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This is a bleak world without a shining beacon of hope. Ellis tips his hand at what he thinks are some of the causes: the superficiality of Hollywood and Los Angeles in general, the massive amounts of wealth afforded to the teens, the lack of any decent parenting, a world where people do what they want simply because they can without any consequence. But you'd be hard pressed to find a critical voice in the tone of the storytelling. This is what separates Less Than Zero from other cautionary coming-of-age tales. Clay witnesses a society facing moral collapse and there are ample descriptions about how the characters are affected. Still, outside of any superficial comments, Clay isn't really critical of this kind of moral decomposition and the author allows the world around Clay to exist without a contradictory note. The restraint Ellis shows in revealing the meanings and themes of the novel are in stark contrast to the Twitter-like detail of Clay's horrifying winter break. The countless (and in some instances shocking) stories of teen life in Los Angeles in the '80s combine to create a general sense of societal decay and a kind of death permeates the environment. You're left wondering whether or not Clay will come back home after he returns to college.
Christian Rummel provides the voices of Clay and a cast of reckless teens and parents, as well as a psychiatrist more interested in himself than his patients. Rummel's Clay is a study of passivity, rarely rising above an impassioned whine in all his interaction with others. Everyone else sounds appropriately numb and detached. The teens are drugged up spoiled brats, bravely voiced as such with no pause for how obnoxious they may sound (but then again, that's the point). Rummel easily conveys the impatient cluelessness of valley girls and the cocky, surfer-like aloofness of the lost boys. For the majority of the book, the narration occurs at a disconnected, cool pace. But late in the novel, as Clay accompanies his best friend Julian to a hotel room to partake in desperate act of male prostitution for drug money, Rummel's performance takes on a slightly anxious, panicked tone. The change in pacing here and in a few other important scenes highlights Clay's motivations and is key to understanding the meaning of the novel. In this way and more, Rummel serves Ellis' delicate vision with expert skill. —Josh Ravitz
Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college and re-enters a landscape of limitless privilege and absolute moral entropy, where everyone drives Porsches, dines at Spago, and snorts mountains of cocaine. He tries to renew feelings for his girlfriend, Blair, and for his best friend from high school, Julian, who is careering into hustling and heroin. Clay's holiday turns into a dizzying spiral of desperation that takes him through the relentless parties in glitzy mansions, seedy bars, and underground rock clubs, and also into the seamy world of L.A. after dark.
As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Bret Easton Ellis' book, you'll also get an exclusive Jim Atlas interview that begins when the audiobook ends.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Cheryl C. Flohr on 06-12-15
Messed up. But listen to the author commentary.
A little too fucked up for me. I am all for the dark shit, but this is is meant to trigger people. I would have enjoyed it more when I was younger.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By steve on 09-18-10
I enjoyed the movie but absolutely loved the book. Ellis is an excellent writer and it's a shame the movie couldn't quite capture his writing abilities. He's so descriptive and details. Great musical references, lots of drugs and sex and overall, I'd certainly recommend this for anyone who could relate to the Hollywood lifestyle from back in the 80s.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful