McInerney returns to Russell and Corrine Calloway, the protagonists of his last two novels—call it The Adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Fancy Pants, Volume III: The Cialis Years.
" 'This is lily paste dumpling wrap around foie gras. And this is twenty-four-karat gold leaf,' the waiter [said], dusting each of the dumplings as Russell watched his wife’s expression grow incredulous. 'And this,' he said, sprinkling what looked like bacon bits over Corrine’s plate, 'crushed quail skull.' " It really doesn’t make much difference what it is — the women in this book eat almost nothing. Except for Corrine’s daughter, the precocious Storey Calloway, twin of Jeremy. One of the many things to dislike about Corrine in this, her third incarnation, is that she's so concerned by her 11-year-old daughter’s interest in food. “At breakfast she wants to know what’s for lunch, and at lunch she asks about dinner. And she’s started to watch that damn Food Network.” Finally, thank God, she starts to starve herself like everyone else. Corrine was the moral compass of her set in Brightness Falls (1992). In The Good Life (2006), she found love at a soup kitchen in the ruins of the World Trade Center. Now that love interest is back on the scene, and she resumes her adulterous affair with surprising ease, partly influenced by her truly appalling best friend, Casey. Russell’s career in publishing is a mess, cocaine is back—“it’s not like [it] ever went away,” one character explains—and the “jitney” to the Hamptons is really just a bus with a fancy name. After a long, draggy midsection, the end of this novel kicks into high gear, with a torrent of personal crises, the financial crash, and the Obama election, though a gun pulled out in an early act never goes off. Isn’t that against the rules? So is this dialogue, or at least it should be: “Oh, Russell, is this it? Roses once a year and maybe an obligatory drunken fuck? We’re fifty years old. Where’s the romance?”
Whether you love him or hate him, this novel is just what you’re expecting from McInerney. So he must be doing it on purpose.