Sitting Across From Bret Easton Ellis
And it is a story that might bore you, you don’t have to listen, Bret Easton Ellis told me as I gingerly sipped my Pumpkin Spice Latte — the first of the year — at my local Starbucks in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, out there on Smith and Wycoff, in a part of Brooklyn that’s been as pleasantly gentrified as a place can be, but what the hell, I thought, what the hell were the chances of running into Bret Easton Ellis here, at a damn Starbucks? He opened his iPhone and tweeted something and put it back into his pocket before pulling it out again and typing something again, a seemingly never-ending war with his Twitter account, a never-ending verve of word from his fingertips, and just then an NYU freshman walked in wearing a purple sweatshirt as if he were going to the Freshman Mixer because that’s what freshman do, they go to the freshman mixer because they don’t know any better, and Bret tutted and rolled his eyes and typed something into Twitter again and then took a sip of his triple soy grande half-caf hazelnut latte, which was his regular drink, which is what he had told me as he’d sat down, and he was wearing a black blazer one size too big and a belt one size too small and he had the kind of sunglasses that one gets when they live in Los Angeles after being born somewhere else, somewhere far away, where sunglasses are a fashion accessory rather than a necessity, and Bret looked at me looking at him and I tried to smile but it was awkward because this was Bret Easton Fucking Ellis and he was A Big Fucking Deal if you Read Any Books In The Last 30 Years even though His Last Few Had Sucked, and I wanted to ask him about that really badly but I couldn’t because you can’t just ask someone “Hey what’s the deal with the diminishing returns of Bret Easton Ellis” or “You started out great and then believed your own hype” or “I know some terrible things have happened in your life but you seem to be taking it out on your audience” or even “Hey maybe you don’t need Twitter, maybe you don’t need to give your audience access to you at all times” or “Maybe you just need to lay off of the internet, period” or even “Why don’t you just shut up and learn to edit yourself as well as others can edit you” – I mean, the guy is smart, very smart, you can tell – it’s just that this is what happens when you hold a mirror up to someone as observant as he is… they inevitably turn the mirror upon themselves and all the bad things about them show up ten-fold because “narcissism isn’t a personality trait it is a goddam snowball” or whatever you remember your teacher saying in college, which had been five, no, six year ago now, and you had hated college but loved jazz music so you fit right in at parties for disenchanted artists and that made things interesting for a while but now you were in a Starbucks in Cobble Hill with Bret Easton Ellis and he was looking at you like someone had just shown a dog a card trick – he pulls out his phone and tweets something while not breaking eye contact and you find that both interesting and creepy and actually quite remarkable that he can do that, and then you wonder about that NYU freshman kid in the purple sweatshirt and what his story is and whether, to be honest, he’d be more interesting than Bret Easton Ellis because Bret Easton Ellis has kind of just, well, given up, it seemed, which was a horrible thing to think about a guy that was sitting right in front of you let alone someone who you had grown up reading and loving but now, with his last few books and, well, his interest in being kind of the LA phony that he had supposedly (and seemingly genuinely) railed against in his early novels, and you thought, Goddamit, okay, one, this Pumpkin Spice Latte is delicious and was at least taking the edge off of the awkwardness that was B.E.E. sitting across from you, and two, maybe Bret really just needs a kick in the ass to get back on track, and write the kind of shit that made you stay up until 3 a.m. in college reading his novels, even Glamorama, which had been pretty good, you had thought at the time.
So you grab a piece of paper and write “cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine cocaine” on it, as many times as possible, maybe that might at the very least jog his memory – some people never really leave the decades that they were formed in, you think – that Bret was just stuck in a rut and that you could get him out and then you see that he’s wearing $400 socks and that he’s doing just fine, although, to be honest, you think, before you slip the note to him and walk out without saying a word, you think that maybe that’s what Bret Easton Ellis needed all along – the same treatment he gave the world – a kind of bored observance that run on for pages without a break just like life itself, itself, itself, itself.
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