Reading Bret Easton Ellis’ latest novel is a bit like being buried under a mountain of celebrity magazines and having to read them all in order to get free
Brett Easton Ellis
2/5 Picador Reading Bret Easton Ellis’ latest novel is a bit like being buried under a mountain of celebrity magazines and having to read them all in order to get free. Celebrities, half celebrities, made-up celebrities and a cast of characters that think they’re famous crowd the protagonist in a dreary procession of Hollywood parties that pass with rapidity on the conveyor belt of meaninglessness and leave the reader in a tangle of middle-aged misanthropy with very little in the way of a story.
The follow up to Ellis’ first novel, Less Than Zero, which, published before the author’s 22nd birthday, launched Ellis as a literary phenomenon, Imperial Bedrooms traces the characters 25 years later when, as expected, the over indulgences of their youth have left them washed-out, bitter and unlovable as they enter mid-middle age.
Problem is, at the age of 22, Ellis had a knack with words, but produced a novel that was weak on plot. Twenty-five years later and the author battles with the same problem – the characters are so two dimensional that he can’t seem to get them to move. To save the novel, Ellis has attempted to incorporate the best of his previous books. There’s the paranoia of Lunar Park, a scene at the end worthy of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, and the protagonist, Clay, has moments of Glamorama. But rather than being a greatest hits, it bears a closer resemblance to all the worst bits of his long literary career from the last 25 years.
Ellis has been blessed with a run of good luck – each of his past three novels has scaled new heights and helped define the madness of modern America. Imperial Bedrooms fails to follow this trajectory and, like most sequels, lives in the shadows of the original. The first line of the novel reads: ‘They had made a movie about us.’ It’s fairly safe to say no movie will ever be made of Imperial Bedrooms.