Tag Archives: Jill Eisenstadt

Behind the ‘Literary Brat Pack’ Label

At Harper’s Bazaar, Jason Diamond offers a look back at the “literary brat pack”–Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis, Tama Janowitz and a group of other writers in the 1980s as famous for their coke-fueled late nights at the Odeon as they were for publishing celebrated novels before the age of thirty. In his research and conversations with some of the authors, Diamond learns that the group’s label was to some degree just that–a catchall that gave the false illusion that they were part of a cohesive movement, and all tight with one another.

McInerney and Ellis were friends whose books you could conceivably connect because of their themes and flat tones. Janowitz, for all intents and purposes, was thrown into the brat pack mix because it was convenient. “I really can count on one hand the number of dinners I actually had with her,” Ellis recalls of Janowitz. They weren’t friends, but the newspapers and magazines made it seem like they were. The new guard, seemingly looking for media attention, not being very writerly. “I didn’t know those guys,” Janowitz says echoing Ellis. “We would bump into each other at various things we had been invited to, but it was like creating a movement, as if somehow we had been hanging out together beforehand.”

Yet when her 1986 short story collection, Slaves of New York, was published, McInerney, the reigning king of downtown fiction, was tasked with reviewing the book. “As a writer, it is possible to be too hip,” he wrote in a lukewarm review. The next day, Janowitz was featured on the cover of New York, standing in a meat locker and looking like a goth queen, in a black dress with skull earrings. “A female Jay McInerney?” reads the caption in a photo for the accompanying story.

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