the beep one

Welcome to the beep one. The beep one stands for the bret easton ellis project. The one is just a number; one because this is the first one (in a series of maybe seven?) In this project, I intend on reading Ellis’s bibliography in the order of publication and afterwards write a few words about it.

bret easton ellis is a novelist, an author who writes books, based in L.A (Los Angeles, the city of angels, dreams, lights, tinsel town. Broken dreams. The bubble (according to Mark Cousins)) mostly known, maybe, for his third novel American Psycho. He was born in 1964.

The first book he published is called Less Than Zero, and will be the topic of this post.

As I write this, I am listening to a suicidal tendencies CD. Suicidal tendencies is a punk band, also from la. I only just discovered the band, and I have rented two CDs of them from the library. I appreciate the hardcore and “crossover” quality to them. Their lyrics are also good, although sometimes they can seem a little paranoid in what their singing about?

It is early evening on august 28th and I probably will go to bed soon. The weather outside is cloudy but not cold. (In fact, it`s been surprisingly warm since I got home from work. Not desert warm but, you know, like, warm.) On September 2nd, this post will be out.

I am drinking a coke and the music is streaming out of my laptop.

It is not windy here, but in ellis’s less than zero there is, at times, a lot of wind. Clay, the narrator/‘protagonist’ comments on the warm and hot desert wind multiple times. I wouldn`t say he “complains” about it – he simply states that it’s windy and move on. One time he is afraid the windows of his house may shatter because of the wind. Maybe that`s some kind of complaint? I wouldn`t say so.

The windows don’t shatter, or it hasn’t happened yet anyway. (I am still not completely done with the book, and even though this is my second read-through, I can’t remember if that will happen later.) When he’s not commenting on the wind, Clay spends his time going to parties with friends, doing dope, driving home early in the morning after one night stands with people he thinks he knows or remembers from a time past, and “hangs out” with his family. (he has two sisters, and his parents are divorced) He is a student at the university of new hanpshire and is home for Christmas break.

(as I wrote the sentence with people he thinks he knows or remembers from a time past I remember there are parts of the book written in italics. These parts, passages, are about a time before Clay’s house presumably was sold, and when his family presumably was still together. These parts, passages reveal that even if he doesn’t like to admit it, he still misses these times. Maybe they remind him of better and more stable times. Maybe in a way he is like Holden Caulfield in that he doesn’t want to grow old. Or maybe he just hates college and wants to go back to a simpler time before college.)

The novel is praised for being a so-called zeitgeist novel. It was published in 1985 when ellis was still attending college. He was twenty-one years old. How cool must that be, to have a debut novel out before you’re finished with school – you literally go from one to the next and just skip the whole “trying-to-make-it” phase. That’s what he did, it seems. (more on this in a later post, I think, when doing Lunar Park but I can’t promise anything.) He was “only” 21 when less than zero was published but the way less than zero is written makes him seem like a much more “experienced” writer. The way the overall language and narrative flow and work together makes it feel like Ellis knew what he was doing, knew where he wanted the book to go, knew how to get there and certainly knew how to stay true to his style the whole ride out.

Ellis himself claims to be a moralist (source: first sentence on his author page on goodreads, check it out) but there is an uncanny feeling of demoralized nihilism in less than zero. Short scenes, uneventful events, “deadpan” dialogue contribute to making the book seem “boring” to some readers, yet undeniably “deep” to others/ the same readers. This ambiguity is what makes the novel so interesting to readers through the years, and is a big part of what has made it survive for so long. The novel offers the fundamentals of what it means to be human in a capitalist society. It’s a study on what human values mean and its place in popular culture (such as music and film), as well as the role of drugs (as a means of escape) in the midst of all this. An escape from what? Ellis provides both the answers and the correlating questions.

It is now the next day, August 29th. I have finished editing some of what I wrote yesterday, and also wrote more new things in this review. The review is practically finished, even if I haven’t finished reading the book yet. (I finished the book earlier today, 2nd of september)

It’s been cloudy today and a little rain. Not as warm as yesterday. I had hot dogs and fries for dinner today, no Coke, and I drank more coffee than usual.

The rest of the beep is a no-brainer. I just have to actually read the books and write the texts – you know, do the actual work.

Sorry for the divergence. . . Back to less than zzero.

As the readers ride along with Clay (and his friends/(ex)girlfriend/dealer Trent, Daniel, Blair, Rip as well as other various characters who drift through the novel) from one Los Angeles party to another in a Lynchian fashion (Clay receives phone calls from strangers who spend three minutes in silence and then hang up), the way the novel is written grammatically makes them (the readers) sit constantly on the edge of their seats, waiting for something else to happen. The climax constantly keeps building up, but there never is a flood of release. In essence, less than 0 is a postmodern anticlimactic novel, reminiscent of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, in prose-form. Postmodern – Ellis is breaking a writing convention when he is telling the reader what happens, merely presenting facts of the events of the story, without any unnecessary commenting of opinions or emotions of the implied narrator/author – and not “showing”. This leaves the reader to make her own decisions and interpretations. Is this what makes him a moralist? That when the reader can decide for herself whether a certain situation is good or bad, then the author can relax and chill in the background and go out and call himself a moralist? (You decide!)

Clay, the narrative/’protagonist’, plays a role in this reader-interpretation. He is cleverly named, as he is (like the rest of the major and minor characters in the novel) formless, featureless and the reader is allowed to form him into what shape or size she wants to, like actual clay. The narrative is as featureless as Clay and the other characters; there is no abundant emotions in the narrative. The narrative is narcotized, as numb as its drug-infused characters are.

(This abovementioned writing technique we see later on in his later fiction as well. It’s part of his overall “project”.  (– his own beep, perhaps. But probably not) They reappear, at least as far as I can remember at this moment, in Lunar Park and American Psycho. Part of this beep is to find out whether it could be said that Easton actually had/have a project of his own in his fiction. Maybe we can find out that he is a moralist after all.)

My suicidal tendencies CD is getting to its end, and so is this text. But there is at least one more thing I need to mention before this review/incoherent thought-spewing/word salad (?) of Less Than Zero ends. And it’s quite monumental in fact. (I wrote part of this next paragraph on a note-app on my phone this morning, waiting for the bus to work after having had troubles sleeping the night before thinking about what I should write) I mentioned Clay drives home in the early morning from (what I presume is) a one-night stand. On his way home he drives past a billboard that says DISAPPEAR HERE. Throughout the book, he occasionally returns to this phrase in his own head. In his thoughts, he also occasionally returns to what is part of the first sentence of the book: PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO MERGE. Put together, these two phrases remind the reader of where she is (HERE), what to do (DISAPPEAR) and what not to do (MERGE). It is a reminder that we exist here and now and there is nothing we can do about it except try to move on, disappear into everyday life. It’s a reminder of who we are, and who the people of the book are. Like an echo of the title of the book itself, we are less than zero.

~ milk

 

 

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