Monday, 30 July 2012

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (3/5)

The Back Says: Set in affluent Los Angeles, Less Than Zero is a raw and powerful portrayal of a young generation that has experienced sex, drugs and disaffection at too early and age. The narrator, Clay, returns home to Los Angeles for Christmas, but his holiday turn into a dizzying spiral of desperation that takes him through the rich suburban homes, the relentless parties, the seedy bars and the glitzy rock clubs. Morally barren, ethically bereft and tinged with implicit violence, Less Than Zero is a shocking coming-of-age novel about the casual nihilism that comes with youth and money.

I say: I think that the synopsis sets up the premise of the novel pretty well, and to be completely frank this novel wearied the life out of me – I couldn’t relate, connect to or comprehend anything that was going on – and just as I was beginning to hate everyone involved I came across a conversation that turned it all on its head. I’m not sure how much of it I should reveal here for those who may want to read this later on, so highlight if you care to know. Clay’s friends are just about to rape a twelve year old girl when he walks out, his friend Rip following him out of the room and the following conversation ensues (it may be considered a spoiler, so highlight to read it):

‘It’s…’ my voice trails off.
‘It’s what?’ Rip wants to know.
‘It’s… I don’t think it’s right.’
‘What’s right? If you want something, you have the right to take it. If you want to do something, you have the right to do it.’
I leaned up against the wall. I can hear Spin moaning in the bedroom and then the sound of a hand slapping maybe a face.
‘But you don’t need anything. You have everything.’ I tell him.
Rip looks at me. ‘No. I don’t.’
‘No. I don’t.’
‘There’s a pulse and then I ask, ‘Oh shit Rip, what don’t you have?’
‘I don’t have anything to lose.’
     – p. 177

And this is when it all fell together and I realised what Ellis was trying to tell me.

This is one of those books that I can’t really put into words because, as I said, there was just too much of a world that I’ve never known, never will know, and really have no interest of knowing. Ellis’ description of casual sex, abundance of drugs and money, lack of respect or regard for anyone but yourself and your own pleasures made me feel a sense of disgust and abhorrence. I have friends who have grown up like this, and though I love them dearly, it’s clear that their sense of morality is seriously faulty.

Not that I am one to judge [but I still do].

Even though this was full of clichés, I am glad that Ellis ended it the way he did. And I realise the irony of only liking a book of 195 pages until page 177, but perhaps therein is where the brilliance lays.

Or perhaps I was just grasping at straws.

However I chose to look at it, there is no denying Ellis’ oddly riveting prose generating a sense of impending calamity. I suppose the reason I kept reading was because I knew that some disaster lay ahead and I wanted to know what it was. In a sense, I would like to give this a 2/5 due to the predictability and lack of ingenuity in telling the tale. But because I was metaphorically grasping at straws towards the end, I bumped it up to a 3/5 because I found a sense of purpose to all the debauchery I had to endure.

*This is my sixteenth entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long).

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