August 9, 2008

Rielle Hunter as the Alma Mahler of our Age of Brass

Rielle Hunter, the 44-year-old mother of former VP candidate John Edward's presumed love child, was the inspiration for "Alison Poole," the narrator / main character of Jay McInerney's 1989 third novel Story of My Life.

McInerney's friend Bret Easton Ellis then borrowed "Alison Poole" and did terrible things to her in American Psycho, then had her come back and play a larger role in Glamorama.

The New York Post reports:

Hunter was known as Lisa Druck when McInerney met her at Nell's in 1987. "She's a nice girl," the author told Page Six. "She used to be a real party girl.

"When she wasn't out at nightclubs, she was taking acting classes. We dated for only a few months, but in that period, I spent a lot of time with her and her friends, whose behavior intrigued and appalled me to such an extent that I ended up basing a novel on the experience," McInerney recalled.

"It was narrated in the first person from the point of view of an ostensibly jaded, sexually voracious 20-year-old who was inspired by Lisa. I certainly thought of Alison Poole as a sympathetic and ultimately endearing character."

Story of My Life tells of the breakdown of a NYC party girl, whose friends all tease her by singing Elvis Costello's "Party Girl:"

They say you're nothing but a party girl
Just like a million more all over the world

and Costello's ominous "Alison:"

Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison, my aim is true.

Story of My Life is often criticized as being "just like McInerney's Bright Lights Big City except it's about a girl." But, first, being just like Bright Lights Big City is nothing to sneeze at -- I like McInerney's debut novel better than Evelyn Waugh's similar Vile Bodies. I've felt that McInerney's best books are often underrated because he works hard to make them easy on his readers. With Waugh's formal prose style, it's easy to see his craftsmanship. In contrast, McInerney works hard to make his literary prose a fast read.

Second, writing a novel about a character of the other sex is harder than it looks. Waugh only did it once, in his almost unknown 1950 novel Helen about the mother of Emperor Constantine. Similarly, Philip Roth hasn't tried it in the last 40 years. So, I was impressed by Story of My Life the two times I read it. McInerney's career seems to be idling today, so my old hopes that he'd grow into the American Waugh seem doomed, but his first, third, and fourth (Brightness Falls) novels were first-rate.

Anyway, what's the deal with Rielle Hunter?

I'm reminded of Tom Lehrer's song "Alma Mahler:"

The loveliest girl in Vienna
Was alma, the smartest as well.
Once you picked her up on your antenna,
You’d never be free of her spell.

Her lovers were many and varied,
From the day she began her -- beguine.
There were three famous ones whom she married,
And God knows how many between.

Alma, tell us!
All modern women are jealous.
Which of your magical wands
Got you gustav and walter and franz?

The first one she married was mahler,
Whose buddies all knew him as gustav.
And each time he saw her he’d holler:
"ach, that is the fraulein I moost have!"

Their marriage, however, was murder.
He’d scream to the heavens above,
"i’m writing das lied von der erde,
And she only wants to make love!"

Alma, tell us!
All modern women are jealous.
You should have a statue in bronze
For bagging gustav and walter and franz.

While married to gus, she met gropius,
And soon she was swinging with walter.
Gus died, and her tear drops were copious.
She cried all the way to the altar.

But he would work late at the bauhaus,
And only came home now and then.
She said, "what am I running? a chow house?
It’s time to change parters again."

Alma, tell us!
All modern women are jealous.
Though you didn’t even use ponds,
You got gustav and walter and franz.

While married to walt she’d met werfel,
And he too was caught in her net.
He married her, but he was carefell,
’cause alma was no bernadette.

And that is the story of alma,
Who knew how to receive and to give.
The body that reached her embalma’
Was one that had known how to live.

Alma, tell us!
How can they help being jealous?
Ducks always envy the swans
Who get gustav and walter,
You never did falter,
With gustav and walter and franz.

There were also the painters Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Klimt, making Alma a more impressive muse than Rielle, but, still, there was a lot more talent around in early 20th Century Vienna.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Yeah, McInerney does look pretty good in retrospect. He was at least trying to understand real people in the contemorary world and write the truth about them. That alone separates him from the academic bloviators like Don DeLillo et cetera who of course got better reviews in the New York Times than McInerney did.

Here's an amusing cybertabloid story about Lisa Druck/Alison Poole/Rielle Hunter with some excerpts from the novel:

Edwards' Mistress Dishes on Sleeping with Powerful Rich Men, Sort of

I hope this doesn't drag down the intellectual standards here at iSteve.

Truth said...

This is a great story!

