display | more...

As explained above, it's a novel by one Bret Easton Ellis, written when he was just twenty one years old, and recommended as something for me to deride on here by our very own IWhoSawTheFace. I was not disappointed. That this tripe got published at 21, when at 21 the only thing I accomplished was to fail to get into the pants of a German hesherette called Jana when I tried to pull her after four slices of knobi-brot at a heavy metal festival, made me want to stab kittens.

So, yeah, it's ripe for inclusion here.

Executive Summary

Pseudo-intellectual, sensationalist bollox whose title describes the number of clothes the Emperor is wearing.

A bit more detail, if you wouldn't mind?

Well now. Have you ever wanted to read about what bored, rich teenagers in California do all day when the grownups are elsewhere? Now you can. But you shouldn't bother. Because this is a novel in which absolutely nothing happens. Apart from constant gratuitous sex, violence, and drugtaking. This allegedly makes it "edgy" and "controversial" but in reality acts as little more than a sop for the fact that nothing happens, the author is possessed of no talent, and has nothing to say. And so must resort to literary parlour tricks to cover up these fatal omissions. And publicity stunts like the above mentioned sex and violence and all that jazz.

The protagonist wakes up. He considers having a quickie with his girlfriend / lover / spunkbucket of the week. He takes drugs. He goes and hangs out with people and parties. He gets into fights. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Every so often there is a trite observation about modern life which is meant to be all profound but only is so if you're a pretentious teenaged writer wannabe who reckons "Imagine" by John Lennon is somehow profound - a bit like the author. And the sparseness and minimalistic prose style affected by the author? No, it's not deliberate. He's just saying that to cover up the fact that if he said that, he could get away without the hard work of needing a plot, characters who actually do something or have a role or function, or any real narrative. However, because he wrote this at university in California, he was only egged on by these know-nothings, who have less than zero (did you see what I did there?) understanding of the real world or anything like that. I'm sorry, but the idea that being bored and overprivileged is some sort of eternal I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream level torment doesn't wash with me either. Only boring people get bored. If you have lots of money and no idea what to do with it, then you can find something to do with it rather than spend your days as a dissipated libertine. I don't know. Build a business. Climb a mountain. Do something interesting with your gittish existence. More to the point, the characters keep making trite observations about the world around them, as if this is somehow profound or thoughty. It isn't. Nobody cares that people are afraid to merge on freeways in LA.

Maybe I'm not qualified to comment on this novel, after all, I'm not a bored GenX-er, but this is to sidestep the point. You see, to be worth reading, a novel has to have identifiable characters, an interesting plot, some sort of insight into one's condition, or, better still, all of the above. A novel which does not have any of these things is hard to justify bothering with. Less Than Zero is such a novel. The characters are caricatures of bored rich kids and do not come over as believable. The plot... there isn't one. There is no insight other than the trite maunderings of the juvenile author. However it got him a book deal because, well, shit sometimes floats, as anyone who's read "Twilight" can attest.

There's a certain strain within literature and art that Less Than Zero does exemplify though, and it's one I object to. It's the idea that true art is offensive and that true art is incomprehensible. This novel runs off both of these. Mr Ellis was clearly banking on people lauding his turd-tome as all relevant because it has rude bits and no plot (because that's like totally outdated, man!) because he had nothing to say either. A bit like that pseudo-intellectual wank basket from Hoxton who pickled a shark. Then there's the same wanky critics lining up to tongue Bret's balloon knot about how he's written "The Catcher in the Rye" for a new generation. Oh please. J. D. Salinger actually could write and, although I'm not a fan of it, at least his book made some guy kill John Lennon. Which is more than can be said for Less Than Zero, which one makes one want to kill oneself.

Then there's the graphic sex, violence, and drug use. I don't object to sex and violence, however, it has to serve a point. Otherwise, as here, it's just thrown in to court controversy. And because of this, now we have the ridiculous idea that sex and violence and similar is somehow "more real" than going without it, and as such people feel compelled to include it to make their works somehow "gritty" and "realistic." Unfortunately, reality is unrealistic, and people are not believable, as anyone who has heard the tale of Ignatius Timothy Trebitsch Lincoln can attest. That being said, are we expected to believe that some spoilt rich wankers went around and murdered some guy and stuffed his corpse into a fridge for shiggles? Why would they do this?

Thing is, returning to the idea that true art is offensive, there's a further problem I have with this, and that is that if you load your novel or film with gorno and unpleasantness, then it loses its impact. At the first such incident, the audience will be taken aback, but then they gradually become inured to it and completely fail to care. So when some guy gets raped or suchlike and it's meant to be a big shock... it isn't, because worse things have happened to everyone else. Thus the impact of the unpleasant happenings is blunted, if not gone altogether.

I also object to the fact that Clay, the protagonist, views a snuff film at one point. Given that the snuff film scare was just a few years before this sorry novel was published, I can't help but feel that this adds weight to the author's intention simply to court controversy for its own sake.

In short, this novel is not a classic. It is overrated, pretentious fuckwittry with nothing to say that is lauded by brainless nathans because they can pretend they understand it to each other. Oh, and Wikipedia informs me (so this is probably wrong) that according to one journo, the novel "in a way, {invented} Paris Hilton and Spencer Pratt and the Kardashians." So that's another reason to avoid it like a fart in an enclosed space.

(IN1224/30)