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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » Really slick stuff

Really slick stuff

I only got around to reading Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero back in August. I didn’t find it nearly as engaging as either American Psycho or Rules of Attraction. It was interesting enough that I finished it in two sittings, though. Certain aspects just seemed unnecessary and in the way, and the unrelenting dickishness was just a little depressing; the end seemed a little more tender and humanizing than I expected and enjoyed.

I watched the movie and was, to say the least, disappointed.

But yesterday I read Imperial Bedrooms, and I am forcing myself to reexamine every terrible comment I’ve ever made about Ellis (likely: more than a few will be upheld). The opening salvo of this novel was brilliant, and with the previous novel and its movie adaptation fairly fresh in my mind, it was almost too damn clever. What is pretty great about the story is how the narrator situates himself to not only tell it, but to critique the author. This meta/self critique went a long way to making me trust the narrator despite what happens inthe next 160 or so pages, especially the last dozen or so.

It also tells you how you misread (and how everyone) Less Than Zero. Imperial Bedrooms complements it extremely well, but I have the suspicion that anyone who reads them out of order will be entirely disappointed. Because it’s not a misreading on the part of the reader; it’s that the sequel is correcting it, an act that requires the reader to initially be sympathetic to the narrator. You have to first feel a little bad for Clay even if he’s a bit of an ass (ok, more than a little) in order for Imperial Bedrooms to have any weight (actually, this applies to all of the characters). But you also need to have seen, and been upset by, the wildly inaccurate portrayal of all the characters in the movie.

I would not hesitate to use these books and the movie, in sequence in a writing course. It’s clever and smart without being inaccessible.

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