- Series: Vintage Contemporaries
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 3, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307278697
- ISBN-13: 978-0307278692
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 176 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Imperial Bedrooms (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – May 3, 2011
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"Hypnotic. . . . A haunting vision of disillusionment, twenty-first-century style." --People
"This sequel is very much on target. . . . [Ellis] uses the thriller framework to infuse nerve-rending unease into this look at Tinseltown mores. Grade: A-" --Entertainment Weekly
“Taut and ultimately terrifying. . . . In six novels, the author has emerged as one of the most gifted and serious novelists working in America today.” —Financial Times
"Enough talk of [Ellis's] literary genius, let's call him what he really is: a terrific horror writer. . . . An absolute creepfest [and] a festival of panting paranoia."--Chicago Sun-Times
“Brutally conceived, and effectively done. . . . There is no doubt that Ellis retains the ability to startle and disquiet.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)
"Arrestingly spare . . . will leave you feeling bruised, guarded and a little nervous about noises at night. . . . What you really notice is Ellis's newfound love of noir. He's reinvigorated and ready to get mysterious and mean. . . . As ever, Ellis's details crystallize into elegant remoteness [and] if this is shallowness, the word needs a new definition." --Time Out New York
"In the same staccato prose that made Zero feel frighteningly fresh twenty-five years ago, Ellis paints a creepy L.A." --USA Today
"Its dirty charms are indisputable." --Playboy
“Reading Ellis is a thrilling and strangely voyeuristic experience, [and] you can’t look away.” —Venus Zine
"A page-turning read. . . . Ellis is showing us what has changed in 25 years--not just in his characters or in Hollywood but in America and maybe the world."--The Oregonian
"Imperial Bedrooms is a quicker, more controlled fire than its predecessor, and, like a good showman, Ellis has learned to save the best of the novel's many tricks for last. . . . Ellis's Godfather II, his Genesis story. . . . Devastating." --The Village Voice
"Visceral and often harrowing, Ellis delivers a work that matches such career peaks as Lunar Park and the infamous American Psycho." --The Examiner
About the Author
Bret Easton Ellis is the author of Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, American Psycho, The Informers, Glamorama, Lunar Park, and Imperial Bedrooms. His works have been translated into twenty-seven languages. Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, American Psycho, and The Informers have all been made into films. He lives in Los Angeles.
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I enjoyed Ellis's "Less Than Zero" for its unapologetic nihilism on full display. The hollowed-out shells of people wandering through a city landscape full of myriad delights and terrors, brazenly taking what they wanted without any regard for others. The LA of "Less Than Zero" was a haunted city full of ghosts--a noir-ish place both engaging and repulsive at the same time, much like the book's characters. Hopeless as it all was, we all share a need to wallow in our own misery sometimes, and Ellis as an author is good at providing that.
So how does this sequel compare and (most importantly for me) does it capture the same emotions as its predecessor? Yes, but the aim is different. Whereas "Less Than Zero" read like a documentary, stream-of-consciousness roller coaster into the darkest recesses of the City of Angels, "Imperial Bedrooms" goes down a different rabbit hole. This one has--shock shock--an actual plot, if you will. Simply put, there's a mystery, bringing that familiar noir aspect into a realm more akin to film noir. Clay the philanderer is back in LA. There's a dark, mysterious beauty with high ambitions for a role in the film he is helping cast who comes with more than her share of secrets. Bodies of old acquaintances turn up mutilated in the desert. Someone harasses him via a blocked number and it appears he is being followed. The people around him hover on the periphery, knowing more than they reveal and yet tantalizingly communicating in vague ways. And through it all is the city, depicted once again with a mix of reverence and disgust, almost another character in itself, all smoke and mirrors, teeming with supernatural threats and infested with ghosts, vampires, and fog.
