At the library last week, I sat down and read Letters from L.A. by Bret Easton Ellis in just half an hour. Like swallowing fast-food. It’s been a long time, maybe ten years since my traumatic reading of American Psycho. I felt nauseous at reading that book and swore off Bret Easton Ellis. What a misogynistic, blood-thirsty, attention-seeking awful writer, I remember thinking at that time. (I also remember thinking that I was perhaps too squeamish and had too much of a visual imagination to read that type of books). He throws brand-names at the reader and bores him to death with unemotional daily routines, until he manages to turn the reader into a voyeur who waits for the next killing. Tricky, and nasty. Then my husband introduced me to the movie The rules of attraction, an adaptation of another, earlier Bret Easton Ellis book. Which I liked, much to my dismay. It was raucous, and raunchy, and full of sex- and drug-addicted students in trouble, but it was a good rendition of the campus life in the 1980s. Something not too far from Tom Wolfe’s condemnation of dissolute campus life in Charlotte Simmons. Letters from L.A. also alludes to The rules of attraction. The novella is a bunch of letters written to Sean, a character from The rules, by a girl who goes to California to nurse her depression away from the New-England campus. And Sean never writes back. The world she gets into is vain and cool, full of sex and drugs. I find that the description of this kind of empty world has aged a lot, and while I might not try another Bret Easton Ellis, I like the way he has used the letter form. The tone of the letters turn from the reasonable, bewildered and naïve tone of a New-Englander, to the moan of a disillusioned materialistic, superficial girl, always high on coke and valium. Scary but effective.
PS. I just discovered that Letters from L.A. is taken from the collection The informers. For some reason, it was published on its own in France.