Saturday, July 24, 2010

Imperial Bedrooms - Brett Easton Ellis

Twenty-five years ago, Ellis published his debut novel, Less Than Zero, featuring a cast of young beautiful former prep school kids in Los Angeles who seemed to do nothing but go to parties, get high, and have sex. Of course, there was more going on in terms of their relationships, which seem to be a portrayal of the depths of narcissism and nihilism, but with all Ellis's novels, I mostly finish reading them thinking, "this guy is messed up. I'm scared to know how he comes up with this stuff." And yet, I keep reading, because to me Ellis is one of the most innovative, creative, and talented writers of our time - even if subject matter-wise, he is often difficult to stomach. Imperial Bedrooms is the sequel to Less Than Zero, and shows us the characters of the first novel 25 years later, and not that much more grown up. Clay, the main character, is back in LA after a stint in NYC, trying to cast his latest film. In the midst of doing so, he meets and becomes obsessed with a wanna-be actress who has strange and not always straight-forward connections to his friends from his previous life. The violence, narcissism, and hedonistic indulgence from Less Than Zero is back in full force - with the story told in such a creepy straight-forward manner, it left me wondering if any of the characters had a conscience or true feelings about the lives they moved through so mechanically. Ellis plays a lot with technology in the novel, with the characters communicating almost exclusively via cell phone and text messaging, and there is extensive discussion of internet videos - again, this all contributed to my feeling that the novel was so much about lack of emotion and feeling, and the price we pay for growing into such an impersonal society. I would not say that I found this book enjoyable - and I was glad that it was a short quick read because I probably could not have spent much more than a day with it. That being said, it is pretty standard Ellis, for better or for worse, and for thoes who follow his work, certainly worth checking out.

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