TITLE: Less Than Zero
AUTHOR: Bret Easton Ellis
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster
Quote: “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles. This is the first thing I hear when I come back to the city. Blair picks me up from LAX and mutters this under her breath as she drives up the onramp. She says, ‘People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.’ Though that sentence shouldn't bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. Nothing else seems to matter.”
Overview: It’s the late ‘80s. Clay is home in LA for winter break from his first semester at an east coast liberal arts school. He spends most of his time in a drunken or coke-induced stupor, either with his alcoholic and egotistical separated parents or his even more narcissistic friends whose best qualities are the drugs they use. Clay navigates the dark underbelly of the too rich with too much time on their hands that only a place like LA could produce. He is at times a part of it, and a witness to it, and he must decide where he wants to end up. And whether he is going back East for his second semester.
Analysis: Bret Easton Ellis’ roman a clef felt like an honest piece of literature. If the late ‘80s or early ‘90s needed a Holden Caulfield, a Jake Barnes or a Sal Paradise, Bret Easton Ellis created him in Clay (or the fictionalized version of himself). The story invoked that certain coming-of-age feeling when you must make a couple of small decisions that have life-changing capabilities. Choose to float with the tide or pick a direction to swim in. This book certainly isn’t for everyone, and some might find it to be just a bunch of rich kids doing drugs, but for the reader who pays attention there is obviously much more. It’s a young kid who sees where he could go, where he’s going and where he might end up. In a way, all of his friends, family and the entire city of LA represent Clay. Back East represents the new Clay, the future, endless possibilities beyond cheating spouses, cocaine, champagne and too many aspiring models and actresses. I really enjoyed this book. It was honest and dirty and had a bite to it.
Conclusion: It’s not for the faint of heart but you just might love it.