted Dad, five if you counted Brian's best friend, Foster Creel, who'd lost his own mother about the same time we did and always spent Thanksgiving with us-and for many years there had been no one to tell us not to pour that pivotal seventh drink, not to chew with our mouths open, not to say fuck at the dinner table.

We kept bringing other women to the table to try to fill the hole, but they were never able to impose peace for long. Sometimes they were catalysts, and occasionally they even initiated the hostilities-perhaps their way of trying to fit in. My father never brought another woman to the table, though many tried to invite themselves, and our young girlfriends remarked on how handsome he was and what a waste it was. “I had my great love, and how could I settle for anything less?” he'd say as he poured himself another Smirnoff and the neighbor widows and divorcées dashed themselves against the windowpanes like birds.

Sometimes, although not always, the mayhem boiled up again at Christmas, in the sacramental presence of yet another turkey carcass, with a new brother or guest in the role of incendiary device, though memories of the most recent Thanksgiving were often enough to spare us the spectacle for another eleven months. I suppose we all had a lot to be thankful for, socioeconomically speaking, but for some reason we chose to dwell instead on our grievances. How come you went to Aidan's high school play and not mine? How could you have fucked Karen Watley when you knew I was in love with her?

We would arrive Tuesday night from prep school or college, or on Wednesday night from New York, where we were working at a bank while writing a play, or from Vermont, where we were building a log cabin with our roommate from Middlebury before heading up to Stowe at first snow for a season of ski bumming. Dad would take the latter part of the week off, until he retired, which was when things really became dangerous. The riotous foliage that briefly enflamed the chaste New England hills was long gone, leaving the monochromatic landscape of winter: the gray stone walls of the early settlers, the silver trunks of the maples, the white columns of birch.

Manly hugs were exchanged at the kitchen door. Cocktails were offered and accepted. Girlfriends and roommates were introduced. The year of the big snow, footwear was scraped on the blade of the cast-iron boot cleaner outside the door. Dad was particularly pleased with this implement, and always pointed it out to guests, not because he was particularly fastidious about mud and snow, but because it seemed to signify all the supposed charm and tradition of old New England (as opposed to, say, its intolerance of immigrants and its burning of young girls at the stake), although he'd bought this particular boot scraper once upon a time at the local True Value hardware store. But somehow Dad had convinced himself that it had been planted here by the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in between skirmishes with the Wampanoags and the Mohicans. He liked to think of himself as an old Yankee, despite the fact that when his grandfathers arrived in Boston, the windows were full of NO IRISH NEED APPLY signs and they weren't likely to be invited to scrape their boots at anybody's front door. A century and a half later, though, we lived in a big white house with green shutters, which Dad inevitably described as “Colonial,” though it was built in the 1920s to resemble something a hundred years older.

Most of the girls we brought-a cavalcade of blondes-were judged by their resemblance to our mother, except when it seemed, as was the case a couple of times with Brian, they'd been deliberately chosen for their controversial darkness. Each of us could see how his brother's girlfriend was a pale imitation of Mom and our own were one-offs who shared some of her best qualities. The girls, for their part, must have been a little daunted at first to discover the patterns of traits they'd cherished as unique. As different as we were, we were all recognizably alike, with the same unruly hair, the same heavy-browed, smiley eyes and all our invisible resemblances, born and bred. Brian, the eldest, kept things lively by bringing a different girl every year; we called him “the Kennedy of the family.” The rest of us took after Dad, who liked to say that Mom was his only true love. Mike had been with Jennifer since his freshman year at Colby, and Aidan met his future wife, Alana, before he was twenty. Actually, Brian showed up two years in a row with Janis, whom he eventually married, much to our and then his own chagrin. The second time, she threw the entire uncarved turkey at Brian's head, a scene that eventually showed up in his second play. Another year, he and Foster nearly came to blows at the table when it came out that they'd lately been sleeping with the same girl. It took two of us to restrain Brian.

