Bret Easton Ellis interview in Vice

Rory says: "Over the course of six novels and one book of short stories, Bret Easton Ellis has put together one of the most entertaining, fascinating, and f'd-up bodies of work in contemporary literature. Vice Magazine's editor-in-chief Jesse Pearson sat down with the author for chat about about movies and his new book. Actually it's his first interview about his new book, which is the sequel to what was one of the biggest book of the 80s. He doesn't give many interviews, especially of this length. He speaks candidly about Hollywood shitheads, Twitter douches, and his dealing with pain-in-the-ass editors."
Screen Shot 2010-05-11 At 8.56.09 Am Vice: Let’s get back on track here. I guess that people probe you about the autobiographical stuff so much because, when Less Than Zero came out, you were not just seen as a novelist. It was this voice-of-a-generation thing, and people lazily thought, “Well, he must be just like the people in the book because he’s their age and he shares some background details with them.” So you were marketed as a novelist but also as something more than a novelist. In a way, it was a book marketer’s dream. Is that what you meant when you talked earlier about being exploited?
Bret Easton Ellis: Well, you know, it was fun at first. It was very fun. It seemed like a good idea to be interviewed for magazines and have your picture taken and be on television and stuff. But then it stops. After about a year, it’s not a good idea anymore. Because what you realize has happened is that your identity–your real identity–is being consumed by this new narrative, this collective narrative, that’s taking place with the public as well as the press. The real you is dying and this thing that’s created is now going to be representative of you. And every time you meet someone, you know that they’re going to have this entire set of associations, mostly fake, about who you are, and that is a difficult thing to process. I’ve got to tell you, it’s a very difficult thing to kind of dismantle and work with.

Vice: I’m sure.
Bret Easton Ellis: You’ve got to become friends with it. That’s the only way you can make it work. You can’t fight it. But it makes things difficult. It makes relationships difficult. It makes forming friendships difficult. It’s an added layer of alienation that, you know, is a bummer.

Vice: Yeah.
Bret Easton Ellis: It’s mostly been a series of hassles. But you kind of just deal with it. You write books, and you’re writing books for a publishing house–this entity that is paying the bills, in a way. And you’re going to help with processes like making them their money back. But did I ever feel exploited by all of that? No. I felt like I was totally going along with everything, and I felt that it was a good idea. I think I handled it pretty well, but after the initial year, year and a half, then it got kind of scary. I thought, “Oh, this is not good.”

Vice: I could see it being difficult not to play into it a little bit when you’ve been handed a role and it’s working so well.
Bret Easton Ellis: Hey, when you’re 21 years old... But it’s weird because I grew up around famous people. And me and my “cooler friends” thought it was kind of a joke. It was like we were above it. We’d be at people’s parents’ parties and there’d be very famous actors hanging out by the pool or whatever, and we always thought: “Lame. Really lame.” And so the idea of becoming a sort of celebrity… it was this weird thing that just kind of happened. Like I watched it unfold and didn’t really participate in the building of it.

Vice interviews Bret Easton Ellis


    1. Ditto, though I can’t really hate someone who’s apparently a major Elvis Costello fan (I’m assuming that, unlike Jared Hess, Ellis acknowledges the debt).

  1. I basicly fell over Less than Zero when it came out in a pile of “3 books for 20” (danish kroner – thats cheap) and once i read it the world never quite looked the same… great stuff…. and now,- a kinda sequel, goodie, goodie, what, 25 years later… although i consider American Psycho the meister piece… So good to get into discussions about his books at parties,- you can always make enemies doing that, great pfat phun!

  2. If you’ve ever glanced at the guy’s Twitter, you know how ironic it is that he would discuss “Twitter douchebags.” He’s a middling writer at best who has yet to create a single compelling protagonist.

  3. Ellis is one of my favorite writers and has been for some time. Although I think his work is getting a little dated and is not consistant thru his entire catalog, i feel these two points actually make him a more important writer. I can understand why his writing might cause a “viseral dislike” but i would think it is possibly what makes him a more interesting author to read and what sets him apart. In any case thanks Mark for posting the link, i would have missed it otherwise.

  4. American Psycho is one of the worst books I have ever read (or tried to read, I eventually put it down and never picked it up again). And no, it is not the graphic nature of some scenes that turned me away, as I am a pretty big fan of Chuck Palahniuk. I think the key difference there is that Chuck P is a damn fine writer, and Mr Ellis is a bore. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, happening in American Psycho. It just droned on incessantly about menswear and other tedium, before occasionally wading into juvenile torture fantasies. Why so many people hold it in high esteem is a mystery to me.

    1. I think it is the comparison of 1980s corporate raiders to serial killers that is the draw. But the movie actually conveyed that point with much less violence and gore than the book (which is odd, as usually movies *beef up* the violence and gore.)

  5. Him and Palahniuk fall into that same category of “Vastly Overrated” in my view.

    They’re fine, they’re better than most genre writers and they’re OK fiction, for what they are, but they are far too delighted with their own “boundary-pushing” to do anything really relevant.

    1. Seeing as it seems people are pretty quick to hate on Ellis I’ll take a stab at defending his work. What is “relevant”. both writers seem to have their qualities that make them unique from others and wouldn’t this be enough to consider them “relevant”?

      1. Wasn’t intending to hate too hard. Wouldn’t call it “torture porn” or anything. ;)

        But it is a little like the Mary Jane stuff going on in the Twilight novels, but for disaffected teens-to-twenties cliche male fantasy-fulfillment, rather than gooey tween-to-teen cliche female fantasy-fulfillment.

        Which is fine, that stuff needs to be out there, and there’s a market for it, and they do it well enough.

        They just aren’t much deserving of the cultural cachet that they have, in my mind. I don’t have any real problem with digestible dude fiction, just like I don’t have any real problem with squealy girl fiction, but I think if half of the people who heart Bret or Chuck discovered, I dunno, Bukowski instead (or even in addition!), it would put the love in the right place, and they wouldn’t get used to the watering down that modern dude fic presents. They’d demand better.

        Though I guess that’s a bit like hoping that kids into Jay-Z would find KRS-One, or that skaters listening to Green Day would find The Ramones. The originals are not always better, and the modern stuff is a gateway drug to the classic awesome, but they should still be part of the conversation. It just sort of disappoints me when American Psycho is the end of the conversation about literature, rather than the beginning of it.

  6. American Psycho WAS the late 80’s/early 90’s. Palanhiuk wishes he could be as awesome as Ellis.

    Captcha: before deliria

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