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Former Nashville novelist Jay McInerney has just released a new book, but that’s not why he’s back in the news

May 25, 2012 It’s tempting to begin every update on novelist Jay McInerney—who’s most famous for his 1980s debut novel, Bright Lights, Big City, though he’s written seven other books since—with the words, “Jay McInerney is back in the news this week….” But, really, when has Jay McInerney not been in the news?

As Chapter 16‘s Ed Tarkington noted in his review of How it Ended: New & Collected Stories, “Jay McInerney’s reputation as a celebrated citizen of the Land of the Beautiful Damned has, over the course of his career, frequently obscured the fact that he is a gifted stylist and storyteller with an acute sense of place and an admirable empathy for even the most outwardly despicable characters.” In fact, Tarkington continues, “Jay McInerney is a genuine literary artist whose work adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.”

But back for a minute to the Land of the Beautiful Damned and those outwardly despicable characters: McInerney actually has a new book out this month—The Juice: Vinous Veritas—but most of the media attention has focused on the role he once played in the life of Rielle Hunter, now known primarily as the woman who bore John Edwards a child, an event that derailed his 2008 presidential campaign and ended his marriage. Back in the ’80s, however, Hunter was Jay McInerney’s girlfriend—the protagonist of his novel, Story of My Life, is based on Hunter—so naturally reporters want to know what he thinks of the trial unfolding in North Carolina that may send Edwards to jail. McInerney doesn’t have much to say on that subject, however: “I’m concerned for her,” he said in a recent interview with CBS. “I hope she comes out of this and has a great life.”

(McInerney was a bit less gallant about his ex in an interview with the New York Observer: “It’s probably a good thing the defense rested without calling her to the stand.”)

More literarily, McInerney’s short story, “Solace,” has just been released as the first Booktrack ebook, a new award-winning technology in which the story is enhanced with sound effects—ambient background music that reinforces the tone of the scene and adjusts according to the speed of the reader. It finally took a British newspaper, The Guardian, to send a reporter to talk with McInerney about his new book, although even the Brit spends eight full paragraphs on McInerney’s hedonism before getting to his actual writing. Fortunately, the New York Daily News has a list of some of the best passages. Here’s one: “This is a Chardonnay unplugged and stripped down to its essence, like Eric Clapton’s acoustic version of ‘Layla.'” Read the rest here.