Less Than Zero – review

Less Than ZeroI’ve spent the day working thus far. I did enough to warrant leaving at three but not enough to give myself a pat on the back. Someday.

I reinstalled my computer last week and I’m happy to report that it’s no longer trying to crash every programme I have open. This all came as some relief for the funds available to replace it right now are round about zero.

The weather is nothing short of glorious and it’s put a spring in my step.

— — — — —

Anyway. I finished another Bret Easton Ellis the other day. American Psycho was one of my favourite books when I read it (no, the pedantic attention to detail didn’t irritate me at all before you ask), but I’ve stopped, twice, after the first twenty pages of Glamorama. Less Than Zero, my recent foray, grabbed my eye from its place on the bookshelves because it was short and looked like it would be easy – I’m still not really able for anything too time-consuming – and I was right.

The plot revolves around seven or so rich and spoiled teenagers, one more disenchanted than the next, who spend the Winter break at home in LA taking drugs, going to parties, loving each other and then hating each other, and trying to figure out where their parents actually are. Clay, the protagonist, tells it all from his point of view, allowing the reader to see the effects such a lifestyle has on one person who probably knows better. We don’t find out what happens to all of them in the end, but I don’t think anyone’s really supposed to care.

I must say that I always enjoy Ellis’ (or is that Easton Ellis?) cross-referencing between his novels (e.g., Camden College shows up in three, I think), because it gives a feeling of connectedness between all the lives he writes about, even if the individuals concerned seldom feel a connectedness to anything. And I also like Ellis’/ EE’s ability to still shock me. Two scenes from Less Than Zero are still in my head in a semi-disturbing way, because they came out of nowhere, were relatively scarce in detail (allowing one’s imagination to fill in the blanks), and involved the actions of teenagers – children – which increased their gravity tenfold for me.

Ultimately, however, Ellis/ EE writes about disenchanted and aimless youth culture like no other author I know. His characters are, without fail, selfish, shallow, frustrating, cruel and contemptible, and they were no different in Less Than Zero. The extent to which such traits are the characters’ fault is never really addressed, however, and is up to the reader to decide. The whole idea, I imagine, is to comment on how it’s our society which has become selfish, shallow and cruel; and to suggest that our youth embodying the same properties is, first, not their fault, and second, the natural and inevitable result from society’s degeneration. Take from it what you will, I suggest – it’s a darned good read regardless.

I’m now reading both Platform and Veronika Decides to Die. I had to put the first on hold for a while because it was getting a little repetitious and dull for me. I will finish it, though. I’m enjoying the second immensely so far.

Oh yeah, and the image up there is upside down because that’s exactly how I found it on the book’s page on play.com and I decided to leave it like that.

12 responses to “Less Than Zero – review

  1. You know, I think everyone I know who’s attempted Glamorama has said that. Not about the Spanish but about chucking it a few pages in. Apart from Paul *, that is, who reviewed it, I think, and is one of the people on the inside page front of some version or other giving one of those one line statements about it.

    * Weird that this is the second time I’ve mentioned him today when I haven’t thought about him in years – wonder how he is now.

  2. Personally, I’ve had my fill of selfish, shallow, frustrating, cruel and contemptible people who blame society (man) for their individual failings. I want to slap them, tell them to behave like better people and see how society improves as a result. This, and the sameness from novel to novel, is why I can’t do Ellis or Coupland – save for American Psycho, which is wicked in the old fashioned sense and transcends my criticisms through sheer extremism.

  3. Marcus, I don’t find that EE’s characters blame anyone, society (man) or otherwise, for what they’ve become, or how they behave. They are as they are, with very little awareness of their failings, which makes them all the more contemptible (in my book). I’m blaming the degradation of society as a whole for facilitating such behaviours. If your behaviour isn’t challenged, there isn’t really a need to change it, especially when you’re young as so many of his characters are. I’m sure that you were speaking in a more general, real life sense, but nonetheless the rule may still apply, I think, even if it’s all the more frustrating with people you know in real life. Well, perhaps Nietzsche thought that and I’m just copying him. 😉 Anyway, it’s an interesting post-post-modern-post-ironic-ironic discourse, innit!

    You’re right, though, that EE is something of a one trick pony. But for some reason, I don’t mind with him. I do very much with Coupland.

    Lola, I know!

  4. Heh, I’m stealing your line for my Politics exam. “Well, perhaps Rousseau said it and I’m just copying him. But I’m still right Mr(s) Examiner!”

    I know I should defend Coupland as an avid reader of his books, but they tend to be very much forgotten after I put them down. The fact that the details of each book blur into one is probably more of a reflection of your point than I’d like to admit. And I’m just wading into someone else’s conversation here, do excuse my manners!

  5. Oh, no apologies necessary, Lola! I certainly find that with Coupland, but I suppose some of EE’s characters stand out a little more for me; at least temporarily. I’ll pay you 50p to say that in your exam! 50p!!11111

    Aart, I’m not a huge fan, I have to say. In fact, ‘Veronika…’ is Coelho’s last chance with me because I hated ‘The Alchemist’ so much, I swore I would never read any of his stuff again.

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