Revisiting Bret Easton Ellis’s Hollywood

Vintage Contemporaries is releasing a new edition of Less Than Zero for the novel’s 25th anniversary, and author Bret Easton Ellis is releasing a sequel, to both that novel and in a weird twist, also the film version.

Imperial Bedrooms is out this month from Alfred Knopf.

The narrator is, once again, Clay, whom we knew before as a college student on break; now in his 40s, he’s a screenwriter successful enough to score the odd producing credit and its attendant Hollywood power. His orbit soon intersects with the other characters who appeared in “Less Than Zero,” including the fun, desperate Julian.

Robert Downey Jr. was unforgettable as Julian in the 1987 film, which wrongheadedly inserted pat moral lessons in place of the book’s bold emptiness. In the film version, Julian died, a detail author Ellis could have ignored in this sequel. Instead, he addresses the contradictory stories with writerly jujitsu.

“They had made a movie about us,” “Imperial Bedrooms” begins. “The movie was based on a book by someone we knew…. It was labeled fiction but only a few details had been altered and our names weren’t changed and there was nothing in it that hadn’t happened.” It’s a nifty trick, setting up this book as the primary narrative, one that trumps Ellis as authorand the real world.

It’s a great mini-profile of Ellis and a look at his new novel from LA Times blogger Carolyn Kellogg.  Perhaps more enjoyable than the LA Time profile, is Kellogg’s breakdown of the interview process and all the mini-profiles resulting from Easton Ellis’s media tour.  Fascinating to behold.

In article after article, Ellis meets a journalist at his apartment in jeans, barefoot (variation: hoodie, polo shirt). Time after time, he walks to the kitchen before settling in with the reporter in his office. It’s hard not to think the Coke offer is designed to lure writers into the allusion to drugs — what, no Snapple? — and that the bare feet deliberate, tempting (successfully) each writer to mention this seemingly unique detail.

We’re all desperate for details, something that will ring true without being exactly the same thing that gets reported elsewhere. And there’s the challenge, because as a reporter, I have to tell a story that we’re all telling: there was this book, 25 years ago. It was about LA. The author, who got famous from it, was a New Yorker for a long time, but now he’s back in LA, and he’s revisiting the characters in his new book.


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