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Less Than Zero Paperback – June 30, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Written when the author was 20, this first novel tells the story of Clay, a New Hampshire college student who returns home to Los Angeles for Christmas vacation. Vignettes show Clay and his friends aimlessly traveling from party to party, doing drugs, having sex with one another. PW noted that Ellis "brilliantly conveys this crowd's delirium as well as the lack of fulfillment they cannot remedy."
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980's, this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait
of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, in a
world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money a place devoid of feeling or

Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college and re-enters a landscape of
limitless privilege and absolute moral entropy, where everyone drives Porches, dines at Spago,
and snorts mountains of cocaine.  He tries to renew feelings for his girlfriend, Blair, and for his
best friend from high school, Julian, who is careering into hustling and heroin.  Clay's holiday
turns into a dizzying spiral of desperation that takes him through the relentless parties in glitzy
mansions, seedy bars, and underground rock clubs and also into the seamy world of L.A. after dark.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679781498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679781493
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (363 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

219 of 240 people found the following review helpful By erica on July 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
This novel - written and set in Los Angeles in the 1980's, so be prepared not to understand many of the pop-culture references if you're much younger than 30 - details four weeks in the life of eighteen-year-old Clay, who returns home from college halfway through freshman year for a month-long Christmas vacation. He spends most of his time hanging out with his friends from high school, going to bars and nightclubs, having sex, and doing drugs.
So what's the big deal? Booze, sex, and drugs might be fun to *do* for four weeks, but reading about them for 200 pages sounds like it might get old. And it does. You begin to lose track of the characters, because there are so many of them. You begin to forget where Clay was this morning, where he was last night, what day and what time it is right now. You begin to stop caring how much crack he smokes or how many other drugs he mixes it with, whether his sex partners are male or female. You stop worrying that his parents might catch him, that he'll have a bad trip, that - even in 1985 - he'll get HIV.
And that's the point. The book is less a narrative than an experience. The manic highs and desperate lows of Clay's existence will blur together and you'll grow confused about the purpose of your own life. The 200 pages of this book - with large print, and broken up into easy-to-handle page-long vignettes - will become 200 minutes of ebb and flow, the swell of a wave under which you, because you aren't the one doing all those drugs, will never become trapped.
Be aware that this book can be frustrating. The central conflict is an internal one, and only vaguely delineated, and never really resolved. The book seems to end not because it is finished with the story it tells but because it has reached the end of its allotted span.
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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Dark Mechanicus JSG on March 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
So 18-year old Clay comes home to Los Angeles from college in woodsy New Hampshire for Christmas Break and very rapidly resumes LA cruising altitude: partying, booze, getting a tan, partying, seeing all the hot bands making the rounds at clubs-of-the-moment like the Roxy or The Edge, more partying, checking out movies in Westwood blitzed out of his mind, cruising around LA, watching bootleg Mexican snuff porn (featuring underage victims & chainsaws and wire hangers),

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Bret Easton Ellis's "Less than Zero" is a fine little primer on how the Rich & Famous live and die in LA, with Clay as our Virgil in this descent into a 1980's Dante's Inferno peopled by the Lithium-addled (but thin, baby, thin! and tan! and loaded! filthy stinking rich, Maserati country baby!)Walking Dead. Tunes, by the way, courtesy of Duran Duran and Psychedelic Furrs.

He goes to lots of parties: celebrity parties, pre-movie deal parties at Spago with his movie producer Dad and his estranged mother, etc. He does a lot of good drugs. He does a lot of bad drugs. He drives around in his Mercedes. At times he practically shoves whole boxes of Kleenex up his brutalized, quivering snout to calk up the torrent of blood & snot, the collateral damage of his cocaine habit. He scopes out corpses in alleys.

"Less than Zero" proves you really can't go Home again, particularly if Home really wasn't much of a place to begin with.
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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Kirsten Chance on April 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
Probably my fav book by Ellis seeing as I felt so utterly empty inside after finishing it. These characters Blair, Julian and friends have got to be the most shallow and unfeeling people I've ever read. Sure, Bateman in "A. Psycho" was materialistic but he was insane unlike these kids who're supposedly NORMAL teenagers!! If this is what the rich life in L.A. is all about than I'll be certain to never visit. But I am so sick of hearing people say this was a boring story and don't feel sorry for these kids just because they're spoiled and rich! Can we honestly say we wouldn't be as empty if we lived the way they did with only cocaine and meaningless sex to entertain us? Ellis is brilliant in depicting the lives of materialistic, spoiled brats having to live without love and emotional security. If you're looking for a novel to leave you feeling hollow and disturbed emotionally, I highly reccommend this. It gives the word 'dreary' a whole new meaning.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By brent on September 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read this book and I expected it to be a simple trip into a dark place. I was wrong. This book takes you into a place and a state of mind that is so dark and disturbing it is hard to believe. The book is scary, to be honest. To think that a world like this actually exists should apall people.
The book, about an eighteen year old who returns home to L.A. after his first year of college, is deeply rooted in the idea that underneath a lot of things is a darker side. Ellis takes the reader into a place that people thought was only a myth, where sex is as casual as conversation, snorting cocaine is like eating dinner and spending time with your family is like having a root canal.
The book is sad beucase it depcits a generation that is lost. They have seen too much at far too young an age. Clay'y (the main character) little sister says to him "We can get our own (coke)." She's thirteen years old.
Ellis has done a great job of capturing a mind frame. These people love the life. Clay is seen as an outcast when he is shocked by what he sees. There are sertain passages about Clay's past that are written with such eeriness, they made me shiver. The book acutally gave me feelings of paranoia when I read it. This book is wonderful and is a lot more than less than zero. It is highly enjoyable and interesting. It is one of the darkest, most original, most frightening books I have read in years. It is well worth the time.
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