Ellis article

Here’s an interesting article about Brett East Ellis and his new novel, Imperial Bedrooms, the follow up to Less Than Zero.

I’m eager to read this novel, having been an Ellis fan since Zero was published — what is it? Twenty-five years ago now…

Although many people aren’t Ellis fans. I was part of a Facebook thread in which several people made negative comments about the book. One said it was “creepy,” although I’m not so sure that is a criticism. In any case, it does not surprise me. Other articles have made similar comments. Also, come on, Zero was creepy, and this is the same author that wrote American Psycho for crying out loud.  Others commented that they would not waste their money on this book, much less read  it. Of course that is their prerogative. But I guess I just don’t get it. Fine. Take issue with a book and/or author, make all the criticism you want, but you can’t judge what you don’t read. I don’t know. Just seems kind of petty to me.

In any case, Ellis hardly seems to care.

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Less Than Zero sequel

Brett Easton Ellis’ follow up to Less Than Zero is due to be released June 15th. It’s titled Imperial Bedrooms.

I would never have thought of Ellis as a sequel kind of guy but he has moved from NYC back to LA and is working to produce films now, several of which are based on his novels. Perhaps he’s caught the sequel bug from Hollywood.

If so, one wonders if perhaps there is a follow up to American Pyscho kicking around in Ellis’ imagination.

And is there the possibility of a movie sequel as well? To American Psycho as well as Less Than Zero (i.e. a movie of Imperial Bedrooms,duh).

In any case, I plan to nab me a copy of Imperial Bedrooms, the day it comes out, if possible. I’ve read everything else the dude’s written, so I’m not going to stop now. Besides I’m curious to see what Clay, Blair,  Julian, Rip and the gang are up to in their 40s.

Stay tuned for my stunningly  insightful review…if I get around to it that is.

Bright Lights, Big City redux

When it gets cold like this, especially if it’s accompanied by snow, I’m reminded of when I lived in the dorms at school. Sitting with my feet up on the radiator, reading. While through my window I had a view of the dorm complex courtyard coated with a layer of snow that twinkled in the bright, even harsh at times, sunlight.  I read a lot. The book I read more than any other was Jay McInerney’s novel, Bright Lights, Big City. (Less than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis was a close second) And today  I’m compelled to read it again, as I have been doing almost every years since I first discovered, not when it was first published in 1984 but in 1988 after seeing the movie, staring Michael J. Fox, Kiefer Sutherland and Phebe Cates.

I know that BLBC, like it’s author, has something of checkered past, and that even McInerney himself refers to it at times as a kind of albatross around his neck. The books was and still is sometimes mocked. Sometimes I wonder when a Best of Bad McInerney contest is going to be created, if it doesn’t exist already. The second person narrative technique employed is often dismissed as nothing more than a clever device. Perhaps. But no book before it nor since has continued to resonate with me, has regulaly lured me back to read it again, has made me want to write. For me, it was my persmisson book – it gave me permission to write about what I really wanted to write about because I didn’t know you could write about such things; I wasn’t very well read at the time, so sue me. Before I’d read BLBC it was J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, of course, that held that distinction but it was quickly replaced.

I’m trying to resist the impulse to set aside what I’m reading now to read BLBC because I’m perpetually backed up on my reading and never seem able to make a dent in the stack of books that I want to read, it just keeps growing, but forces seems to be conspiring against me.

This morning the movie was on cable. Of course, it is not a very good movie but even so I’ve watched it many times. Less Than Zero is a better movie. But a remake of BLBC: the movie is in the works, due to be released in 2010. I’m curious to see what comes of it this time around. I’ve often wondered what it would been like if Woody Allen  had directed it or perhaps Ed Burns. My person preference would be for Stephen Sodeberg to do it. But I think the guy who produced and directed Gossip Girls for TV is doing it.

No doubt, in the end I’ll succumb to t his impulse to read BLBC yet again.And maybe this year of all years I shouldn’t even attempt to resist since 2009 marked the 25the aniversery of it’s publication. And as such maybe this year more than most it deserves a re-read.

