Imagine becoming a bestselling novelist, and almost immediately famous and wealthy, while still in college, and before long seeing your insufferable father reduced to a bag of ashes in a safety-deposit box, while after American Psycho
your celebrity drowns in a sea of vilification, booze, and drugs.
Then imagine having a second chance ten years later, as the Bret Easton Ellis of this remarkable novel is given, with a wife, children, and suburban sobriety--only to watch this new life shatter beyond recognition in a matter of days. At a fateful Halloween party he glimpses a disturbing (fictional) character driving a car identical to his late father's, his stepdaughter's doll violently "malfunctions," and their house undergoes bizarre transformations both within and without. Connecting these aberrations to graver events--a series of grotesque murders that no longer seem random and the epidemic disappearance of boys his sons age--Ellis struggles to defend his family against this escalating menace even as his wife, their therapists, and the police insist that his apprehensions are rooted instead in substance abuse and egomania.
Lunar Park confounds one expectation after another, passing through comedy and mounting horror, both psychological and supernatural, toward an astonishing resolution--about love and loss, fathers and sons--in what is surely the most powerfully original and deeply moving novel of an extraordinary career.
A Tale of Two Brets: An Amazon.com Interview with Bret Easton Ellis
In his novel Lunar Park
, Bret Easton Ellis takes first-person narrative to an extreme, inserting himself (and a host of real characters from the publishing world) into the haunting story of a drugged-out famous writer living in the suburbs trying to reconnect with his wife and son and reconcile his damaged past. Ellis is at the top of his game in Lunar Park
, his first novel since 1999's Glamorama
, delivering a disturbing and delirious novel about celebrity, writers, and fathers and sons (not to mention a cameo from notorious Ellis creation, Patrick Bateman). Amazon.com senior editor Brad Thomas Parsons spoke with Ellis in a Seattle to Los Angeles phone call to talk about
the fact and fiction behind Lunar Park
, New York versus LA, '80s music, and the whole "American Psycho
thing." Read the Amazon.com interview with Bret Easton Ellis
Less Than Zero (1985)
Published when Ellis was a junior at Bennington, Less Than Zero
is the mesmerizing first-person chronicle of Clay, our laconic, zoned-out guide to a subculture of over-privileged nihilism in early '80s Los Angeles. He travels back home from Camden College (a thinly veiled Bennington) for Christmas break and re-enters his circle of jaded friends--including his ex-girlfriend Blair, and his best friend Julian, who's now hustling to support his drug habit--and a parade of Porches, late-night parties, cocaine, and casual destruction.
Ellis on Ellis: "I don't think it's a perfect book by any means, but it's valid. I get where it comes from. I get what it is. There's a lot of it that I wish was slightly more elegantly written. Overall, I was pretty shocked. It was pretty good writing for someone who was 19."
The Rules of Attraction (1987)
A line-up of Camden College students share the narrating duties in The Rules of Attraction
, Ellis' sex-fueled, drug-baked second novel. There's Lauren (who's in the midst of losing her virginity as the book opens), who longs for her boyfriend Victor, currently traveling through Europe; Lauren's ex, Paul, a bisexual party boy who hooks up with hard-drinking closet-case Sean (surname Bateman--that's right, younger brother of Patrick), who also has the hots for Lauren. Less than Zero
's Clay makes a cameo appearance as well as a passing glimpse of Ellis' Bennington classmate Donna Tartt's murderous Classics majors from The Secret History
Ellis on Ellis: "It might be my favorite book of mine. I was writing that book while I was at college. Sort of like the best of times, the worst of times. There was a lot of elation, there was a lot of despair. It was just a really fun book to write. I loved mimicking all the different voices. The stream of conscious does get a little out of hand. I kind of like that about the book. It's kind of all over the place. It's casual. It's scruffy. That's the one book of mine that I have a very, very soft spot for."
American Psycho (1991)
Shopaholic sociopath Patrick Bateman's killer grip drags readers into a bloody, brand-name, urban nightmare as the 26-year-old Wall Street yuppie executes his grooming habits and eviscerates strangers with equal élan. Simon & Schuster dropped the too-hot-to-handle American Psycho
which was then published as a paperback original by Vintage Books. Ellis received death threats while the book was boycotted, sliced up by reviewers, and went on to become a bestseller. Mary Harron's 2000 film version starred then little-known British actor Christian Bale, who would later suit up as the Dark Knight in 2005's Batman Begins
Ellis on Ellis: "It was good. It was fun. It was not nearly as pretentious as I remember I wanted it to be when I was writing it. I found it really fast-moving. I found it really funny. And I liked it a lot. The violence was... it made my toes curl. I really freaked out. I couldn't believe how violent it was. It was truly upsetting. I had to steel myself to re-read those passages."