I found myself being unable to resist reading all the way through to figure out the mystery, only to discover it's all a ruse. That's not to say Ellis delivers a cop-out. We do get answers. But, like the characters in the novel whose faults Ellis depicts unapologetically, the narrative is always elusive, sifting in and out of our hands, frustrating as much as it satisfies.
The real focus of the novel is not the mystery, as Ellis makes clear that these sorts of crimes in his LA are not uncommon enough to be reverent. The mystery is a hook to introduce us to Clay--the real Clay this time around--as the opening chapter, in a clever narrative twist, reveals that "Less Than Zero" was the work of someone hovering on the periphery of that bleak Christmas scene 25 years ago, taking notes and exposing the comings and goings of his inner posse for all the world to see, first in the form of a book and then a film based on the book. This is obviously a meta reworking ofthe real life story of "Less Than Zero", and it works by giving the sequel a fresh angle to work with.
By the end of the novel, we come to know the real Clay, unfiltered through the eyes of the observer in the original novel. If the previous version was complicit in his inaction to the depravities surrounding him, the new one takes a far more active role in the grim proceedings that take place on his sojourn back to his hometown. In that effect, the Clay of "Less Than Zero", as unflattering as he was, gets off the hook easy by skating by with a portrayal that was, unknowingly to its author, far kinder than the reality. And so we wade into the muck once again, an innocent but willing bystander to violence, sexual depravity, murder, and indifference.
By the time I read a graphic torture scene that hearkened back to Ellis's "American Psycho" days, I had gotten what I wanted: a return trip to hell that left me feeling uncomfortable and yet fascinated at the same time. The LA in these two novels is like Dante's Inferno, and each chapter takes us down another circle.
The problem is that with any sequel -- even if you loved the original and loathe the sequel -- you can't scrub the events of the sequel out of your memory. You can publicly decry a sequel all you want, say it's terrible, banish it from the canon, whatever, but somehow, in some annoying way, it still goes into the universe as being part of that story. And there you are, with burned eyeballs and wishing you could take a shower in straight bleach. That's more or less my review of "Imperial Bedrooms."
I liked the style of "Less than Zero." It worked very well in that book -- the interior monologue, the run-on sentences that could make Faulkner's sentences sound like "See Spot Run." The head-scratching punctuation decisions. All of it. But in "Imperial Bedrooms," it's like a zombie -- reanimated, but unsteady on its feet, a lot meaner, but mostly a lot dumber and a lot more desperate. Many times I had to turn to a prior page to remind myself what was happening, or to whom. That's a bore, far more than a plodding plot.
I didn't like Clay in "Less than Zero." And that's OK -- I don't have to like a protagonist to appreciate the way a character is drawn. I felt scorn for the drawing of the character in "Imperial Bedrooms." At least in "Less than Zero," he may not know who he is, and he may not have much of a moral high ground, but what he lacks, he's consistent in lacking. Clay is all over the place in "Imperial Bedrooms." He doesn't care about anything or anyone, is completely apathetic, yet he obsesses to the point of leaving off shaving, moping, and crying over a would-be starlet he's known for a handful of days, not to mention a would-be starlet about whom nothing at all is interesting or recommended beyond the fact that she's "extremely beautiful?" And not just Clay, but just about every other male character in the book is similarly enslaved by her? Yes, this "extremely beautiful" girl, in a world where everyone is extremely beautiful and where people are entirely disposable.
Some of the dialogue, the situations, the "friendships" and the "relationships" actually reminded me of the Tommy Wiseau film "The Room," and that is probably about the most scatological comparison I could make for any piece of work.
And speaking of scatological, the sex is not well handled. I don't necessarily believe that an author has to make a decision to "fade out" or allude to sex, so I don't resent any author's decision to be a bit more descriptive if it will add to the scene or illuminate the characters. But many of the sexual descriptions here are just base and crass.
If you liked "Less than Zero," I'd skip "Imperial Bedrooms" and try some of Ellis's other books; I plan to. If not, this may become part of your literary universe, and you'll be the one wishing for the Clorox shower.