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.

Iron Man was awesome!

I had high hopes for this movie. First, because of the Marvel animated superhero shows that I used to watch on channel 20 as a kid, Iron Man was my favorite.

And second, because Robert Downey Jr. is one of Generation X’s best actors, if not perhaps the best. Sure, he’s had his problems — drugs, jail time, more drugs, more jail time — but you cannot deny the dude’s talent. All the movies that he appears in may not be stellar success, by whatever measure you happen to employ, but I defy anyone to show me a bad performance by this guy. Can’t be done.

I, of course, recall first seeing him in Weird Science, a bizarre teen angst film about two geeks (one played by Anthony Michael Hall, another GenX actor) who, utilizing their computer and geek obsession with science and fear of never getting laid make a hot woman, played by Kelly Labrock, who teaches them the value of having fun, and he stood out instantly. Of course, it was his performance in Less Than Zero as the crack-addicted Julian that was really allowed Downey to show his dramatic acting chops.

Some of Downey’s more recent films that I really dig include: A Scanner, Darkly, Zodiac, and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang! the latter of which I don’t think many people have seen, but they should, and not just because of Downey. Val Kilmer is quite good in it too; who knew he could play such a good fag.

Also looks like Downey will be making a cameo in the coming in June The Incredible Hulk, playing Tony Stark/Iron Man in it. And of course the obligatory Iron Man 2 seems to be slated for 2010. Can’t wait.

More on X Lit.

I’m almost finished with the novel, Jennifer Government by Max Barry, and it definitly qualifies as X Lit. Not only is it funny and ironic, but many of the characters seem to be caught in a state “stuckness,” obliged to jobs that they not only dislike, but in fact hate, and even find, well, to be immoral on any number of levels. Then of course there is the portrayal of a society so dominated by corporate interests that individuals’ last names depend on the company they work for — John Nike, Billy NRA, etc. Additionally, the government is literally bankrupt, requiring victims to fund investigations (can anyone say Social Security). Characters attempt to opt out of the system and exist apart from it with varying degress of succeccess. Some fail because they simply cannot compete with so much powers. Others are seduced by money. Creativity is co-opted by corporations for profit. Lives are taken in the interest of profit. This scenario is one that persists as a possibly nightmare come true for many Gen Xers, who seem to share a vague sense of certainty that things will not work out in the end. Things will ultimately end badly. And yet our better angels compel us to stive, in spite of thie angst.

Anyhoo… this got me thinking about other X Lit. authors and books, and I thought I’d try to list them here, as much as possible.

There is Douglas Coupland, of course, especially his novel, Generation X, but his other works qualify as well.

Brett Easton Ellis, by virtue of his age to begin with, but also his themes, particularly in Less Than Zero, the way he deals with gender roles and sexuality seems in tune with an Xer ethos.

Jay McInerney, especially Bright Lights, Big City. Of course, I struggle with this particular one. Does JM really qualify as a Gen X author? Born in 1955, he’s 53, which puts him with the Boomers. Even a recent article, in Time I think it was, classified him as a Boomer. And yet, I seem to want to co-opt him into Gen X, at least for me. Why? Perhap because his first book, BLBC, was formative to me as a writer; it seemed to give me permission to write about the things I’d experienced, to a degree, even though I never lived in NYC or or worked in magazine publishing in Manhattan or dated a model. I did my share of coke and club hopping. I suppose it is more of an 80s novel than a Gen X novel. And while the two realms may overlap they are not equal. A more detailed argument is required to claim Mr. McInerney convincingly. I wonder what he would think?

