Literary agent provocateur and self-proclaimed satirist, Bret Easton Ellis ruptured the book world’s calm with his first novel, Less Than Zero, a smart tale of teenagers in orbit (1985). Since then he’s added five more novels to his list, including the most recent, Imperial Bedrooms (2010). Chronicler of the ups and downs, ins and outs of the alienated and angst-ridden, he writes of the most horrific, violent acts – rape, murder, carnage, total breakdown – in language at once cool and without affect. Think of him as Proust on speed, or Capote without Southern charm, or Kerouac off the road. Imperial Bedrooms is an updating of Less Than Zero; a number of characters reappear, older, but no wiser; the heat’s been turned up to inferno levels; and violence has its way. It’s an even darker fiction than the others; but the style is a triumph of affect and disconnect, with a surface as placid and undisturbed as a lake before a hurricane, a hellish hurricane, of course.
They had made a movie about us.
That’s how I became the damaged party boy who wandered through the wreckage, blood streaming from his nose, asking questions that never required answers. That’s how I became the boy who never understood how anything worked. That’s how I became the boy who wouldn’t save a friend. That’s how I became the boy who couldn’t love the girl.
During the audition I look at Rain Turner’s IMDb page on my laptop. She reads for another role and I realize with a panic that she’ll never get a callback. She’s simply another girl who has gotten by on her looks—her currency in this world—and it will not be fun to watch her grow old.
Everything she says is an ocean of signals. Listening to her I realize she’s a lot of girls, but which one is talking to me? Which one will be driving back to the apartment on Orange Grove in the green BMW with the vanity plate that reads PLENTY? Which one would be coming to the bedroom in the Doheny Plaza? We exchange numbers. She puts her sunglasses on.
At the Getty there’s a dinner thrown by two Dream-Works executives for a curator of a new exhibit and I go alone and I’m in a better mood, just floating through it all, looking good, a little buzzed, and I’m standing on the terrace gazing out over the blackest sky and asking myself, What would Mara say?
“I want to be with you,” I’m saying,
“That’s never going to happen,” she says, turning her face away from me.
“Please stop crying.”
“That was never going to be part of it.”
“Why not?” I ask. I press two fingers on both sides of her mouth and force her lips into a smile.
“Because you’re the writer.”