The Informers (1994)
Ellis returns to early '80s Los Angeles ennui with The Informers
, a loosely connected collection of stories of the bored, rich, and morally depraved, written around the same time as Less than Zero
. Sex, drugs, and gratuitous violence take center stage, with characters including an aging, predatory anchorwoman, a debauched rock star tearing through Japan, and a pick-up artist vampire. While some of the vignettes echo better Ellis works, ultimately the stories don't add to much as a whole. Book critics are less than receptive to Ellis' post-American Psycho
Ellis on Ellis: "Those were written while I was at Bennington. I wrote a lot of short stories between 1981 or 1982 or so... The Informers more or less kind of represented probably the best of those stories. I wrote a lot of really bad ones, but those are the ones that worked the best together."
Actor-model Victor Ward (who first made an appearance in the Ellis oeuvre in The Rules of Attraction
) is the narrator of Glamorama
, Ellis longest novel yet. Ellis offers bold-faced names and celebrity skewering in the first half of the book as Victor tries to open a Manhattan club while cheating on his supermodel girlfriend and double-crossing his partner, but the second half takes a violent, paranoid turn as Victor is sent to England and unwittingly lured into a sadistic ring of international terrorists (posing as supermodels) leaving a bloody trail across the globe.
Ellis on Ellis: "[T]he book wasn't necessarily about terrorism to me. It was about a whole bunch of other stuff. It's definitely the book that I can tell--I don't know if other people can tell but I can tell as a writer--is probably the most divisive that I've written. It has an equal number of detractors as it does fans. It doesn't really hold true with the other books. It was the one that took the longest to write, and the one that seemed the most important at the time. It's an unwieldy book... I like it."
Ellis on DVD
Will the Real Bret Easton Ellis Please Stand Up?
Visit the author's Web site at www.2brets.com.
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From Publishers Weekly
Having ridden to fame as the laureate of Reagan-era excesses, Ellis serves up a self-eviscerating apologia for all the awful things (wanton drug use, reckless promiscuity, serial murder) he worked so hard to glamorize. Narrated faux memoir style by a character named Bret Easton Ellis, author of bestsellers, L.A. native, friend to Jay McInerney, the book seeks to make obvious its autobiographical elements without actually remaining true to the facts. In the novel, Ellis marries B-list actress Jayne Dennis (with whom he'd fathered a child years earlier), moves to the New York City suburbs and begins working on his latest neo-porn shocker, Teenage Pussy
, when things start to go awry. His house becomes possessed by strange, threatening spirits intent on attacking his family and transforming their home into the pink stucco green shag disaster of Ellis's childhood; a well-read stalker begins acting out, victim by victim, the plot of American Psycho
; and the town becomes enthralled by a string of child abductions (oddly, only the boys are disappearing) that may or may not be the work of Ellis's son. This is a peculiar novel, gothic in tone and supernatural in conceit, whose energy is built from its almost tabloidlike connection to real life. As a spirit haunting Ellis's house tells him, "I want you to reflect on your life. I want you to be aware of all the terrible things you have done. I want you to face the disaster that is Bret Easton Ellis." Ultimately, though, the book reads less like a roman à clef than as a bizarre type of celebrity penance. The closest contemporary comparison is, perhaps, the work of Philip Roth, who went for such thinly veiled self-criticism earlier in his career, but Roth's writing succeeded on its own merits, whereas Lunar Park
begs a knowledge of Ellis's celebrity and the casual misanthropy his books espoused. Yet for those familiar with Ellis's reputation, the book is mesmerizing, easily his best since Less than Zero
. Maybe for the first time, Ellis acknowledges that fiction has a truth all its own and consequences all too real. It is his
demons who destroy his home, break up his family and scuttle his best chance at happiness and sobriety. As a novel by anyone else, Lunar Park
would be hokum, but in context, it is a fascinating look at a once controversial celebrity as a middle-aged man.
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