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I remember reading that Robert Benchley hated going into bookstores, because all the books spoke to him of writers leaning back at their desk and saying, "There! I've done it!" and it just depressed the hell out of him.

Great point about American Psycho and Bateman's soul. I didn't read the book simply because I didn't want those images stuck in my head. Some of the horror in Less Than Zero was bad enough. I might give this latest a try, though.

Chris Quinones

Teresa Nielsen Hayden wrote an amazing review of American Psycho some years ago that unfortunately isn't on line, but it does appear in her book Making Book, which is worth reading on general principle.

Shakespeare's Sister

I love American Psycho, and it's because I didn't read it as either a satire or a horror novel. I read it in high school, and had certainly never heard the term glitterati or read a decent review of it; I probably heard about it from Rolling Stone, for heaven's sake. Anyway, when I read it, it seemed to me to be a metaphor for corporate life. The unnecessarily detailed gore was boring, and I likened it to what I imagined to be the flesh and bones of mergers and acquisitions. I've held onto that first impression, and so I still like the book. (Corporate life didn't dissuade me, either.) And I adored the film, which seemed to reflect my interpretation. Plus, Christian Bale...don't get me started.

Anyway, I feel sorry for Bret Easton Ellis, too, but only because he seems like kind of a mardy dick.


I don't remember if I first heard of LESS THAN ZERO when the movie came out or not, but I know it had absolutely no impact on my life in an "Eastern College".

AMERICAN PSYCHO, though, that book had lots of resonance. I had been having a weird Industrial-Midwest-to-Urban-East-Coast transition, and one of the results was writing splatterpunk short stories (and not getting them published by places like CEMETARY DANCE), and running around Central Park at 2AM. Not even drunk, more's the pity.

Anyway, I picked up AmPSY, figuring I would relate to it all too well. And frankly, I was bored. To someone who had been reading Haldeman, or Skipp and Spector, or any of Karl Edward Wagner's Horror anthologies from DAW, it seemed like bloodless gruel.

More, it seemed like Ellis has decided he wanted to write Stephen King bestsellers, while writing like Raymond Carver. Though at the time, I thought of it more like: Stephen King with an MFA, but without the narrrative talent.

I am always a little surprised that Jay McInerney hasn't gotten the same kind of ongoing coverage as Ellis, but I guess when the annoying main character from your breakthrough novel is played by Michael J Fox in the movie version, it kills you deader than when that annoying main character is played by Andrew McCarthy.


Oh, and, based on reviews of LUNAR PARK, it sounds like Ellis is once again taking tropes that Stephen King has covered extensively. Like your own fictional characters coming to life and murderin'. (DARK HALF)


I remember my late friend Lee Brenneman in Los Angeles reading "Less Than Zero" and commenting, "This book was deliberately meant to shock, and you know what, I was shocked." I read it, too, and was fairly horrified because I'd met some of those kids growing up in Southern California as a middle-class boy in a rich persons' town, and though some of it seemed farfetched "and deliberately meant to shock," a lot of it rang true.

Still, it never made me want to ever read another book by him, and when "American Psycho" came out, the misogyny and gore sounded horrible, but all the brand names sounded even worse. I heard the movie, made by a woman, was interesting though, so Shakespeare's Sister may be right.

Kevin Wolf

I read Less Than Zero so long ago perhaps I'm being unfair, but its impact on me was negligible. I was sorta jealous of some of the characters - the money, etc - but of course they waste everything they have (as I very vaguely recall it).

I'm in the same group as a few above: I never wanted to read another one of his books. I did rent the DVD of American Psycho and found it to be inconsequential satire of easy targets.


Gary Shteyngart, on the other hand, might actually be the real deal. I really liked his The Russian Debutante's Handbook, though the real test, as Lance has noted here, is what he does with his second book, not his first.


Chris, Thanks for the heads up on Teresa's book.


I agree about Shteyngart. The Russian Debutante's Handbook left me breathless. I couldn't keep up with the wild runaway energies of his imagination.

Kevin, You and Shakespeare's Sister obviously have different responses to Christian Bale.

MoX, I always thought McInnerney was the better writer. But I think Ellis is the more disciplined one, and that counts for a lot.

This week's New Yorker has a very positive short review of Lunar Park. The New Republic's Sacha Zimmerman is less enthusiastic.

Good call on the King, um, homages(?).

Shakespeare's Sister

I always thought McInnerney was the better writer. But I think Ellis is the more disciplined one

Of their peers, Donna Tartt is arguably both a better writer and more disciplined than either of them. (And I like both of them.)

Exiled in NJ

What I wrote two years ago about another writer holds true for Ellis and others:

"I wring from my conscious an awareness of the Great Ross Macdonald Scare of 1969. It was the beginning of the era when the media began to devour its own. It worked this way:
1.An author is semi-discovered;
2.His next book is praised to the skies and his face appears on the cover of Time or Newsweek;
3.Doubts creep in with his next publication;
4.Finally, in Step 4, the sucker is consigned back to the gutter to await his rehabilitation at death.

It’s a neat trick, turning one story into four.

blue girl

I have never read anything by Bret Easton Ellis -- but, the movie American Psycho? I loved it -- and Christian Bale? Ditto.

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