BOOKS: DIM LIGHTS

JAY MCINERNEY'S AMBITIOUS NEW NOVEL COMES UP SHORT

Jay McInerney could have spent the rest of his career rewriting Bright Lights, Big City, a well-observed comic novel that caught a generational updraft and became either The Catcher in the Rye of the '80s or the Trout Fishing in America of the '80s, depending on your estimation (I would come down somewhere in between). His subsequent books didn't stray far from the urban high life, but with his fifth novel McInerney aims to limber up and take on something more ambitious.

The Last of the Savages (Knopf; 271 pages; $24) spans the past three decades and is larded with big...

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