Lunar Park Page 1

Author: Bret Easton Ellis

Genres: Classic

1. the beginnings

“You do an awfully good impression of yourself.”

This is the first line of Lunar Park and in its brevity and simplicity it was supposed to be a return to form, an echo, of the opening line from my debut novel, Less Than Zero.

“People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.”

Since then the opening sentences of my novels—no matter how artfully composed—had become overly complicated and ornate, loaded down with a heavy, useless emphasis on minutiae.

My second novel, The Rules of Attraction, for example, began with this:

and it’s a story that might bore you but you don’t have to listen, she told me, because she always knew it was going to be like that, and it was, she thinks, her first year, or actually weekend, really a Friday, in September, at Camden, and this was three or four years ago, and she got so drunk that she ended up in bed, lost her virginity (late, she was eighteen) in Lorna Slavin’s room, because she was a Freshman and had a roommate and Lorna was, she remembers, a Senior or Junior and usually sometimes at her boyfriend’s place off-campus, to who she thought was a Sophomore Ceramics major but who was actually either some guy from N.Y.U., a film student, and up in New Hampshire just for The Dressed To Get Screwed party, or a townie.

The following is from my third novel, American Psycho.

ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street and just as Timothy Price notices the words a bus pulls up, the advertisement for Les Misérables on its side blocking his view, but Price who is with Pierce & Pierce and twenty-six doesn’t seem to care because he tells the driver he will give him five dollars to turn up the radio, “Be My Baby” on WYNN, and the driver, black, not American, does so.

This, from my fourth novel, Glamorama:

Specks—specks all over the third panel, see?—no, that one—the second one up from the floor and I wanted to point this out to someone yesterday but a photo shoot intervened and Yaki Nakamari or whatever the hell the designer’s name is—a master craftsman not—mistook me for someone else so I couldn’t register the complaint, but, gentlemen—and ladies—there they are: specks, annoying, tiny specks, and they don’t look accidental but like they were somehow done by a machine—so I don’t want a lot of description, just the story, streamlined, no frills, the lowdown: who, what, where, when and don’t leave out why, though I’m getting the distinct impression by the looks on your sorry faces that why won’t get answered—now, come on, goddamnit, what’s the story?

(The Informers was a short story collection published between American Psycho and Glamorama and since much of it was written while I was still in college—before the publication of Less Than Zero—it was an example of the same stripped-down minimalism.)

As anyone who had closely followed the progression of my career could glimpse—and if fiction inadvertently reveals a writer’s inner life—things were getting out of hand, resembling something that according to the New York Times had become “bizarrely complicated . . . bloated and trivial . . . hyped-up,” and I didn’t necessarily disagree. I wanted a return to that past simplicity. I was overwhelmed by my life, and those first sentences seemed reflections of what had gone wrong. It was time to get back to basics, and though I hoped that one lean sentence—“You do an awfully good impression of yourself”—would start the process, I also realized that it was going to require more than a string of words to clear away the clutter and damage that had amassed around me. But it would be the beginning.

When I was a student at Camden College in New Hampshire I took a novel-writing tutorial and produced during the winter of 1983 a manuscript that eventually became Less Than Zero. It detailed a wealthy, alienated, sexually ambiguous young man’s Christmas break from an eastern college in Los Angeles—more specifically Beverly Hills—and all the parties he wandered through and all the drugs he consumed and all the girls and boys he had sex with and all the friends he passively watched drift into addiction, prostitution and vast apathy; days were spent speeding toward the beach club with beautiful blondes in gleaming convertibles while high on Nembutal; nights were lost in VIP rooms at trendy clubs and snorting cocaine at the window tables of Spago. It was an indictment not only of a way of life I was familiar with but also—I thought rather grandly—of the Reagan eighties and, more indirectly, of Western civilization in the present moment. My teacher was convinced as well, and after some casual edits and revisions (I had written it quickly in an eight-week crystal-meth binge on the floor of my bedroom in L.A.) he submitted it to his agent and publisher, who both agreed to take it on (the publisher somewhat reluctantly—one member of the editorial board arguing, “If there’s an audience for a novel about coke-snorting, cock-sucking zombies, then by all means let’s publish the damn thing”), and I watched with a mixture of fear and fascination—laced with excitement—its transformation from a student assignment into a glossy hardcover that became a huge best seller and zeitgeist touchstone, was translated into twenty-five languages and made into a big-budget Hollywood movie, all within the space of about sixteen months. And in the early fall of 1985, just four months after publication, three things happened simultaneously: I became independently wealthy, I became insanely famous, and, most important, I escaped my father.

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