David Foster Wallace

Rick Moody

Michael Chabon

Jhumpar Lahiri

Junot Diaz

And while it might seem out of left field I am going to add Cormac McCarthy, especially his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Road. Dystopian fiction is very Gen X, in that it expresses all our worst fears come true, and The Road certainly does that. Also, McCarthy was a man who opted out of the maintstream world for much of his life, living off the grid in a shack in Tenn at one time. He was often broke or close to it, unemployed, but he persisted. He still does, quietly, rarely granting interview because it seems he finds it unproductive, merely boastful. The only way he would interview with Oprah was if she came to him — and really how often does that happen. He lived on the fringe, mostly overlooked until quite recently, as has Generation X. At age 73 or so, McCarthy is a clear case of how the X ethos has more to do with a way of looking at the world than it does with one’s age.

Perhaps an interesting study in contrasts between Boomer and Gen X writers could come out of examing the careers and works of Stephen King, a Boomer born in 1947, and his two writer sons, Joe Hill, born 1972, and Owen King, born 1976. Of course, Hill has just two books to his credit and Owen King only one but over time it could prove insightful.

But returning to the idea of dystopian fiction: I say this is a Gen X preoccupation simply because the “end of the world” was something that me and my friends when we were younger used to talk about quite a bit. Probably because we lived with the threat of nuclear war between the US and the then Soviety Union. Our war was The Cold War. The fact that it never came to pass (although it still could, simply with other players firing the shots) doesn’t make it any less significant.

Few things get me more indignant than Boomers who claim that Gen Xers are a spoiled generation because  we did not grow up with war. Boomers, of course, had Vietnam, the grand-mother-fucker of all wars, which they seem to have a sick affection for, so much so that a small group of their ilk, i.e. the Bush adminstration, felt a need to recreate it. The Iraq War is as much a reenactment of Vietnam as it is a war unto itself. Even those Boomers in power who now take a public stance against The Iraq War have done little to end it. And many not only did nothing to prevent but approved it with their vote — Yeah, I’m looking at you Hillary!

I actually once had conversation with a Boomer woman and her Vietnam vet husband (which because of his status I was pretty much not allowed to have much an opinion on the issue that didn’t agree with them) who claimed that my generation did not know war. When I brought up the Cold War, she dismissed the argument. She seemed to think that because it did not fit her conventional definition of war, i.e. it was not Vietnam (she barely aknowledged, Korea, or either of the WW wars) that it did not apply. But I argued that it was a real war and that it did have real affects on the young people that grew up in its shadow. The Cold War for many Gen Xers, though not all, was the nuclear annihilation equivalent of the school bully promising to kick your ass but not telling you exactly when or where he was going to do it. When you least expect it…expect it. It could happen at any moment.

That kind of threat can really fuck with your head. You begin to think, well, we’re all going to die some day anyway so what is the point of anything. What is the point of getting good grades? What is the point of waiting to have sex, when you may not live long enough to get married to have sex? Fuck now! I mean, there was a time when I actually believed that I would not live to see the age of 21, so of course I drank, got drunk, did stupid ass shit as a teenager. It may seem irrational now, but hindsight is 20/20. At the time, in the moment, it seemed very fucking real! And it was scary as shit. Some people are still surprised that their is a cohort of you people that, when they were young, feared that a sudden, blinding flash of light would be their last vision of the world — and it could come at any time! It could happen now….now….now…now…

Perhaps this is why I am intrigued by Zombie movies andcollapse of society fiction — The Stand, by Stephen King was one of my favorite books when I was younger; I read it over and over. Even today, I have Zombie dreams, especially after I became a father. And in 2003, when the power went out, I freaked a little. Caught in traffic on my way to pick up my then toddler daughter with a gas tank on fumes, I pulled over into a Wal-Mart parking lot and began walking the 7-10 miles to my parents’ house. Of course, it would have been smarter to walk the 1.5 miles back home, get my wife’s mountain bike, and ride there, but I simply was not thinking straight. And all the clogged traffic, the honking horns, the frustrated drivers yelling and honking their horns made me frett that everything could crumble into chaos at any moment. I was watching carefully for the signs. For it to happen now…now…now…

In any case, there are no doubt many more Gen X books and authors. Our early circumstances, graduating into poor economies that made it difficult to find the kinds of jobs we had hoped for may have had the hidden bonus of creating a lot of good writers and artists, filmmakers etc.

