While I was reading American Psycho and shuddering over the many gruesome moments, a friend suggested I try Less Than Zero as an alternate. I’ve finally gotten around to it, and…I just don’t know what to do with it.
Bret Easton Ellis’s first novel takes place over Christmas vacation in the 1980s. Clay is a college freshman home in LA after a semester in an East Coast school. Really, the story lumps confused sexuality, drugs, and materialism in a cocktail of indistinguishable ennui. Really. I felt so overwhelmed with the vagaries of life after I was done reading. Someone has suggested that it acts as a companion to The Catcher in the Rye, which I disagree with–Holden Caulfield is a much more engaging character than this Clay kid, who just acts like this wealth is such a huuuge burden (seriously, kid, I’ll gladly take some off your hands). And after awhile, one can only take so much cocaine ingestion in one’s reading.
I think that Bret Easton Ellis is a critic of consumerism and materialism that our culture has brought on (he’s also a critic of David Foster Wallace, but that’s for a different post at a different time), which both novels that I’ve read seem to highlight. Yet, and maybe because Patrick Bateman is a more interactive character, I found myself unable to connect with Less Than Zero. Granted: American Psycho was off-putting for an entirely different set of reasons. But I’m still talking about it and traumatized by it, whereas I can barely remember what I read in Less Than Zero.