Thursday, September 25, 2008

Less Than Zero / by Bret Easton Ellis

Winter break brings 19-year-old Clay home from his first semester back east. The son of wealthy LA ‘people’, his life and that of his equally over-privileged friends seamlessly yields back to the partying, out-on-the-edge days before college. But mirth is lost on a dissolute Clay as drowning in his own solitary void, his numbness to the high-times is only compounded by the ugly depravity of his once-closest friends.

American Psycho (both book and movie) made Ellis a cult icon but Less Than Zero first acknowledged him as a voice for Generation X. Published in 1985, the novel stirred controversy with its revelation of California’s drug culture and some its most loyal patrons--children of LA’s wealthy upper-crust. Perpetually aware but never surprised, Ellis’ style is essentially devoid of emotion. Clay’s world is one without hope, without feeling where characters exist below the surface. No action is interpreted and reactions are never personalized with Clay's own reflections remaining far from the plot's content, focusing instead on distant memories from the past. Despite this, or perhaps even because of it, Clay’s character is still felt by the book’s end.

Ironic Footnote: This book was made into a 1987 movie starring Robert Downey Jr.

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