Brian's personal life, with all its chaos, Sturm und Drang, was the workshop version of his professional life, a laboratory for drama. And of course he wrote about us. Mike said at the time that the phrase “thinly disguised” was too chubby by half to describe Brian's relation to his source material. His first play revolved around the death of a mother from cancer. There seemed to be a number of those that particular season, but his was the most successful. We all went down to the opening night at the New York Theatre Workshop. The play was directed by Foster, who'd been his best friend ever since Choate, and had gone with him to Yale Drama. We sat there, stunned in the aftermath, as the applause thundered around us. It was hard to know how to react. In the play, Brian seemed to be making a special claim for himself with regard to our mother, in that the character who was obviously him had been more loved and more devastated than the others.

Then there was the question of his portrayal of the rest of us. On the one hand, as brothers we wanted to say, Hey, that's not me, and on the other, But wait a minute; that is me. He'd put us in an untenable position. Brian was a great sophist, and if you complained about the parallels between his life and art, he would start declaiming about the autobiographical basis of Long Day's Journey into Night or point out that “your” character had gone to Deerfield, when you'd actually gone to Hotchkiss. And if you complained about inaccuracies-denied that you'd ever, for example, had carnal relations with the family dog-he would cite poetic license or remind you that you'd been banging on a moment before about resemblances and that this clearly demonstrated the fictionality of his masterpiece.
At first, it was hard to tell how Dad felt about it. He put on a brave face and went over to Phoebe's, the bar down the block, to celebrate with Brian and the cast. He seemed to be in shock. But later, in the cab back to the hotel, and in the bar there, he kept asking us, over and over again, some variant of the question “Was I such a bad father?” In truth, he didn't come off all that badly, but we all had a hard time not viewing the play as a flawed family memoir. He also cornered Foster, our unofficial fourth brother, whom for years Dad had consulted as a kind of emotional translator in his efforts to understand Brian.

“Every artist interprets the world through the prism of his own narcissism,”

Foster told him that night. “He doesn't think you're a bad father. He forgot about you the day he started writing the play. All the characters in the play, even the ones who look and sound like you, are Brian, or else they're foils for Brian.” I don't think my father knew whether to be reassured or worried by this. Of course, he'd long known Brian was massively self-absorbed, prone to exaggeration and outright mendacity. But he seemed pleased with the judgment, repeated to us all many times later, that Brian was an artist. At last, he seemed to feel, there was an explanation for his temperament, and his deviations from what my father considered proper behavior: the drugs, the senseless prevarications, the childhood interest in poetry. For Dad, Foster's assessment counted as much as subsequent accolades in the Times and elsewhere.

That year, Brian brought Cassie Haynes, the actress, who played his former girlfriend Rita Cosovich in the play, although of course he denied that the character was based on Rita, and we all wondered if Rita would, on balance, be more offended by the substance of her portrait or flattered by its appearance, Cassie being a babe of the first order. She caused a bit of a sensation around the neighborhood that Thanksgiving, husbands coming from three streets down to ask after the leaf blower they thought they might possibly have lent to Dad earlier in the fall. When we heard she was coming, we all thought, Great, just what we need, a prima donna actress, though we couldn't help liking her, and hoping she would come back during bathing suit season.

Brian's play gave us something to fight about at the Thanksgiving board for years to come, beginning that first November after the opening, when the wounds were still fresh. Mike, the middle brother, was the first to take up the cause after the cocktail hour had been prolonged due to some miscalculation about the turkey. Mike's fiancée, Jennifer, had volunteered to cook the bird that year, and while she would later become our chief and favorite cook, this was her first attempt at a turkey, and rather than relying on Mom's old copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, she'd insisted on adapting a chicken recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. When Dad attempted to carve the turkey the first time, the legs were still pink and raw and the bird was slammed back in the oven, giving us all another jolly hour and a half to deplete the bar. We might have given Jennifer less grief if she hadn't initially tried to defend herself, insisting that the French preferred their birds rare and implying that a thoroughly cooked bird was unsophisticated. When we finally sat down to eat, Brian said grace without letting her off the hook: “Notre père, qui aime la volaille crue, que ton nom soit sanctifié-”

Mike interrupted him, asking how he'd like a well-done drumstick up the ass. Dad demanded a truce, and for several minutes peace prevailed, until Dad started to talk about Mom in that maudlin way of his, a recitation that always relied heavily on the concept of her sainthood. Usually we all collaborated in changing the subject and leading him out of this quagmire of grieving nostalgia, but now Mike wanted to open the subject for debate.

