Glamorama

I’m still reading this Brett Easton Ellis novel. Yeah, I know. What can I say? I’m a slow reader. Always kind of have been. When I was kid I had comprehension problems. To help it I had to read stories from the newspaper with my mom and then tell her what I’d read. I became a pretty careful reader early on, and as a result a slow reader. I suppose it was inevitable that I become an English major in college, although I never like English class very much, until I got to college. Then…..

Anyhoo…I’m almost finished with Part 3 of Glamorama, on page 319 of 546. In some ways it feels as if the narrative moves too slowly, and yet I find myself caught up in it, despite the shallowness of the characters and dialogue, the preoccupation with looks and name brands, celebrities of all sorts blah blah blah. The conversations that take place are of the type that if I heard them out in public I’d cringe, and want to move away from the people having them just so that I wouldn’t have to hear it. So why am I compelled to read such dialogue? For that matter, why do I find the characters and dialogue interesting? Because the truth is I do not have to force myself to read this book. True, it’s taking me awhile to finish it but that is due to a lack of time, not a lack of interest.

Of course, the difference is that this is fiction, a reflection of the reality, a comment on the reality, even a satire of the reality, and not the actual reality. There is more going on her then just the vacuous chit chat of Victor Ward and his entourage or whatever.

The wikipedia entry for Glamorama dubbs it a satire, similar to American Psycho, but where AP was satirizing consumerism, Glamorama is about our cultural obsession with celebrities and beauty. The entry also provides an interesting note about the similarities between the novel and the Ben Stiller movie Zoolander, and states that Ellis at one point claimed to be considering a law suit and then later that he couldn’t talk about it due to an out of court settlement. I’ve seen Zoolander, but it’s been awhile, and I don’t remember it all that well, and at the time I hadn’t read Glamorama, of course, nor was I aware of the plot of the book.

An interesting device in the first part of the book, set in New York before the real plot begins in earnest, is the repetition of the phrase We’ll slide down the surface of things… , which is taken from the U2 song, Even Better Than The Real Thing, a song I recognized immediately upon hearing it.

It seems to set the tone and initial motion of the plot in the first part of the novel, i.e. Victor Ward’s slide down the surface of things into public humiliation, losing his supermodel girlfriend Chloe, when she realizes that he’s been cheating on her with another model, Alison Poole, who also dumps him, when he’s busted cheating on both of them with an ex-girlfriend from his college days at Camden, the college setting for Ellis’s second novel, The Rules of Attraction, not to mention the college the main character, Clay, from Less Than Zero attends. Also, Victor loses his hip position as club manager for scary dude boss Damien because he was dealing behind the boss’ back to open his own club — a big no no apparently in this world. But he still seems to hold out hope afterwards that he’ll get a role in Flatliners II.

The second part of the novel (although it may have begun in the first part) features a device in which Victor describes what is happening to him as if it scripted and being shot in a movie. He takes his cue on what to say and how to feel from an imaginary director. I swear I had this precise idea years ago, before the book was published. Dammit! If only I’d gotten my slacker ass in gear, I’d be reaping the benefits of such a brilliant idea.

According to the wikipedia entry, the latter parts of this book get pretty violent, like American Psycho violent. Interestingly enough there wasn’t the uproar about it that there was with American Psycho. Why not?

In any case, perhaps Glamorama is a book worth rereading now because of this theme articulated in the wikipedia entry:

…the parallel between the fear of the unlikely, horrible fate of being killed by terrorists and the fear of the extremely likely, rather less horrible fate of being unable to live up to the beauty of professional models. Both fears are fed by the media.

Although ten years after the publication of this novel, the fear of being killed by terrorists doesn’t seem nearly as unlikely as it did then, even though it may in fact be just as, if not more, unlikely. But now more than ever both terrorism and celebrity are fed/fueled by the media. Was Ellis once again far ahead of his time? As some claim he was with American Psycho?

A review from The Guardian touches on what I consider to be one of Ellis’ main themes, when it states: At the same time, it shows that everyone in Glamorama is reprehensibly lacking in real feelings. That theme is the subjugation of real feeling by intensity of sensation, definitely a dominant tone in this novel so far. And I haven’t even gotten to the extreme violence in it yet.

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