Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Imperial Bedrooms by Brett Easton Ellis

Well, he's tried Stephen King. What about Raymond Chandler? Lunar Park I didn't like much, but this is a lot better. How much, I'm still not sure.

Like Chandler it's set in LA and nobody knows what's going on. People are followed, other people go missing. The narrator is repeatedly told he's not seeing "the big picture." It's a murder mystery where the murder happens at the end and the identity of the killer isn't a mystery.

Luckily we have our hero Clay on the case (as well as many of the Less than Zero cast.) Not exactly a knight in tarnished armor, Clay. As mean as the streets, in fact. Detached to the point of autism, manipulative, sadistic, capable of horrible things and unexpectedly needy. His character is one of the most succesful aspects of the book.

So...the nasty bits. Well, it's really all contained in a sequence towards the end which is connected to the rest of the story only obliquely. It's certainly very disturbing, and it works character-wise. But a hater (not me, clearly) would wonder if it's been shoehorned in for the fanboys. I remember reading an interview where Ellis said he had to get wrecked for days at a time to write the infamous bits of American Psycho. How hard is it for him these days?

I've had a bit of a rocky relationship with this book. It took me a couple of goes to get into, then I was hooked - Ellis back to his best. Then I'm thinking - actually this is just the same as his early stuff - what's the point? I was disappointed when I finished this a couple of days back, and I'm liking it the more I think about it.

Here are the weak points - it's too short. It's not funny, like Psycho or Glamorama. I didn't understand the ending and had to look up wikipedia (I think this was me being stupid, rather than a clever chandler-esque end to the novel.)

But the big plus point - this is proper Bret Easton Ellis.

What I'll need to do is re-read Less Than Zero, then this again. And maybe Glamorama again. Maybe by then I'll be up for American Psycho again, though I've read it to death (ho!) Then, perhaps, a revisiting of Lunar Park whereupon I'll realise it's a misunderstood modern classic.


bryce said...

I seem to recall ranting about how I will have to punch BEE to the ground because of Lunar Park...

Ed said...

I had the same feeling about the particularly nasty scene towards the end of the book - it did seem shoehorned in... a bit gratuitous. But maybe that's just Clay: he turns something as horrific as that into a throwaway anecdote, no more or less important than going to buy a new pair of shoes. His moral compass is shot.

All the makings of the sociopath are there in Less Than Zero, and it comes to fruition in a really horrible character in this one. He can't drift by passively on his good looks anymore, he's got to have a stab at constructing a persona for himself. I was hooked early on by this book. Less Than Zero, which I admired for its dedicated nihilism, was a tougher read I thought, but probably the better book.

Joe said...

from the desk of Bryce.....

I can't post comments on your stupid blog so:

Finished it yesterday...

At first I thought the concept of the book narcissistic. Here is BEE yet again referring to himself and his great works right at the start of his new book (barely a book, I have read longer essays. I don't know how he managed to produce something as long as American Psycho).

Despite this I got into it straight away and was hooked and impressed by it. But then... It just goes funny and stops. Did he have a plane to catch? Perhaps he needed to return some videotapes... Would it really have killed him to b able to write 30 more pages? I agree with both of you about the graphic/mental scenes at the end. It seems like he had some paragraphs left over from American Psycho and needed to pad it out.

Although saying that, I like the idea of Clay becoming his 'new psycho'. The best BEE has produced for some time, but still a missed opportunity.