Saturday, August 12, 2017
This Blew Everyone Away, At Bennington???????????? THIS?????????????????????
Moving along with my Brat Pack Project, I have arrived at the point of Bret Easton Ellis. So, help me, God. Let's get started.
I suppose if someone has to be blamed, it is Joe McGinniss. Yes, the non-fiction author of "The Selling Of The President, 1968," and the true crime works "Fatal Vision," "Blind Faith," and "Cruel Doubt." You see, he was teaching Creative Writing at Bennington, during those all-import years of 1982 to 1985, when these writers were discovered.
The first thing I want to know is--what is a renowned non-fiction writer doing, working with a bunch of fiction writers? I understand a job is a job, but, really, if his field is non-fiction what the hell does he know about fiction? Not much, if he was blown away by "Less Than Zero." But I am getting ahead of myself.
I am going to predict that the problem with many of these writers is that many of their works are interchangeable. Several weeks ago, I did a post on "Far Rockaway," by Jill Eisenstadt, who also came out of this "Bennington Writers Factory." "Less Than Zero" is simply the West Coast version of "Far Rockaway." Both really have no stories--just a bunch of slackers drugging, screwing and drinking--and the characters names don't matter because they might as well be the same, or not named at all, because they are all doing the same thing. Eisenstadt's prose is at least tolerable, because it somewhat straightforward, and she gets the distinctly lower middle class atmosphere of Queens right, but Ellis is different, in that he projects his pretensions onto the printed page. He writes in this monotone style that has no feeling or empathy. His short sentence structure reminded me of the early Joyce Maynard. At least Joyce was trying to say something, and not just showing off. More than any novel I have read, "Less Than Zero" has the feel of having come from a 'Writing Factory," because it has. It is Bret Easton Ellis saying, "Look how cool and nasty I can be,"
"Look how homophobic I can be, because I know if I admit I am in any way gay, I will never get published." The sad thing is, McGinniss endorsed this crap, and so did others. What does that say about them?
Eisenstadt's book, as I said, conveyed a mood and atmosphere that got the geographics in her novel so right. Ellis does not have even the minimal technique of Eisenstadt, relying on the cheapness of name and place dropping to achieve less than perfect results.
Get over yourself, Bret! Oh, and that name, Bret Easton Ellis? Did your retro-parents really have the foresight to grant you a semi-butch name, or did you manufacture it yourself, because, I am telling you, "Less Than Zero" surely would not have been published under a name, like, say, Charles Nelson Reilly??????????????????????
It really comes back to Joe McGinnis. Had he not been teaching then, any manuscript of these writers--especially Ellis--would never have seen the inside of a galley room.
Do you think Joan Didion (to whom some idiot critics compared Ellis to!) would have tolerated this nonsense??????? Like Pauline Kael did with a film critic student, Joan would have tossed this at Bret, saying, "It's shit, honey! Do it again!"
Alas, I have committed myself (for which I may eventually be committed!) to this project, and so have two more Ellis works to get through. So help me. And no way am I re-reading "American Psycho!" Enough, already!
Reading literary nastiness can be immensely pleasurable,
darlings, but this is not it. Skip Ellis, and read "Answered Prayers," by Truman Capote, or the writings of Dorothy Parker, or Shirley Jackson!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now, THEY are the real thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!