Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

I read this book when I was eighteen, in the first few weeks of my freshman year of college, and man, did I love it. I devoured it in a couple of sittings, and from then on I became a bit obsessed with Bret Easton Ellis (well, for that year at least). I read all of his novels to date. His writing informed my own; I began writing in the present tense, with major characters in some stories playing minor roles in others. My characters became more worldly and jaded.

Now nearly ten years later I wonder how much I'd like Less Than Zero if I read it today. What appealed to me about this novel, written in short page long vignettes, littered with pop culture references, detailing the sordid lives of a bunch of too-rich, shallow, and emotionally dead 20-somethings in 1980s L.A., dining at Spago on daddy's credit card by day and snorting coke and prostituting themselves to feed their heroin habits by night. Says Ellis of the novel: "I read it for the first time in about 20 years this year--recently. It wasn't so bad...I don't think it's a perfect book by any means, but it's valid. I get where it comes from...There's a lot of it that I wish was slightly more elegantly written. Overall, I was pretty shocked. It was pretty good writing for someone who was 19." I'm thinking I might have a similar reaction: understanding what about it appealed to me so much at the time, and surprise that I still find it to be a good book.

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