New Bret Easton Ellis novel in the works

According to an L.A. Times article, Bret Easton Ellis is working on a squel to his break out novel, Less Than Zero. The new novel will take it’s title from the Elivis Costello song, “Imperial Bedroom,” which Ellis calls “sonically, an absolute ’80s masterpiece.”

Article link:

http://www.latimes.com/features/books/la-ca-ellis23mar23,0,2812368.story?page=1

I agree with the article that Ellis is often misunderstood and far too maligned. His novel, American Psycho is an excellent work that has been savaged by too many people that never bothered to read it. That is a crime punishable by a swift kick in the groin, not to mention it’s just bullshit! And his first novel, Less Than Zero, remains a Gen X icon and touchstone.

I was encouraged to see that Ellis is a fan of the HBO show The Wire, the best TV show ever made, it is proof that television need not be populate with crap like American Idol, but of course it still will be.

I love this bit from the article:

His work is often savaged by critics: His last book, the 2005 quasi-autobiographical novel “Lunar Park,” was deemed “the worst novel I’ve ever read” by Steve Almond in the Boston Globe.

I’d like to be hipped to this asshole Almond’s reading list. Obviously the dude has an ax to grind.

The author of the pieces goes on to argue that:

It may be that like a lot of things that emerge from California, the style and vision of Ellis’ work creates problems for East Coast intellectuals, but will become as enduring as psychedelia, surfing, the hard-boiled novel or fast food.

I think there is plenty of merit in this view. Americans’ didn’t get William Faulkner in his time either. Many still don’t. The French did, though. And as the author of this article says, Europeans seem to get Ellis, and that could be his saving grace. I hope so anyway. He is an author that should not be forgotten.

But while Almond may be a pretentious Eastern intellectual ass, he’s not the only voice in the crowd. Consider an alternate opinion:

A.O. Scott, the New York Times film critic who is working on a book about contemporary American fiction, considers 1991’s “American Psycho,” a skewering of ’80s greed sometimes seen as an endorsement of it, “one of the most misunderstood books in all of American literature.” For Scott, “Glamorama,” which got scathing reviews, is a book that “in 100 years might be understood as a masterpiece,” the work that presaged the combustion between the Internet and celebrity.

Glamorama it the on Ellis novel that I’ve not written, but perhaps it is time to. It took me a long time to come to American Psycho. I couldn’t seem to read it when it first came out. I didn’t get it. All the name brand detailing was just too much to wade through. And I admit I was influenced by all the criticism of it. I simply wasn’t going to read it. I did see the movie and that got me thinking about it again, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I finally picked it up to try and give it a serious read. Well, there was not trying to it. I found it very readable now. And while I found some of the violence difficult to take, I was not willing to write the book off based on that alone. Nor was I going to ascribe the tendencies of the main character and narrator, Patrick Bateman, to the Ellis himself. Why would people assume such a thing? But plenty of people did, and do.

“What bothered a lot of folks about ‘Psycho,’ ” said Albert Mobilio, fiction editor of Bookforum, “wasn’t the ultra-violence, but the killer’s devotion to brand-name products. The devotion was satirized with such energetic precision that it was impossible not to conclude that Ellis himself was pretty besotted. That may have proved his real literary crime.

I was at a party with a gathering of authors and professors and by all measure intelligent supposedly open-minded people. And yet the called Ellis a shallow, materialistic, misogynistic, psychopath. It was fucking amazing, because not only did these people not know Bret Easton Ellis, had never even met him (I did, at a reading in Ann Arbor, but it amounts to nothing really), they’d never even read the book, and more to the point refused to read it. I wanted to say, Fine. Don’t read it. But then you don’t really get to have a serious opinion. So shut the fuck up already!