Mykle's Reviews > Lunar Park

Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
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's review
Sep 26, 2011

it was ok
Recommended for: Bret Easton Ellis
Read in September, 2011

Wow, actually really not very good.

First off I'm feeling a bit baited-and-switched. I should have done my homework, but the edition I picked up and browsed in the English-language section of a Copenhagen bookstore gave every indication of being some kind of sincere memoir. The first twenty or so pages of this book seemed to be exactly that, and I had just gotten really curious about Ellis' life, but in Copenhagen a cup of coffee costs ten dollars so I don't even want to know what Lunar Park sells for.

But then, later on in my trip, I realized I could just e-purchase the e-book version on my Epple ePad for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Thanks, future! So I did that, and on a train from Copenhagen to Siegen I dug in ...

... and realized that no, this book I just bought isn't the story of Bret Easton Ellis' life, this is some squished-together combination of a James T. Frey-style false fantasy memoir and a really poor Steven King impersonation.

Ellis' signature detachedness really fucks him up here, because as he (eventually) undertakes a ghost story, crossed with a demon story crossed with some other scary story -- there are three (3) different diabolical evils that show up in his life at the same time, and it's never really explained how they'r related -- and as the author Ellis describes the character Ellis groping through a trademark drug haze to come to grips with the threat to his trademark overfunded and mood-stabilized family, and as he's sitting there describing stuff that's supposed to be scary, it's not once the least bit frightening. Really it's kind of awkward watching it fall so flat.

There are some good bits. The tribe of the western rich that Ellis followed through school and into banking has here grown older and began to raise families, while the fictional Ellis is trying to "start over" by marrying his old girlfriend and masquerading as a yuppie parent. The (ostensible) author Ellis describes exquisitely the weirdness of what privileged people and their children call "normal" these days. His observations on that level have always been brilliant.

But then there's a whole lot of suck. For the whole final third he's just trying, trying, trying to build a sense of dread, foreboding, uncertainty ... all those things that good horror writers know how to do. And he's failing, failing, failing. He likes to telegraph little telling factoids (chilling factoids!) to foreshadow the upcoming misc horrors, but he refuses to be subtle -- he keeps backing up and explaining exactly why the factoids are so chilling.

Sometimes authors write not knowing what happens next, and the not knowing infects the writing with a tension and mystery. But this is a case of someone stringing together a lot of scary horror story scenes that don't quite link up, and then trying to bury that mess under another mess of more and more mystery and strangeness, hoping all along that there's an ending in there somewhere, but the final revelations are pretty mild and pointless: your estranged dad is haunting you! But really he's just trying to warn you that you're trapped in a badly plotted book.

I know Bret Easton Ellis can write much better books than this. This seems like a weekend meth project. "I know! I'll write a Stephen King novel ... about me!" Maybe he's low on drug money. It certainly seems written for Hollywood. I don't doubt he's already sold the film rights, and if that film gets made Ellis will have one more meta-notch in his meta-belt. But frankly this book is a disappointment. I give him credit for trying something different, but when writers get so big that they can push their mistakes past their editors, through their publishers and onto the public, it's time to move on.
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