I wonder if McInerney, because he seems to want to be remembered for his more sophisticated novels, is balking at a 25th aniversary edtion of BLBC. Or maybe they’re simply waiting until the movies comes out, releasing them together.

with the gals away the movies will play

Wife and daughter out of town, visiting family in California — Mahattan Beach and San Fran. With them gone the house is empty and quiet. So to fill the void and my time I’ve been watching a lot of movies, more than I have in some time.

This weekend, among other movies, I watched:

The Informers, based on the Brett Eston Ellis book of the same title, which as been called a novel but seems more like connected stories. In any case, I’m interested in any works of BEE’s. Set in 1983-84, this is typical Ellis fair, involving rich LA young people that do a lot of drugs, have a lot of sex. Sort of the counter-view to, say, John Hughes version of the 80s, which much less ominous, more bubblegum pop. It didn’t do well at the theater, but I liked it, for the 80s details as much as anything else. Although one thing that seemed off was the that the girls’ hair styles seemed more late 90s, i.e. straight and blonde as opposed to done up with Aquanet and brown with frosted blonde highlights etc. But maybe things were diff in LA at the time.

Good performances all around, especially by Kim Basinger and Winona Ryder, who deserves more roles but for some reason seems to have gone a little undeground — very GenX. Mickey Rourke is a good scarey guy, as per usual. Billy Bob Thornton is okay, but I’ve never been a big fan of his anyway, especially since he fucked up All the Pretty Horses, although I’ve heard it was the studios doing more than his, but in any case a serious missed opportunity.

At this point, I think the only novel of Ellis that hasn’t been made into a movie or is in production to be made into one is Glamorama. But then Ellis is,  at least in part, bank rolling these projects. Perhaps the reason he moved from NYC back to LA area. He’s an ex-prod on this film. And it seems a worthy effort. Not as good as Less Than Zero and American Psycho but then the original material wasn’t as good so. But then those movies had actors in roles they were made play, baby — Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale.

Tying up some reading loose ends

I finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road, for a third time and participated in a library-sponsored book club. The book club consisted of a group of retired people, and I was particularly interested in their reaction to this particular book. It was not entirel positive. In fact, when I was introduced to the group as a big, big fan of Cormac McCarthy some of the members jokingly told me to get out. I think they found the story a bit too depressing and gruesome. Can’t argue with that. Still, they had plenty to say, and it was a lively discussion. All in all it was pretty cool, I have to say. I had my doubts, but I enjoyed it. Not sure if I’ll do it again. Perhaps when the book club reads No Country for Old Men, also by Cormac McCarthy.

So now I’ve returned to Glamorama, by Brett Easton Ellis, in large part to simply finish it. In some ways it seems a bit of a chore. There’s something both compelling and repelling about this Ellis novel, but then I found American Psycho to be kind of the same way, and I read that finally, at least in part, so that I could say that I’d read it all the way through, but also to provide myself with some ammo for people who like to bash it. So it is with Glamorama. It is an interesting book but I can see why perhaps many people did not like it. One thing I would like to note, although I doubt that it is very novel, is the main character’s (Victor Ward/Johnson) penchant for the phrase “spare me,” which he is constantly invoking. By the end of the novel, when he is caught up in terrorist plots, he is literally pleading to spared. Ironic, don’t you think? Anyway, I’ll be glad to have finished it so that I can move on.

I am also still in the midst of High Fidelity, by Nick Honrsby, but I’m not so sure I’ll finish that. I saw the movie and know how it ends in any case.  But since I consider this a good example of GenX lit I’ll hang onto to it in hopes of finding time to read the rest. Because for some books there is more than just knowing how it ends.

I do want to finish reading Millennial Makeover, the nonfiction about political cycles and the roll of the Millennial Generation in bringing about a new political realignment, but I fear that I may end up giving up the ship before I ever get to the end.

 

My schizophrenic compulsive reading habits

Sometimes I feel as if my reading habits are beyond my control!

Recently I set aside Brett Easton Ellis’ novel, Glamorama, which I’d begun some weeks ago, when traveling to New Orleans with my wife, Colleen, to re-read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, because I may participate in a book club discussion group. I stress MAY. So-called typically of Generation X I don’t like to join stuff.

I am also still reading Millennial Makeover, a nonfiction book about the Millinneial generations rise as a politically significan generation and how they’ll factor into the next cycle of political change/dominance, or whatever. It’s intersting stuff. I’m at the part where the authors are describing the four generation of the current generational cycle — Boomers, GenX, Millinniels, [to be named later] — by the societal attitudes of each given generation’s time as reflected in popular TV shows. I dig that kind of stuff.

