I Have a Lot of Feelings About… Bret Easton Ellis

You know the kind of people who scowl around, snapping at anyone who says hello and reflexively tightening their fists in a vaguely threatening way?

I am not one of those people. (My brother totally is, so I can’t thank genetics for my laid-back disposition.) For some reason, I just don’t get angry. I don’t really care about most things or people enough for them to upset.

An exception? Bret Easton Ellis.

If you haven’t realized yet, this is not a thinking post. This is a feeling post.

I actually don’t know how popular Ellis is with my generation, but Less Than Zero is one of my favorite books. My actual favorite book is Bright Lights, Big City, written by his BFF Jay McInerney. Both of these novels amazed me and cemented my longing to have come of age in the ’80s. Ellis and McInerney were part of the literary Brat Pack, right up there with John Hughes movies and everything Tom Cruise.

You can imagine my disappointment when I read more of Ellis’ work. First, I tried American Psycho, but it’s boring, so I quit (we’ll come back to that). What I really wanted to get through, though, was Imperial Bedrooms, a sequel set and published twenty-five years after Less Than Zero. And this is where things get tricky. Apparently Ellis was super butthurt over the film version of LTZ (which I have no interest in seeing), so he more or less set out to ruin the story with his sequel.

No, really. The opening to Imperial Bedrooms is this weird meta thing about how the Less Than Zero movie was inaccurate and terrible and how the narrator of both books, Clay, was actually impersonated in LTR by some writer who loved Clay’s girlfriend but Bedrooms is the real Clay and – yeah, if you haven’t read these books you may not follow. I barely do.

But trust me, they’re hella uplifting! (via a great post on thought catalog)

To me, Bedrooms rang false. I didn’t feel like these were the same characters, made even more jaded and twisted with age. I felt like the writer picked them up after a quarter of a century and tried to continue the story even though he couldn’t remember where its heart wasThat’s probably a weirdly sentimental take considering how gruesome the stories are at times (pretty much once in LTR and always in Bedrooms). Essentially, the conclusion of Clay, Blair, etc.,’s story disappointed me. I was angry in a sad way.

With American Psycho, on the other hand, I got angry in a weird and totally ridiculous way. To tie this back to earlier notes, American Psycho happens to borrow a character from Bright Lights, Big City and at one point Patrick Bateman, the title character, meets Tom Cruise in an elevator. Just so you know.

This book is the definition of polarizing. I finally finished it because I had to read it for a lit class, and I still don’t know how to feel about it. The really boring part is the meticulous way that Bateman catalogues every item of clothing every person in every scene is wearing. For example:

“The maître d’ has sent over four complimentary Bellinis but we order drinks anyway. The Ronettes are singing “Then He Kissed Me,” our waitress is a little hardbody and even Price seems relaxed though he hates the place. Plus there are four women at the table opposite ours, all great-looking— blond, big tits: one is wearing a chemise dress in double-faced wool by Calvin Klein, another is wearing a wool knit dress and jacket with silk faille bonding by Geoffrey Beene, another is wearing a symmetrical skirt of pleated tulle and an embroidered velvet bustier by, I think, Christian Lacroix plus high-heeled shoes by Sidonie Larizzi, and the last one is wearing a black strapless sequined gown under a wool crepe tailored jacket by Bill Blass. Now the Shirelles are coming out of the speakers, “Dancing in the Street,” and the sound system plus the acoustics, because of the restaurant’s high ceiling, are so loud that we have to practically scream out our order to the hardbody waitress— who is wearing a bicolored suit of wool grain with passementerie trim by Myrone de Prémonville and velvet ankle boots and who, I’m fairly sure, is flirting with me.”

(Ellis, Bret Easton (2010-05-28). American Psycho (Vintage Contemporaries) (p. 40). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

In the course of 400 pages, he never really stops doing this crap unless he’s doing very bad things instead. He also insists that he looks like a model and that he kills people on the street then runs around Manhattan covered in blood and screaming and no one bats an eye. He’s an incredibly frustrating character. This is the part where we talk about consumerism and the degradation of society.

But you know what he did that actually pissed me off? He called his sunglasses “Wayfarer aviators.”

THERE IS NO SUCH THING. It’s not even possible for such a bastardization of Ray-Bans to exist.

THESE ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STYLES OF SUNGLASSES. It is NOT hard at all to notice this.

And, like, Bateman is just so meticulous about everything, but he thinks his Wayfarers are “Wayfarer aviators”? What is that about? Luckily, my professor required daily response journals. So I took the opportunity to conduct some serious literary analysis:

“However… what the hell are Wayfarer aviator sunglasses? Maybe they existed in the 80s, but those are not a thing. Trust me, I’m a Ray-Ban person (two pairs of Wayfarers and a pair of aviators) and I don’t understand how you could possibly combine the two styles. I googled this and perhaps they are aviator lenses with Wayfarer frames, but that defeats the purpose of aviators? Also, why does he not, for once, name the brand? Should we assume they’re Ray-Bans? I don’t know, this mention is just totally incongruous. Sorry if this seems random or minor, but it really bothers me. Oh, and then he meets Tom Cruise, “who is wearing the same pair of Wayfarers.” Um, how the heck is Bateman referring to these sunglasses so flippantly when in the presence of Tom Cruise? I mean, hello, Top Gun? In which EVERYONE wore aviators? I’m glad he didn’t drop that BS “Wayfarer aviators” thing into this conversation, because he surely would have been put into his place. And then he references Top Gun?!? Sorry, bro, but if you’re going to do consumerism, do it right. (By the way, I’m a little bit in love with Top Gun.)”

There’s a lot of extremely graphic sex and sickening violence and really disturbing sexual violence in this novel. It makes little to no sense. It’s dense and it’s hard to read. But what set me off? Sunglasses.

I just wanted to make sure the Internet knows how shallow I am. And it feels good to get it out.

If someone knows what the hell Bateman was talking about, please end my misery and let me know.

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