Less Than Zero
By: Bret Easton Ellis
Setting: The ritzy suburbs of Los Angeles
If you ever dreamed of the rich life, of the fame and fortune associated with the fast cars and faster lifestyles, you’ll be glad you never had it after reading Less Than Zero. Written beforeBeverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place were stinking up the TV airwaves, this book bleakly describes the stagnant lives of rich kids in the L.A. area. The irresistable societal pressures placed on the kids in the novel by their parents and peers lead them along paths leading nowhere but to destruction. Scandal sheets, drugs, sex, perversion and the chase of the ultimate thrill dictate the actions of potentially intelligent young adults, leaving them no freedom of choice.
This book drags along, with little action or plot. In the important parts of the book, where I normally would expect to feel kinship with the characters involved, I felt revulsion instead. This is, of course, the effect Ellis wished; in order for his readers to feel what the characters are feeling, he had to place the readers in the same dead, non-descriptive place. He does so through the use of flat adjectives and verbs, creating a sort of written Purgatory for us to muddle through — just like the novel’s characters.
Though the language in the book lacks life, it is not bad writing when you consider its purpose. It is certainly not enjoyable writing, but I’m not sure it should be in this case. Ellis is trying to teach us a lesson by dragging us through the muck with his characters, much as directors Stanley Kubrick and Oliver Stone have done with their movies. The quality of the work is there, but getting the whole picture may not be a pleasant experience.