Less Than Hero

In his new novel 'Lunar Park', former enfant terrible Bret Easton Ellis keeps it unreal

"I grew up in suburbia," Ellis says. "I grew up in a neighborhood where all the kids rode bikes in the street [and] we hung out around our parents' backyards. [In Lunar Park] I was writing about things I remembered, things about my parents' strained relationship." It's also part of a tradition he admires, including the suburban novels of Richard Yates, Cheever, and Updike.

Scribbling across genres seems like a fuck-you to detractors, but he says the ambitious structure is what the book required. "I felt this narrator would speak in this way or tell this tale in this way. It wasn't like I had a 20-year-old airhead or a psychopath narrating this book. It was someone very much like myself, and was a writer, and stylistically I think the book demanded that."

Sentence for sentence, Lunar Park has some of Ellis's best writing, especially the tour de force elegy closing out the novel. But when asked if the passage in question was a nod to "The Dead," Ellis downplayed the comment, said he knows the James Joyce story, has read it hundreds of times, but that the motif here was simply "cheap closure."

Oh, inverted world: Bret Easton Ellis
photo: Ian Gittler
Oh, inverted world: Bret Easton Ellis

Still, he's prepared for the worst. Ellis is a writer people love to hate, and even one of Lunar Park's biggest influences isn't a fan. "It's weird to write an homage to someone that you like a lot who really doesn't like your work very much," Ellis laughs. "When [Stephen] King gave this interview to The New York Times Magazine—he was talking about his son Owen's writing—he was going, 'Well, his writing really isn't like mine, his favorite writer is Bret Easton Ellis, who I think is like a flavor of a month.' Flavor of the month? I'll take it, I guess."

Bret Easton Ellis reads at Coliseum Books on Tuesday, August 23. See the Short List.
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