E is for Ellis

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I feel like I miss the point with Bret Easton Ellis. I’ve read half of American Psycho, all of Rules of Attraction and now all of Less than Zero, and it feels like a joke I don’t get. I couldn’t read American Psycho as all of the identikit businessmen were getting me down. We get it, everyone’s the same, we’re not individual etc etc. I enjoyed Rules of Attraction because it had more actual plot and better characters. Less Than Zero unfortunately falls into the first bracket of Ellis books.

Clay is a thin, blond, tan college student who’s come home for the holidays. All of his friends are thin, blond and tan. Most of them are college students, some of them are drug dealers but the majority of them combine the two lifestyles, while remaining thin, blond and tan. You get the idea – Clay’s rich parents don’t pay him enough attention, but neither do the parents of his thin, blond, tan friends, so it’s all okay.

There really isn’t a lot more to tell about story. I like the verbal motifs that crop up throughout the novel – Clay picks up on a phrase his friend says about driving (people are afraid to merge) which he builds on until it becomes a chorus of mis-matched, out of context and meaningful words on how shit life is.

Ellis reminds me of Douglas Coupland, but he lacks any of the wry humour and downright humanity present in JPod, for example.

Some things I learned from Wikipedia and imdb: Less Than Zero was Ellis’ first book. There’s a film of it too, released in 1987 and starring John Hughes muse Andrew McCarthy as the aforementioned Clay. Robert Downey Jr and James Spader also appear in the cast list, as fairly prominent characters. Interestingly, none of them are blond, thin and tan.

Seriously, if anyone can explain to me why I should like Ellis’ writing, please do. I don’t dislike it, and I can appreciate that his style may be loved by many, but for me he just doesn’t press the right buttons. There are only so many business cards, lines of coke or blond, tan people I can stomach without reading something else.

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