For those of you who feel that multiculturalism doesn't work, and that whites can truly never trust blacks, there is a new wrinkle involved:

Andrew Young now claims to be the father of Rielle Hunter's child. Young is married with 3 young children and this may be just a man 'taking the bullet' for his best buddy. Somehow, I don't think it will work, but I can imagine the day after conversation between Young and Edwards:

Andy: 'Hey buddy, I said the child was mine to deflect attention.'

John: Great Andy, but when the kid comes out with blue eyes and straight hair what are we going to do.

Andy: Don't worry chief, we'll keep him shaved and get some baby contacts just long enough to get the little bastard shipped to a Bulgarian orphanage.

Anonymous said...

The fact that she changed her name from Lisa to "Rielle", and then further insisted that "Rielle" be pronounced "Riley" tells me everything I would ever need to know about her. She's a flake.

Anonymous said...

Funny song. On YouTube.

Anonymous said...

Nominee for Steve's wackiest post.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Young of the John Edwards story: The arrests for worthless checks, DWI, burglary, criminal mischief, the federal tax lien

Truth said...

"Andrew Young of the John Edwards story: The arrests for worthless checks, DWI, burglary, criminal mischief, the federal tax lien."

From the police blotter provided in this article

"Andrew Aldrige Young
D.O.B 3/23/1966

Well Einsten, either this is a different Andrew Young, or he was elected to congress at four years old.

Anonymous said...

Great insight, Steve.

I have always thought McInerney gets a bad rap. He is way above people like Ellis or Janowitz. I loved "Story Of My Life". A really funny, sharp book.

Anonymous said...

Here's the lead from a New York Times article the day after Obama's primary victory in South Carolina.

Senator Barack Obama won a commanding victory over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday, drawing a wide majority of black support and one-quarter of white voters in a contest that sets the stage for a multistate fight for the party’s presidential nomination.

Edwards suspended his campaign four days after the SC primary. But why was he running for president in the first place when he surely knew his candidancy was doomed? The only function he served was to split three-quarters of the white vote with Hillary, ensuring a "commanding victory" for Obama. And what would Obama's percentage of the white vote have been if the Rev. Wright tapes had been made public prior to the SC primary?

I almost feel sorry for Hillary. If the MSM had done their job and and properly vetted Obama and Edwards, she would certainly be the Democratic nominee and probably the next POTUS. Perhaps I speak to soon -- it ain't over yet.

Anonymous said...

Truth, clearly you are confused. Please do some Googling to clear this up, as you are looking quite silly.

Anonymous said...

And what would Obama's percentage of the white vote have been if the Rev. Wright tapes had been made public prior to the SC primary?

It's not all the Wright thing (more a loss of the magical aura Obama had), but Hillary passed Obama in popularity among Democratic voters around the beginning of June. If they had the primaries to do over again, she'd win.

I'm kind of surprised at the lack of the usual suspects showing up. When I saw that Steve was doing Alma word for word, I figured that "all modern women are jealous" would set off some rants.

Truth said...

That's the purpose of you posting a link chief, so we don't have to 'do some Googling.'

Anonymous said...

Check out this hilarious article by Sarah Miller in the LA Times on Rielle Hunter: Edwards' affair? My fault.

Anonymous said...

Here's an excerpt from the article:

She looked up, her face lit with happy incredulity. "You wrote that article that was published in an actual book that is in stores, in the room I sleep in. In the bed I sleep in." The homeowner had told her I wrote in bed. "It's amazing," Rielle said. "I can feel your energy in there."

"But ... I have been gone for so long," I protested. "Surely my energy has decamped as well."

This had no effect on her. She kept staring at me, that weird glaze still over her face. "Oh, no," she said. "You have really strong energy, and I can feel it in there, and it's telling me what I want to be."

"And what is that?" I asked, knowing that it was probably too much to hope that what she wanted to be was the person who would get me another drink and then go away.

"I am going to be famous," Rielle said. "Rich and famous. I am going to meet a rich, powerful man."

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading Story of My Life. The main character gets pregnant and doesn't know which of the two guys she had recently slept with is the father. (She claims to have a lifetime total of 35 guys in the book). She gets an abortion with the money her father sent her to use for acting lessons.

american fez said...

Speaking of Alma Mahler, Georgina Hale plays an excellent Alma Mahler in Ken Russell's "biopic" of the great composer.

Anonymous said...

35 guys...why is that profligate?

average one every 3 months from ages 20 to 30... you're way past.

Doug1 said...

She's only 20 in the book. 35 partners by 20 is pretty damn slutty.