Re-posted from Tumblr, May 11, 2010
I just finished reading a novel called ‘Less Than Zero‘ by Bret Easton Ellis, author of Lunar Park and probably best known for American Psycho. I picked it up because it was recommended to me more than once on Amazon for people who also liked Chuck Palahniuk, my current favorite author (although he has let me down on the two most recent stories…more on that later). Less Than Zero was his debut book (and it’s not new btw, published 1985).
It follows a young man named Clay who is home in Los Angeles from college in another state, and the whole book takes place in the period of only 4 weeks. It moves from one scene to another with little connection, and is basically about Clay (who has an incredibly apathetic view on life) hanging with his group of filthy rich L.A. friends (who are all children of Hollywood producers, actors, directors, etc.), going from party to party, sleeping with each other (often homosexually), constantly drinking and buying drugs, and just living completely self-indulgently. Strangely, not all of these things, as graphic sounding as they are, are explicitly detailed, only suggested or alluded to.
It is narrated by Clay, who is constantly unsatisfied despite having basically everything he wants in life, and he often has strange little moments in his head (that the reader is let into) that border on psychotic obsession. He thinks much, but leads a very shallow life. It does move in a very stream-of-consciousness manner, each scene is just Clay suddenly ‘there,’ and he talks about what’s going on around him.
I kept waiting for the book to go somewhere specific or come to a conclusion for Clay (and it’s not very long, only about 230 pages). The end of the book has Clay in basically the exact same position, no real change or transition has taken place in him nor his surroundings, except that he has seen and experienced some really terrible things while at home, mostly because of spending time with his drug dealer, Rip. The writing is decent, and it does have a quality that reels you in and keeps you interested, although always with the hope that something crazy or exciting is coming, and it doesn’t.
I do not know what the author’s intent was in writing such a story (or how it became a national bestseller), whether to give a ‘snapshot’ or commentary on an exaggerated group of youth, or if there is some deeper message or wake-up call in the book’s edginess. Overall, it was worth a read, but I would not recommend it. Mostly because there’s a lot of inappropriate material to wade through that I’m not sure why anyone would write about so pointlessly, and ultimately, even for myself, I don’t think it was a ‘healthy’ book to read, content-wise. I like dark and I like satirical, but this one pushed the envelope in some disturbing ways.