Bret Easton Ellis: I really tried…

…But I guess I’m going to skip the last part of Lunar Park (2005) or just skim over it. I knew I was in for a tough ride when picking up this book. I have mixed feelings about Mr. BEE and his novels: in short, loved his Rules of Attraction (although influenced by the movie), loved a short story of his called Letters from LA (part of the collection The Informers, but I didn’t read the rest), absolutely hated American Psycho up to the point of wanting to tear the book apart – but it was a friend’s copy so I reined in my killer instincts. I went as far as offering Lunar Park to Mr. Smithereens, because the reviews said that it was a new, more mature BEE making a comeback as well as a turnaround.

 

The first chapter of Lunar Park is as fascinating as looking into a no-end mirror. It starts out as a pseudo-memoir by a character named Bret Easton Ellis, a writer made famous by books called Less than zero and American Psycho and who apologizes for all the excesses of his young days (drug abuse, provocation, sloppy writing). At this point of his life, the main character / author look-alike cools down, gets more or less sober and moves in with the woman he’s had a child from years ago (now a sulky teenager) in a wealthy suburb. But as he tries and writes his next best-selling, provocative porn novel, his house seems to be haunted: lights flicker, doors get scratched as if by a monster with claws… Just as if it wasn’t enough, BEE sees clues everywhere that his deceased father, the person who inspired him American Psycho, has returned, and that someone copying Patrick Bateman is starting to kill people for good.

 

All right. Breeze. It’s not really creepy, it’s just grotesque. Stephen King seems to be a huge inspiration, but the author is far too busy with winking at literary critics with meta-fiction, auto-references, unreliable narrator, that he forgets to make us properly afraid. I had no problem to read it in the dead of the night in an empty house (and I AM truly emotional these days), if you catch my drift. The metaphors are so thick they could be highlighted with a yellow pen: yes, creations escape their author and may get a life of their own, and when they’re called Patrick Bateman, you’d better watch out. Yes, writers are inspired by events and people of their life and transform them so much that whatever BEE (the character) sees is discarded as a bad trip or the onset of paranoia.

 

Between the “terror” parts are some satire scenes of life in Suburbia: bourgeois dinners so boring that men end up in the garden sharing a joint, school meetings where teachers point fingers at parents’ neurosis and criticize kids’ drawings, kids birthdays where all of them are sedated by Ritalin and other drugs… It was kind of fun, but I couldn’t empathize with the narrator and I can’t really relate to these people, it’s just too far from my world.

 

The book wasn’t a complete waste of time, but it was really annoying because you feel that BEE had a lot of fun writing it but you don’t get as much as a reader (especially in the bloated middle section). Come-back and turnaround? This one is clearly different from previous BEE novels, but I can’t say that the narrator / author has really matured. What was interesting from a Camden college graduate in the 1980s now seems over-indulgent in a family man in his 40s.

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