“She didn't deserve to suffer,” Dad was saying.

“Apparently, the person who suffered the most was Brian,” Mike said.

“At least that's the impression I got from the play. I mean, sure, Mom was dying of cancer and all, but I never realized it hurt Brian so much to administer her shots the one night that he actually managed to sit up with her. Maybe I'm a philistine, but it seemed to me like the point was the one who really suffered wasn't Mom, it was Brian.”

“Okay, okay,” Brian said. “I'm sorry I said grace in French.”

“That's not really the point,” Mike said.

“Oh, but I think it is.”

“I don't blame you for trying to change the subject, you self-centered prick. But you know what? We all grew up in the same house. And we all saw the play.”

“Now, boys,” Dad said.

“You, of all people, know what I'm talking about,” Mike said, pointing a fork at our father. “Let's be honest. You were freaked-out by the play.”

Dad didn't want to go down this road. “I had a few . . . concerns.”
“Don't pussy out, Dad. We've talked about this, for Christ's sake. Why are we all so worried about Brian's feelings? It's not like he lost any sleep worrying about ours.”

“Actually,” Cassie said, “I happen to know he was very worried about your feelings. I think Foster will agree with me.”
“It's not like he shows it,” Mike said.

“I think it's wonderful how women attribute lofty ideals and fine feelings to us,” Foster said. “But, I'm sorry, if Brian had spent much time worrying about your feelings, it wouldn't have been much of a fucking play.”

This quip might have defused the situation, but Mike, like a giant freighter loaded with grievances, was unable to change course. Brian parried his continuing assault with glib little irrelevancies until Mike eventually stormed out of the room, spilling red wine all over the Irish linen tablecloth, but the rest of us considered ourselves fortunate that it wasn't blood. Mike had the fiercest temper in the family, and he was three inches taller and thirty pounds heavier than his elder brother.

The whole exchange was pretty representative. While Brian had always charmed and finessed and fibbed his way through life, Mike had a fierce stubborn honesty and a big hardwood chip on his shoulder, which was in some measure a reflection of his belief that Brian had already claimed the upper bunk bed of life before he came along and had a chance to choose for himself. If Brian were assailing a castle, he would try to sneak in the back door by seducing the scullery maid; Mike would butt his head against the portcullis until it or he gave way. Mike's youthful transgressions weren't necessarily more numerous or egregious, but, unlike Brian, he was inevitably caught and held accountable, in part because he considered it dishonest to hide them. Brian never let the facts compromise his objective, and he seemed almost allergic to them. When he got caught with marijuana, he had an elaborate, if hackneyed, story about how he was holding it for a friend. But when Mike decided to grow it, he did so out in the open, planting rows between the corn and tomatoes in the vegetable garden, until someone finally told our mother, who'd been giving tours of the garden, the true identity of the mystery herb. Back then, none of us could have predicted that Mike would eventually be the one to follow our father to business school and General Electric, that he'd be diplomatic enough to negotiate the hazards of corporate culture. His reformation owed a lot to Jennifer, starting that first year at Colby. It took us a long time to learn to love her-my father was furious over her sophomore art-class critique of our parish church-but there was no denying her anodyne effect on Mike.

The year before Mike nearly throttled Brian, it was Aidan's turn. He was the baby of the family, which seemed to be his complaint-that we treated him as such. That we didn't give him enough respect. The specific catalyst, this Thanksgiving, was obscure. That he was drunk in the manner unique to inexperienced drinkers-he was a senior at Hotchkiss at the time-didn't especially help his case, and sensing this, he became even more frustrated and strident.

“Just because I'm younger . . . it doesn't give you guys the right to treat me like I'm a kid. Mom wouldn't have let you. If she was here, she'd tell you.”

“If she were here,” Brian said.

“That's exactly what I mean. Treating me like a friggin' baby.”

