Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis

 

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From time to time I mention this book for its interesting writing style. I have read a few Ellis novels including American Psycho and Rules of Attraction and of course Less than Zero and they are all very similar in how they are written, but I will get into that in a bit.

I do not know how to describe Ellis’ career other than controversial. I have read three of his six novels and all three use the themes of drugs, rape, sex, violence, and murder (mostly in American Psycho) heavily. He was born in California and moved between there and New York several times. He actually finished this book while he was in college at the age of 21. That is pretty impressive. I have often said that I do not know what it would take for me to be truly shocked by something I read. Well I will tell you that American Psycho pretty much shocked me, but that is a review for another day. Less than Zero is his first novel and one of his most famous. I will go out on a limb and say that Ellis is one of my favorite authors because of his style and the simplicity in which he writes.

The story follows Clay a rich college freshman on winter break back in California. During his break he meets up with some of his old friends as well as trying to find his ex-girlfriend. Clay spends most of his break at various parties doing drugs and participating in other acts of debauchery. The kids dabble in a little heroine and cocaine, you know just kids being kids. The story takes a turn when one of the friends becomes a prostitute to help pay for his addiction. At the end of the break Clay simply returns to college in New Hampshire leaving everything behind.IMG_1330

This story kind of reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld, it is basically about nothing but still has an exciting plot and keeps you reading. Maybe the plot itself is not that exciting but there is certainly a shock and awe factor with reading this book and every Ellis novel for that matter. The characters to me make the story. I love how disconnected they are from the real world, or what I consider the real world. The rich trust fund babies seem to always live very dangerous lives in a dark sort of underworld that you would never suspect.

Another thing I like is that the characters always seem so innocent and never seem to know the consequences of what they are doing. Every character in the book comes from a very wealthy family, so when one owes money to a drug dealer rather than get the money they prostitute themselves out. His characters never seem to think logically either, which most teenagers and college aged kids do not, but it always makes for an interesting read and they seem to always take it to the extreme.

As I mentioned above Ellis is one of my favorite writers. His style is very unique and simple that while reading some of his stories I felt that I could be a writer. There is a plot but not in the traditional sense. The story mostly just follows the crazy life of a rich college student on winter break for a few weeks. The other thing is that the story skips around a lot often leaving one thought and picking up somewhere else a few days or hours later never connecting the missing time. Usually this has to do with the main character passing out from drugs or being so high that they don’t know what is going on. The story then picks back up when they sober up. The style to me mimics the erratic thoughts of a teenager, and how they often jump from one thing to the next without any second thought. I think that is what I like most about this novel is how it is written and how it complements what is going on in the story. There is a lot of craziness that is taking place and the style it is written in sort of reflects this.

Interestingly enough this is how the other two novels that I have read by Ellis are written as well. I enjoy this style and it is very unique and interesting. The only other writer that mimics this style is Hubert Shelby Jr. I have read a couple of his books (Requiem for a Dream and Last Exit to Brooklyn) as well and I think the two writers have a very similar style.

One thing that is interesting is that Ellis uses characters in one book in some of his other novels. I do not think it is the case in this one but in American Psycho the brother of the main character, Patrick Bateman, is one of the main characters in Rules of Attraction. I think this is neat, as none of these books are sequels or in a series, Ellis just uses characters that are related to tell a different story. He kind of loosely created his own universe. Speaking of sequels there is a sequel to this one that I was unaware of called Imperial Bedrooms. I have not read this one but maybe I will someday when I have some more time.

There is also a movie out there based on this book, as you can tell from the book cover. I have not seen it and from what I have read it basically just uses the same characters and the title, that is about it. The plot of the movie differes quite a bit from what happens in the novel. I also think that Ellis was not too happy with the movie and how it turned out, more or less saying that he hated it. Ouch.

I enjoyed this book if you cannot tell. The style is very interesting and unique. It is very different from the norm and what I would consider a traditional novel. As you know for the most part I like different. I do not think this book will be for everyone though. As mentioned above there are some risqué themes that could offend some readers, but this is a very famous novel and deserves to be read. If you are an Ellis fan you will certainly enjoy this one. If you have never read anything by Ellis you should give this one a try, it is a pretty quick read and one that will have you laughing and cringing as you turn page after page.

Manik

 

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