Literature: Time off for bad behaviour

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I hope, for Jay McInerney's sake, that his new comic novel, Model Behaviour, is not as autobiographical as it seems. This satirical sideswipe at the vapid posings and pretensions of New York's coke-snorting beau monde bears more than a few traces of McInerney's own life as a celebrity-author-about-town.

Years of running with the style-obsessed footsoldiers of the glitterati have left the author of Bright Lights, Big City uniquely positioned to give the "inside dope" on the "narcissistic professions". Twice married to models himself, a feted journalist, a flash party-goer and a gossip-column regular, McInerney could be the successful older brother of Connor McKnight and Jeremy Green, the protagonists of Model Behaviour.

Model Behaviour prods and pokes at the "powder fairies" (make-up artists) and "book assassins" (literary critics), models and actors, fashion-house moguls and interior designers, name-droppers and dropped-names, who drink, bitch and shag their way from charity gala to celebrity-stuffed restaurant. In this world, appearance is destiny, as one magazine editor clocks it: "It's not necessarily whether you win or lose, darling; it's how you look while you're playing the game."

In tow to a small-time model, Philomena Briggs, Connor McKnight is a 32-year-old hack who writes celebrity interviews for a women's glossy mag. To save time, he programs his computer with macro strokes for favourite cliches, such as "shuns the Hollywood limelight in favour of spending quality time with his family at his sprawling ranch outside of Livingston, Montana" (CTRL, Mont), or "Actually, I've always been really insecure about my looks. I definitely don't think of myself as a sex symbol" (SHIFT, What, me sexy?).

You can deduce for yourself how much of this chronicle of "pointless glamour" is fiction by checking out McInerney when he reads at the Barbican on Wednesday.

`Model Behaviour' is published by Bloomsbury, pounds 14.99

Jay McInerney, Pit Theatre, Barbican, Silk St, EC2 (0171-638 8891) Wed 5 Aug, 7.45pm, pounds 6/pounds 4.50 concs