Bret Easton Ellis
Knopf; 1st Edition edition
“Stop whining, take your medicine; grow the fuck up” – this is Bret Easton Ellis’ advice in his first effort at non-fiction; a book written to largely justify a series of individual tweets and then all-out Twitter brawls, a book that starts promisingly as actual memoir and then shifts just as surreally and uncomfortably as Lunar Park did – but where that was funny/intriguing – this is just painful.
So desperate is Bret Easton Ellis to play the polemicist – to be the provocateur – that he went out and got himself a millennial boyfriend just so that after pages and pages and fucking pages of yapping and yarping and yarling about “snowflakes” and “identity politics” and other, erm, white-hot issues in his Twitter-baiting world he can tell you he’s out and proud and with the love of his life who just happens to be a young person. That’s his big defense.
He parades around his young woke, Trump-hating, Netflix-and-Chill boyf like a stuffed toy he won when one of his word-darts stuck in the board.
Bret Easton Ellis wrote a book or two that stuck, that struck a chord and stayed around – and at his satirical best there was a dazzling sound to the way his writer’s voice cut through. But there also a bored nonchalance that presented in smugness, flaunting laziness. And anyway that was a quarter-century ago and he’s been a self-imposed purgatory of writing scripts that sit in development hell – he’s bored and boring and most of his movies never get made and that’s for the best. And this book is nearly brilliant at times when he writes about his life and about movies. For all of his silly attempts at being controversial, stirring an imaginary pot to be called on being misogynist, racist, sexist seemingly so he can rage against what he’s deemed a hypocrisy, he can write well about film. He knows movies. He just makes really shitty ones. And his books don’t even make particularly good ones. But as a film analyst he’s worth considering.
But he’s always been his own worst enemy. And here he’s too desperate to seem interesting, to seem challenging.
Remember – this is a Gen-X figurehead fighting a war of words with whoever will listen, now rehashing ideas from the intros to his subscription-podcast and dumb, entitled tweets. And labouring over a far-too-pleased-with-himself heroes’ parade of well-worn war-stories partying with people like Kanye West.
So it’s almost as if Bret senses the moment where he’s getting close to the big reveal – and then just switch-hits and figures fuck it, I don’t need to tell you about my life, that would require actually understanding how a privileged upbringing and a rest-on-laurels attitude hasn’t provided anything of worth for three quarters of a literary career.
Instead we hear about American Psycho. It’s like a DVD’s director-commentary.
But Bret Easton Ellis doesn’t do self-awareness so he blasts the Wall Street-type he was sleeping with at the time for being in the closet. But so was Bret. Now that he’s out he’s out to blast anyone that’s not comfortable with being who they are. And this is typical of how he structures an argument. Never interested in a level playing field. Always interested in his own take only.
And though he might almost have a point or two around the absurdities of Cancel Culture and the fact that woke-agendas might seek change but they do it in a call-out way that so often matches the style the activists are raging against, by the time we get to this we’re already baffled, bored and bruised by the ugly-smugness, the disingenuous stance that bends and sways like a Strawman in the wind, the contempt.
Any call-to-arms in this series of haphazardly strewn op-ed styled ‘think’ pieces comes to you from a guy that wastes much of 260 pages re-arguing his own earlier points from sometimes very nearly imaginary battles. He’s interested always in his own context. And his need to re-state and examine that is a thin veneer for the real battle: his own relevance.
He’s like the guy that thought of what he’s sure is a winning comeback after the put-down at the party. Instead of driving back across town to embarrass himself with what he’s sure is a witty rejoinder he sat down and shat out a book.
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