We all found it cute that even in his cups, Aidan had used the euphemism rather than the Anglo-Saxonism itself. He wasn't yet ready to cuss in front of Dad. Brian and Mike started sniggering, which further infuriated Aidan, who pounded his fist down on his plate, breaking it in half and cutting his hand on his steak knife, which had been freshly sharpened by Dad that morning. We all agreed that Jennifer was the only one sober enough to drive to the emergency room.

The touch-football games preceding dinner were sometimes an outlet for aggression that might otherwise have overflowed at the table, but it occasionally spilled over, as when Brian accused Mike of unnecessary roughness on the field that afternoon. At Christmas, the sport was hockey, assuming that the pond was sufficiently frozen. Our mother, who believed that exercise and fresh air were essential ingredients of the good life, had inaugurated both of these activities.

We really should have just canceled Thanksgiving the year the movie came out. Anyone could have predicted disaster. Brian spent more than three years working on the screenplay, on his own at first and eventually in collaboration with the director. (His second play, about preppy young bohemians in TriBeCa, had opened to mixed reviews and closed after an eight-week run.) Somewhere in the screenwriting process, the story had acquired a new complication, when the dying mother confides in her sensitive son about her affair with his father's best friend.

In fact, Dad's best friend lived in San Francisco, as Brian was quick to point out later, but still, it made us wonder. Mom had been popular with most of the men in our parents' circle of friends, and one husband, Tom Fleishman, had always seemed almost comically smitten. Now we started to question if it was really a joke, the way Fleishman had always mooned around Mom, or whether Brian had really been the recipient of some deathbed confession. Everyone in town had the same question, including Katy Fleishman, who called Dad in a fury after seeing the movie in September, demanding to know what he knew, and it soon became the talk of the country club. The play had been a distant rumor, but the movie was right there next door to the Pathmark store, in the Regal Cinema multiplex, which had replaced the old downtown theaters where we'd watched Jaws and Summer of '42. And it was more successful than some might have hoped, buoyed by the performance of Maureen Firth as the wife and mother. The movie played at the Regal for seven weeks. Everyone we knew went to see it.

Brian had warned us, to some extent. On the one hand, he assured us, his vision hadn't been compromised. On the other hand, accommodations had been made, nuances flattened, whispers amplified, subtexts excavated with a backhoe and laid bare. In the play there was a rumor of infatuation.

None of us, Foster excepted, had been invited to the premiere in L.A., or rather, we'd all received a phone call from Brian, who had mentioned in passing “a big industry ratfuck” and said, “I'm not even sure I'm going myself.”

And none of us knew quite what to say after we'd seen it. Brian wrote Dad a letter, assuring him that the alleged affair was strictly a Hollywood plot device and had nothing to do with reality. Dad called Foster in New York and was repeatedly reassured. Mike called Brian, threatening to kick his ass, and while the conversation was hardly conclusive, Brian swore that the affair was just a sensationalistic fiction, and it seemed as if maybe we had all had our say by the time Thanksgiving had come around. We were hoping against hope that the issue would just go away; in an unprecedented move, we even decided to water down the vodka just to keep Dad from getting too maudlin.

And for the first time since any of us could remember, it looked as if we might pass a relatively peaceful Thanksgiving, having made it all the way to the pumpkin pie without major fireworks. But despite the watered vodka, we could see Dad's eyes glazing over with melancholy reminiscence.

“I must have let her down somehow,” he said during a lull in the discussion of the Patriots' season.

All of us were smart enough to pretend we hadn't heard this remark, but Aidan's fiancée was still new to the family.

“Let whom down, Mr. C.?”

“Carolyn. I must've let her down. She must have needed something I couldn't give her.”

“But why would you think that?” Jennifer asked.

“Oh, for Christ's sake,” Mike said, throwing his napkin down on the table. “Look at what you've done, Brian. Now he actually believes it.”

“Dad,” Brian said, “I told you: It never happened. It's fiction.”

“It's slander,” Mike said. “I still can't understand why the hell you'd drag our mother's name into the gutter like that.”

“It's not our mother. It's not her name. It's a character in a movie.”

“A character based on our mother.”

“I just must have failed her,” Dad said, oblivious to the conversation around him.