And last night, I hit the book store to use up the remained of my bookstore giftcard that I got for my b-day back in December, and bought Max Brooks The Zombie Survival Guide. I’ve been wanting to own a copy of this satirical work since we got a copy here at the library some time back. Because I admire good satire and dig all things zombie and undead. I’m not positive but I think that Max Brooks is the son of Mel Brooks, famed comedian and moviemaker.

 Plus I’ve got an ever-growing stack of books next to the chair in our office. Like The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria.

Man, I wish that I could read faster.

 

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.

Vacation Reading List

Whenever I go on vacation I make it a point to not just grab any old thing to read. I try to pick out something that I’ve been meaning to read but have been unable to yet. Especially if I am going to be on a plane because that affords me a solid block of time to delve into a book. For this trip I brought along several books — 2 novels, 1 story collection, and 1 non-fiction book. I did not expect to read them all. I don’t have such a capacity. But I seem to need a tiny library when I do travel. Just in case.

For this trip my focus was on Brett Easton Ellis’ novel, Galmorama. It is the only book by Ellis’ that I have not yet read. I’ve had a hard copy edition for some years and have attempted to read it several times but never got further than maybe 20 pages in. I bought a paperback copy to read on the plane as it is a rather bulky book and have read about 60 pages in so for.

In some ways Glamorama resembles American Psycho. In fact, Patrick Bateman, the MC of AS makes an appearance in this novel, which was written after AS. But then a lot of people make appearances in it. The novel is concerned with celebrity culture. The main character is Victor Ward, male model and It Boy of the moment. He’s opening a new club. And the invite list is long, full of all manner of celebs. Victor is dating a big time model, Chloe. But he’s also running around with Alison Poole, another model/actress, who happens to be the main character in Jay McInerney’s novel, Story of My Life.

As with American Pyscho, the obsession with superficial details is frustrating but oddly compelling as well.

I did just finish a part where Victor meets with his father, which provided a bit more depth to the character, but it was short-lived. And yet enough to compel me on. The plot is supposed to involve terrorists eventually, in some way, I understand.

My main purpose in reading Glamorama is to explore a theme in Ellis’ work that I read about in a more recent article about the author. That theme is essentially the subversion of deep feeling by intensity of sensation, mainly via drug, sex and violence. When I read that it made immediate sense to me. Not just in terms of Ellis’ writing but in much of the culture of the 80s, in which I came of age.

I am always seeking out good reasons to use to defend Ellis’ work, as he has so many detractors and critics, some savagely so. I like to be at the ready to counter such arguments, especially to types who rant about his novel American Pyscho but who have failed to read it, and in fact refuse to read it.

X. Lit: Jennifer Government….

There’s a good chance I won’t finish Max Barry’s novel, Jennifer Governement. The ending seems pretty predictable, not to knock Mr. Barry, after all his published and fairly well read as far as I can tell and I’m just some schmuck blathering away on the interner to little, if any, avail, nevermind actual readership. My reason for this: I’m rereading Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road, for….wait for it….a book club. Yeah, that’s right. As non-GenXer as it may be to “join” anything, especially groups, I’ve decided to give it a try. Of course, there are not many books that I would join a book club for but The Road is definitely one of them. We’ll see how it goes. Also, I’ve written previously here that I consider McCarthy to be an X. Lit author. This might well give me opportunity to explain myself in greater detail. But I would like to make one point about Jennifer Government, concerning one of the primary charcters — John Nike. And that is that he, I would assert, is a distant, though softer and more comical, cousin of Patrick Bateman, the main character and narrator of Brett Easton Ellis’ continuingly (is that a word?) controversial novel, American Psycho. Both are slick yuppies with little regard for human life. They share similar concerns with material goods and surface details. And they especially seem to embody that Ellis theme of foregoing deep, meaningful human emotions and feelings for intensity of sensations via sex, drugs and alchohol, and especially violence. Of course, Batement is the epitomy of this particular ethos, grimly and repulsively so, while John Nike is more of comic book version of it, which is probably why no one will scream for Max Barry’s head to be lopped off and posted on spit.