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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go West, young Man. Or, "Westward, Ho", March 9, 2007
This review is from: Less Than Zero (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. And you know, the thing is, with all the bling, the bank, the field trips to Spago & Chasen's, the road trips on the Pacific Coast Highway in the Porsche, holing up at the beachhouse at Monterey---with all that, if your life is so featureless there are no real markers or mileposts, it's pretty hard to get There from Here---or figure out how Here relates to anything at all.

As the billboard says: "Disappear Here."

Think of "Less than Zero"---the text, our guidebook into this Wonderland of banality, boredom, and high-octane depravity---as a kind of camera obscura, its image fused, heightened, now sharpened, now distorted, with light, speed, and time.

When Bret Easton Ellis released "Lunar Park", a kind of transgressive lament for his estranged father, critics howled that Ellis was playing dilettante, dipping his toes into the weedy moat of Horror reserved for Stephen King & Dean Koontz.

Really? Ellis hasn't ever written Horror? Even leaving "American Psycho" out of this, read "Less than Zero" and answer that question for yourself: Ellis's palmy, leafy, luxuriant LA is less American Dream than Nightmare, a twilight-realm of hardbodies and supercars where the daytime shadows flit across the flickering water-bottoms of swimming pools, and monsters move in the palm groves.

With that in mind, "Less than Zero" revelatory as a scalpel, is also as simple as an elementary school essay: bottom line, it's all about what Clay does on his Christmas vacation.

No, really.

So it's a little spyglass into the world of Clay & his old school buddies and their parties and sushi lunches and aimless high-end meanderings through the LA jungle. And the Kids are really, really, really *not* aliright.

For instance: Daniel sliced his hand up, has wires poking up through his raw phalanges, takes way too much lithium and is uncomfortably numb.

Julian is inaccessible, gomezing around his haunts in LA in a black porsche with tinted windows and stalked by wild-eyed panic; Blair, Clay's former girlfriend, who wants to know what love is---you know? alana & Kim, her friends, who evidently have an abortion competition going; muriel, who's anorexic and likes shoving shiny pointy things into her blood vessels, and Rip the drug dealer, who's *way* upbeat.

Clay gets driven around in the luxury cars his friends own, or rather, the cars their parents bought them: Ferraris, Porsches, BMWs. He goes to Fatburger; he checks out flicks half-bombed at Westwood, the Beverly Center, high in the Hollywood Hills, he worries about werewolves. about earthquakes. about a billboard that says, ominously & nonchalantly, "Disappear Here".

There are a few writers I'm actively, wrenchingly jealous of: Cormac McCarthy is one of them, Ellis is another. Ellis's peculiar talent is to infuse this bleak landscape with a kind of narcotic readability, while simultaneously excising his own voice, the presence of the author, entirely from the pages.

Fitting enough for this nasty little piece of grue & High Society, a world that excises its creatures as effectively as the High Sonorran Wind howling over the desert floor erases the hardtable playa.

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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 23, 2010 10:12:39 AM PDT
Hey, I just wanted to say that I highly enjoyed your review...well written...well thought out and informative.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 21, 2010 12:43:48 PM PDT
alex bushman says:
Agreed. "Totally" getting the book now.
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