“Dad, listen to me. It never happened. I'm sorry. It's my fault. I shouldn't have written what I wrote. It was the director's idea, a cheap plot device. It isn't true.”

“I always thought it was harmless,” Dad said. “They used to talk at parties, and I knew they had things in common. Your mother had so many interests, art and theater, and I couldn't really talk to her about those things. I knew she and Tom talked. But I thought that's all it was.”

“That is all it was,” Brian said. “At least so far as I know.”

“I know she told you things,” he said to Brian. “Things she couldn't tell me.”

“Not that, Dad. She never told me anything like that.”

“After my operation,” he said, “I was afraid. I was afraid of physical, you know, exertion.”

“Dad, that's enough.”

“Are you happy with yourself?” Mike asked as the tears rolled down our father's cheeks.

“Well, who's for a smoke outside?” Foster said, rising from the table. Although Dad was a lifelong smoker, our mother had, toward the end of her life, insisted that all smoking be done outdoors, a rule that Dad himself continued to observe and enforce after she was gone.
A half hour after we put Dad to bed, Mike tackled Brian and got him in a headlock, choking him and rubbing his face in the snow. “Tell the truth, goddamn it. What did she tell you? Is it true?”

“I told you: It's not true. She never told me anything.”

But nothing could ever quite dispel the doubt for us. Dad might have been forgiven for lying low, but he was determined to show himself on the local holiday party circuit. A week before Christmas, after three cocktail parties, he crashed his Mustang into an elm tree half a mile from the house.

Mike, who was working in Schenectady, was the first to arrive at the hospital. Dad was in intensive care. Aidan drove over from Amherst, arriving shortly before midnight. Brian and Foster arrived from New York just as the sun was rising and Dad was declared stable. We all spent the day at the hospital and that night traded shifts in the waiting room. Dad looked gruesome when we finally got to see him, his face bruised and puffy and green where it wasn't bandaged, his leg in traction. He was pretty doped up. “Don't tell your mother,” he said when he saw us. “I don't want her to worry.”

The doctor, who'd tended our mother in her final days, said, “It's the Demerol.”

“We could all use some of that,” Foster said.

We moved between the hospital and the house for the next ten days, keeping ourselves busy with Christmas preparations. We found a perfectly shaped blue spruce tree in the woods at the edge of the lake and we retrieved the ornaments from the attic in the old boxes from England's department store, closed years before, with Mom's block letters fading on the cardboard: CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, CHRISTMAS ANGELS, CHRISTMAS BULBS. We avoided talking about what had happened or why, concentrating instead on the practical details.

The lake had frozen early that year. After lunch on Christmas Eve, we gathered up our gear, called Ricky and Ted Quinlan next door, and trudged down for the annual hockey game. It was Foster, Ted and Aidan against Brian, Ricky and Mike. Brian's team scored two quick goals. Aidan, who had the fiercest competitive streak of any of us, started to get physical. First he hooked Brian's skate and tripped him; then he body-checked him into the rocks of the causeway. Brian returned the favor the next time he came down the ice with the puck, knocking Aidan off into the bulrushes. He came out swinging, and caught Brian in the helmet with his stick. Then he threw him down and knelt on top of him, ripping off his helmet and punching his face. By the time we pulled him off, there was blood everywhere and one of Brian's teeth was protruding through his lip. “You bastard,” Aidan sobbed. “You selfish bastard.” Brian turned away and limped up the hill, leaving a trail of blood on the ice. When we got back up to the house, Brian was gone.

Dad came home on New Year's Day. Aidan took winter term off from school to be with him, and Mike came over from Schenectady on the weekends. Brian called from New York to check in. Neither the fight on the ice nor his sudden departure was ever discussed again. From time to time, in his cups, Dad would ask Brian about our mother, and he would always insist that both the affair and the confession were completely fictional.

Dad once confronted Tom Fleishman at the country club and he, too, denied it. But Dad could never put the question out of his mind, any more than he could walk without a cane.

Mike and Jennifer had three boys, and he became the youngest vice president ever at GE. Aidan spent a year with the U.S. ski team before marrying Alana and going back to Hotchkiss to teach. Foster, one of the most respected directors in New York, recently married Cassie Haynes, the actress who first appeared at our house as Brian's date. We go down to see his plays from time to time.

