Four years on, writers are no longer shy about working New York’s great tragedy into their fiction. But they’ve almost all failed to do justice to what it felt like for the vast majority of us—those who may not have lost someone at ground zero but were nevertheless shaken to the core, even while forced to acknowledge that life was carrying on. In his new novel, The Good Life, Jay McInerney (a New York contributing editor) explores that post-attack feeling—equal parts grief, stoicism, and morbid humor. His cast is drawn from a small slice of New York life, mostly its power brokers in publishing, movies, and investment banking, all of whom are grappling with the new normal. Several gather at that first awkward book party at Gay and Nan Talese’s, “a somber affair … absent the kind of vicious gossip and social swordplay that usually enlivened such gatherings.” Two lost married souls have a guilty affair, but because they met at ground zero, it’s tinged with the tenderness of grief. Chinese deliverymen still make their rounds, chattering classes chatter about real estate (this time about whether to flee to the suburbs), and luxuries become odd tokens of resilience. “They just stumbled on the wine cellar from Windows,” someone says at the Taleses’. “Not a stick of furniture left, but thousands of bottles survived.”
The Good Life. Knopf. 353 Pages. $25.