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What Jay McInerney Can’t Live Without

Photo: David Howell

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch or the Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked Bright Lights, Big City author and Wine Reads editor Jay McInerney about the Champagne, dress shirts, and portable exercise equipment he can’t live without.

Oh, God, I mean, there are so many good Champagnes out there. I’m particularly fond these days of Pierre Péters — the top cuvée is called Chétillons. The most interesting Champagnes are made by small growers, I think, even more than the big houses, and honestly, I could list 10 or 15 different Champagnes I like. I drink Champagne almost every day. For me, it’s my aperitif instead of a cocktail. And except for red meat, it goes with almost anything. It’s amazing with sushi. It’s my go-to at Japanese restaurants.

Domaine Dujac is a family-run winery. The founder Jacques Seysses, married an American girl from San Francisco, and their son Jeremy also married an American girl in California. They make beautiful wines, though I think they’re becoming a little too well-known. I think DJ Khaled recently tweeted something about them, which may be the beginning of the end. They do make a great burgundy though, which is the most subtle and complex and geekiest wine. There’s endless variations of terroir, and supposedly a really good taster will be able to tell a wine from one plot from another grown 50 yards away. It’s the ultimate region for wine geekery, but I think also the most rewarding. It’s also pure hedonism.

Gatsby is something I read at least every couple of years. I read it just to sort of marvel at the language and the prose, which is so epigrammatic, so utterly economical and lyrical at the same time. It’s also as close as we have to a summary of the American dream in tragic form. I love turning to it because I’m always kind of delighted even though I’ve read it a bunch of times. It’s a fairly short book but somehow seems inexhaustible.

Fitzgerald and Hemingway are like the Lennon and McCartney of American letters — or maybe they’re the Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I also think of the cynicism of Sun Also Rises as a bit of an antidote to the romanticism of The Great Gatsby. This was Hemingway’s most perfect book, I think. It’s wonderful to revisit; it’s escapism where everyone is young and good-looking and footloose and drunk. As bad as the hangovers might have been, you can’t help wishing you were there that week in Spain.

TRX is like a portable gym. My trainer introduced it to me years ago, and it’s a one-and-a-half pound of portable fitness equipment, which, if you travel as much as I do, is a very good thing. A lot of hotel gyms are pretty shitty, but I think this was supposedly developed by the Navy Seals, and you can attach your cord to a door or a tree or a beam, and it’s such a good workout that just uses your body weight mainly. You can get a pretty thorough strength workout with just this one little set of straps.

The kettlebell isn’t really quite so portable, although I’ve been known to travel with a single kettlebell, which drives my wife absolutely insane. It was a 24 kilogram one [Editor’s note: about 53 pounds] , and the airlines really don’t like it because that’s pretty heavy. But thanks to my trainer Ed Cashin in East Hampton, I’ve learned that if you have a TRX and Kettlebell you can be fit for life. You really don’t need much else. I became a bit of a strength-training fanatic 10 to 12 years ago. I find it’s the perfect antidote to my excesses. See the first two items on my list above. I’m a very serious eater, and I like to drink, so I need to moderate it.

Love Cifonelli. It’s a third- or fourth-generation Italian tailoring family that’s been based in Paris since before the war, which is where I tend to see them. I think they just make an incredibly suit and jacket, and they have for a long time. Some of the best-dressed guys I know turned me on to Cifonelli, so I find them to be an excellent urban uniform. A good dark Cifonelli suit and nice white shirt will get you pretty much anywhere in this city.

My favorite shirts are by Attolini out of Naples. They have a store on Madison Avenue, which is amazing if you’re into menswear. It’s a real candy store of a place to visit. Attolini makes great jackets and sweaters and outerwear, too, but my favorites are the shirts, which are almost better than custom, somehow, because I just like the styling and the collars on them. They’re handmade, too. I’d say I have about 10 or 12 right now (maybe more), but they have to be replaced every few years because, of course, eventually they wear out.


I have the Macbook, which is really small — it’s thinner than the average issue of the New Yorker. It’s incredibly basic and weighs less than my TRX and goes everywhere with me. I’ve also left it twice at security at JFK and have somehow managed to retrieve it, thank God. The last time I was in Paris, and I got to my hotel, and I opened the computer and there were all these pictures, and I’d thought, “What the hell? I don’t remember downloading these.” It turned out the computer belonged to the world’s living authority on Frida Kahlo, and she’d traveled to London to arrange the Frida Kahlo show at the Victoria and Albert Museum. So I mailed her the laptop and my assistant managed to recover mine at JFK. That’s the second time I’ve left it at security. They’re getting to know me there. I do back up my computer, but I was worried because there were maybe 15 to 20 pages that weren’t backed up of the memoir I’m writing. My assistant’s saved my ass a couple times.

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