Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Rules of Attraction

by Bret Easton Ellis

The Rules of AttractionEllis is one of those authors that seems to grow in stature as time marches on. i see him on so many Favorite Author lists and i just have to roll my eyes a bit. personally, he'll always be the author i laughed at on a regular basis: hilariously pretentious and embarrassingly convinced that pretension equals depth. American Psycho? sorry, the film version was a better portrait of capitalist consumerism and had the intelligence to re-route the author's misogyny so that it existed solely within the central psycho. Less Than Zero? well, it's very hard for me to muster any empathy for spoiled brats who are unhappy with their oversexed, well-fed lives - and who have the lack of tact to complain about their emptiness. gosh i guess this turned out to be a review of 3 books!

but The Rules of Attraction is something different, something special. its playfulness with narrative and perspective is actually rather brilliant. i'm not sure i've read another novel where fully one-third of the narrative was a jerk-off fabrication by one of the characters (one who isn't a psychotic serial killer, that is). perhaps prior to Rules, Ellis somehow exorcised all that repulsive self-pity that inundanted Zero and then replaced it with malevolent wit. and better yet, he puts his usual snarkiness in the mouths of characters who - although soulless - still genuinely face more life challenges than his prior student portraits.

most surprising of all, the nearly-marginal story of the suicide: bitterly ironic, entirely moving, and wonderfully written. and hey, there's even a teensy little light at the end of the tunnel that didn't feel forced. good job, Ellis. i never thought i'd say that phrase!

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