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THE LAST OF THE SAVAGES by Jay McInerney

THE LAST OF THE SAVAGES

By Jay McInerney

Pub Date: May 16th, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-42845-3
Publisher: Knopf

 From the hokey title to the sentimental insight of the last line, McInerney's latest yuppie melodrama (Brightness Falls, 1992, etc.) at best recalls the social-climbing novels of John O'Hara. More often, his glittering narrative is bedecked with the baubles of cheap fiction: rich people, raw sex, drugs, booze, and fame. Part of McInerney's problem lies in his narrator, a creepy arriviste who's self-conscious about his failings, but never to the point of actually repudiating his shallow self. Now a middle-aged lawyer at a ``white-shoe firm'' (as he says more often than necessary), Patrick Keane first met his ``legendary'' friend, Will Savage, in 1965, at a New England prep school where the two roomed together. The last in a line of debauched and dysfunctional southerners, Savage displays all the self-assured recklessness of a rich kid who couldn't care less about SATs or fitting in. Rather, since it's the '60s, he cultivates his outlaw pose, reading the Beats, practicing Buddhism, digging the blues, and cruising the black neighborhoods of his native Memphis. Savage takes the fall for one of Patrick's prep school indiscretions, and thereafter Patrick serves as liaison to Will's screwed-up, right-wing family, though he can't prevent Will from marrying his longtime sweetheart, Taleesha Johnson, the niece of a prominent bluesman. Unbowed, Savage becomes a fabulously wealthy and successful record producer. Patrick, meanwhile, with a Park Avenue apartment, a nice wife and two kids, becomes a partner in his law firm and struggles to make sense of his own conflicted sexuality. McInerney's facile reconstructing of history allows Patrick to discover a pre-Bellum Savage family memoir that explains their entire racial history, and, as the years hurtle by, McInerney continues to blunder through time, repeatedly taking pratfalls in passages of oily writing. Fiction for those who wouldn't be caught dead with Collins, Steel, et al. but want the same greasy splendor.