Abbe's Reviews > Lunar Park
by Bret Easton Ellis
Imagine becoming a bestselling novelist, and almost immediately famous and wealthy, while still in college, and before long seeing your insufferable father reduced to a bag of ashes in a safety-deposit box, while after American Psycho your celebrity drowns in a sea of vilification, booze, and drugs.
Then imagine having a second chance ten years later, as the Bret Easton Ellis of this remarkable novel is given, with a wife, children, and suburban sobriety--only to watch this new life shatter beyond recognition in a matter of days. At a fateful Halloween party he glimpses a disturbing (fictional) character driving a car identical to his late father's, his stepdaughter's doll violently "malfunctions," and their house undergoes bizarre transformations both within and without. Connecting these aberrations to graver events--a series of grotesque murders that no longer seem random and the epidemic disappearance of boys his son’s age--Ellis struggles to defend his family against this escalating menace even as his wife, their therapists, and the police insist that his apprehensions are rooted instead in substance abuse and egomania.
Lunar Park confounds one expectation after another, passing through comedy and mounting horror, both psychological and supernatural, toward an astonishing resolution--about love and loss, fathers and sons--in what is surely the most powerfully original and deeply moving novel of an extraordinary career.
A Tale of Two Brets: An Amazon.com Interview with Bret Easton Ellis
Lunar Park, Bret Easton Ellis takes first-person narrative to an extreme, inserting himself (and a host of real characters from the publishing world) into the haunting story of a drugged-out famous writer living in the suburbs trying to reconnect with his wife and son and reconcile his damaged past. Ellis is at the top of his game in Lunar Park, his first novel since 1999's Glamorama, delivering a disturbing and delirious novel about celebrity, writers, and fathers and sons (not to mention a cameo from notorious Ellis creation, Patrick Bateman). Amazon.com senior editor Brad Thomas Parsons spoke with Ellis in a Seattle to Los Angeles phone call to Lunar Park, New York versus LA, '80s music, and the whole "_American Psycho_ thing."
Less Than Zero (1985)
Published when Ellis was a junior at Bennington,
Ellis on Ellis: "I don't think it's a perfect book by any means, but it's valid. I get where it comes from. I get what it is. There's a lot of it that I wish was slightly more elegantly written. Overall, I was pretty shocked. It was pretty good writing for someone who was 19."
The Rules of Attraction (1987)
Less than Zero's Clay makes a cameo appearance as well as a passing glimpse of Ellis' Bennington classmate Donna Tartt's murderous Classics majors from
Ellis on Ellis: "_It might be my favorite book of mine. I was writing that book while I was at college. Sort of like the best of times, the worst of times. There was a lot of elation, there was a lot of despair. It was just a really fun book to write. I loved mimicking all the different voices. The stream of conscious does get a little out of hand. I kind of like that about the book. It's kind of all over the place. It's casual. It's scruffy. That's the one book of mine that I have a very, very soft spot for._"
American Psycho (1991)
Ellis on Ellis: "_It was good. It was fun. It was not nearly as pretentious as I remember I wanted it to be when I was writing it. I found it really fast-moving. I found it really funny. And I liked it a lot. The violence was... it made my toes curl. I really freaked out. I couldn't believe how violent it was. It was truly upsetting. I had to steel myself to re-read those passages._"
The Informers (1994)
Less than Zero. Sex, drugs, and gratuitous violence take center stage, with characters including an aging, predatory anchorwoman, a debauched rock star tearing through Japan, and a pick-up artist vampire. While some of the vignettes echo better Ellis works, ultimately the stories don't add to much as a whole. Book critics are less than receptive to Ellis' post-_American Psycho_ offering.
Ellis on Ellis: "_Those were written while I was at Bennington. I wrote a lot of short stories between 1981 or 1982 or so..._ The Informers more or less kind of represented probably the best of those stories. I wrote a lot of really bad ones, but those are the ones that worked the best together."
The Rules of Attraction) is the narrator of
Ellis on Ellis: "_[T]he book wasn't necessarily about terrorism to me. It was about a whole bunch of other stuff. It's definitely the book that I can tell--I don't know if other people can tell but I can tell as a writer--is probably the most divisive that I've written. It has an equal number of detractors as it does fans. It doesn't really hold true with the other books. It was the one that took the longest to write, and the one that seemed the most important at the time. It's an unwieldy book... I like it._"
Ellis on DVD
Will the Real Bret Easton Ellis Please Stand Up?
Visit the author's Web site at www.2brets.com.
Having ridden to fame as the laureate of Reagan-era excesses, Ellis serves up a self-eviscerating apologia for all the awful things (wanton drug use, reckless promiscuity, serial murder) he worked so hard to glamorize. Narrated faux memoir style by a character named Bret Easton Ellis, author of bestsellers, L.A. native, friend to Jay McInerney, the book seeks to make obvious its autobiographical elements without actually remaining true to the facts. In the novel, Ellis marries B-list actress Jayne Dennis (with whom he'd fathered a child years earlier), moves to the New York City suburbs and begins working on his latest neo-porn shocker, Teenage Pussy, when things start to go awry. His house becomes possessed by strange, threatening spirits intent on attacking his family and transforming their home into the pink stucco green shag disaster of Ellis's childhood; a well-read stalker begins acting out, victim by victim, the plot of American Psycho; and the town becomes enthralled by a string of child abductions (oddly, only the boys are disappearing) that may or may not be the work of Ellis's son. This is a peculiar novel, gothic in tone and supernatural in conceit, whose energy is built from its almost tabloidlike connection to real life. As a spirit haunting Ellis's house tells him, "I want you to reflect on your life. I want you to be aware of all the terrible things you have done. I want you to face the disaster that is Bret Easton Ellis." Ultimately, though, the book reads less like a roman à clef than as a bizarre type of celebrity penance. The closest contemporary comparison is, perhaps, the work of Philip Roth, who went for such thinly veiled self-criticism earlier in his career, but Roth's writing succeeded on its own merits, whereas Lunar Park begs a knowledge of Ellis's celebrity and the casual misanthropy his books espoused. Yet for those familiar with Ellis's reputation, the book is mesmerizing, easily his best since Less than Zero. Maybe for the first time, Ellis acknowledges that fiction has a truth all its own and consequences all too real. It is his demons who destroy his home, break up his family and scuttle his best chance at happiness and sobriety. As a novel by anyone else, Lunar Park would be hokum, but in context, it is a fascinating look at a once controversial celebrity as a middle-aged man.
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