Jay McInerney: 5 Books in My Life
Dylan Thomas Made Me Want to Be a Writer
Jay McInerney’s latest novel, Bright, Precious Days, is available now from Knopf.
What was the first book you fell in love with?
The first novels I fell in love with were White Fang and The Call of the Wild, but the first book that made me want to be a writer was the Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas. I read “Fern Hill” in an anthology in eighth grade English class and I was knocked out by the musicality of Thomas’s language—and probably by the extravagance of the sentiment. It was the first time I realized that language was more than a transparent medium for conveying information and telling stories; in Thomas, language is almost an end in itself. I devoured all of Thomas and I eventually moved on to other poets before finally moving toward prose fiction under the influence of James Joyce and others.
Name a classic you feel guilty about never having read?
I’ve never read Remembrance of Things Past, or In Search of Lost Time, or whatever it’s called. There, I said it.
What’s the book you reread the most?
I’ve probably reread The Great Gatsby more than any other novel. I reread it in part because I find the prose—with it’s bright epigrams and lyrical interludes—intoxicating, and in part to see if I can figure out how it works.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Gatsby aside, I wish I’d written Ulysses. Almost a hundred years later it still seems to have anticipated everything that’s come since.
What’s the new book you’re most looking forward to?
I’m definitely looking forward to Jonathan Safran Foer’s new novel, Here I Am.