Brian moved to Los Angeles a few weeks after Aidan busted his lip. He wrote a TV pilot based on his second play, and became a producer when Showtime developed the series. We can't help feeling relieved that he's not writing about the family, and Dad watches the show every week. Brian is very well paid for his efforts and has been dating a series of extremely pretty actresses. But it also feels somehow like a cheat, a big fucking letdown. After all these years of having to put up with the idea of Brian as a great genius, of knowing that our mother believed in his special destiny, we feel like the least he could do would be to justify her favor and her hopes. Nothing short of greatness could justify the doubt he cast on her memory. Foster believes that he's doing penance and that he'll go back to his real work someday.

In the meantime, we haven't all been together at Thanksgiving since Dad's accident. Now, when the leaves turn red and yellow and the grass turns white with morning frost, we feel the loss all over again. It's like we were a goddess cult that gathered once a year and now our faith has wavered. It's not that we couldn't forgive her anything. But our simple certainties have been shaken. Although we will always be Catholics, we long ago gave up on the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. We were a coven of Mariolatry, devoted to the Virgin. Brian believed in art, but lately he seems to have lost the faith. We find it hard to believe in anything we can't see or explain according to the immutable laws imbued in science class. We always believed in you, Mother, more than anything, but we never for a moment thought you were human.

2007

Excerpted from HOW IT ENDED by Jay McInerney Copyright © 2009. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2014

    To Jaysoar's Story

    I love the details! I still can't explain how amazing this is. You have an astonishing amount of Warrior "edge" in your writing that I have never before. Three words: I love it!
    -Daisypelt

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    Apprentice's Den

    EndClan

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2014

    Great!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2014

    Stormy

    Awesome!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2014

    Sunsetsky

    This is one of the best fanfics ever!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2014

    Jaysoar's Story ~ Chapter 5

    Jaypaw gazed at him,"Just because someone's soul is inside of you, dosn't make you less special! You are Greypaw, not Greyfeather, and you always will be," the morning sun was beginning to rise over the hills and mountains, baking the earth with it's warm raise,"I'm on Dawn Patrol," Greypaw mewed suddenly,"I had better get back. You might want to come back too, Jaypaw," Jaypaw nodded, hoping he took her words into consideration. The two headed back to camp, the sun shining through the trees dappling their pelts with gold,"That was a nice talk," mewed Jaypaw, her blue gaze warm. Greypaw nodded, and said nothing. They reached camp just as Greypaw's Dawn Patrol was about to leave. Greypaw joimed them,"Bye!" Jaypaw called, thpugh there was no response. She sighed, glancing around to see if Acornfur was awake yet. He was not, so Jaypaw padded back to the apprentices den. Duskpaw was gone, probably on Dawn Patrol, but Pinepaw and Featherpaw were in their nests. Jaypaw padded over,"Hi guys!" Featherpaw smiled,"I jut saw Acornfur get out of his nest, you might want to see what he's up to," Jaypaw npdded, and padded into the clearing. Sure enough, Acornfur was there waiting,"Good morning, Jaypaw," Jaypaw smiled,"What are we going to do today?" Acornfur flicked his tail, looking sort of sorry,"Well, I wanted to spend some time with my kits, Doekit and Lilykit. Berrypelt offered to be your step in mentor for a bit, is that okay?" Japaw nodded, glancing at Berrypelt. The pale browm senior warrior was known to be strict, and somtimes mean,"Okay," Jaypaw hesitantlyadded over to Berrypelt. The brown she-cat looked annoyed,"It's about time!" Jaypaw was about to retort, but she knew better,"Sorry," she managed to mew. Berrypelt sighed,"So, what was the last thing Acornfur tought you?" Jaypaw thought for a moment, the memories of her first outing as an apprentice zooming back to her,"Well, he gave me a tour of the territory," Berrypelt nodded, her amber gaze still stern,"Today we're going to hunt. Follow me, we're going to Fallen Tree," Jaypaw followed her step in mentor, a bit nervous. Berrypelt and Jaypaw soon arrived. Berrypelt started to explain the hunters crouch,"Keep your paws light, and your weight on your haunches for an extra powerful jump," she continued,"Your tail should be still, no more than a mouse length off the ground, and your belly fur should just be brushing the ground," Berrypelt dropped into a perfect hunters crouch,"Now you try," she mewed gesturing with her tail. Jaypaw nodded, and hesitantly displayed her hunters crouch. She almost had in perfect, though her weight was spread out evenly across her body. Berrypelt stepped in,"Shift your weight to your haunches, not spread evenly," she nosed Jaypaw gently. Jaypaw noticed that she had been wrong about Berrypelt! She wasn't strict or mean! That was just a myth among apprentices. She sighed to herself, feeling her weight shift. Berrypelt purred,"Perfect! Now try stalking forward. Keep your pawsteps smooth and stealthy, and remember, don't swish your tail," Jaypaw stalked forward, and if her tail did swish, she stopped and corrected herself. After a few perfect hunter's crouches, Jaypaw was ready to catch prey. Berrypelt insticted,"Go for that mouse in the ferns over there," she indicated with her tail,"remember what I've taught you," Jaypaw nodded, silently creeping towards the clump of ferns. Her hunter's crouch was flawless, keeping her hidden... ~Liv

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Solid Collection from an Underappreciated Author

    McInerney has a rare gift to make the unlikeable impossible not to root for in the end. Although I wouldn't personally befriend a lot of these characters, the author is so gifted that I can't help but want them to succeed or remove themselves from the precarious positions they find themselves in from time to time - you just feel like they deserve another chance and that they won't waste it (even though they probably will).

    This collection spans his entire career and while some of the stories seem to drag or cover the same ground, it is still a solid collection. I also found it interesting to see his writing progress and some of these stories evolve into longer (and better) pieces in other forms. I recommend this to those who love short stories and those who like McInerney. If neither if these applies, read "Bright Lights, Big City" or "The Good Life" instead and explore this later.

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  • Posted April 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A summary of the twelve new stories

    Jay McInerney writes about American society, mostly situated in the South. To a certain degree it reads like the gossip columns in a newspaper.
    When you read this collection of twelve short stories, you're under the impression that McInerney has a pessimistic outlook on marriage.
    He writes about several aspects of American social life. Although Americans banished aristocracy long before the Revolution, wealthy families - mostly in the South - have the pretensions and a way of social life similar to European nobility. "The Debutante's Return" and "The Last Bachelor" are a good example of that.

    I would like to introduce the new short stories one by one.

    "Sleeping With Pigs"

    A married couple - belonging to the High Society - divide their time between New-York City and a farm in Tennessee. The wife likes to sleep with a pig between her and her husband.

    " I Love You, Honey."

    A man is unfaithful to his wife. She takes revenge on him in a sophisticated but cruel way.

    "The Madonna Of Turkey Season "

    Four brothers lost their parents and each year at Thanksgivings Day, they invite all kinds of women at the table: girlfriends and acquaintances or just a girl that happened to be in the neighborhood.

    "Everything's Lost"

    Sabrina wants to throw a surprise party for her boyfriend. But she's afraid that she won't be able to keep it a secret, now that he suddenly decides to stay at home most of the time.

    "Invisible Fences."

    A man wakes up around one o'clock in the morning. He goes to the kitchen for a beer and a cigarette. He hears strange noises coming from the living room; his wife lies in the arms of another man.

    "The March"

    During a march against war with Iraq, two old lovers meet each other. After a while the peaceful march gradually turns into violence.

    "Summary Judgement."

    A gossip-like story about very wealthy Americans and European aristocracy.

    "The Waiter"

    America and Europe Again.

    "Penelope On The Pond"

    The mistress of a man who's running for President is temporarily tucked away in a house near a pond. He promises that when everything is back to normal, he will return to her. How long will she have to wait?

    "Putting Daisy Down"

    The oldest word: love
    The oldest crime: adultery
    By the way, Daisy is the name of a cat.

    "The Debutante's Return"

    Present and past of a wealthy Southern family.

    "The Last Of The Bachelors"

    A marriage in the South. It's a description of social life rather than a story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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