Bret Easton Ellis
Alfred A. Knopf
By: Eric G.
Eight years in the making, Glamorama, the new book by Bret Easton Ellis, starts off as a subversive yet highly moralistic take on the frivolous and aimlessly shallow fashion scene in New York, but then quickly and strangely develops into a deliberately self-conscious terrorist caper. The ‘hero’, Victor Ward, is a hollow shell of a person whose only purpose is to dress the right way, listen to the right bands, date the right person, and eat at the right places while doing the right drugs, though you get the sense that Victor finds no personal pleasure in any of these things. Ellis’ prose glides seamlessly and beautifully despite the awkward and forced passages of dialogue,which are so blatantly out of place you find yourself saying “no-one would say that” out loud, but, don’t be fooled, this all part of Ellis’ plan.
Ellis delivers a plot, however ludicrous, for the first time since his second novel, Rules of Attraction, where the characters actually develop and the situations build into something more than just the angst, ennui, and hopelessness of high society. Glamorama is a deviously funny book. Models as terrorists? Come on. It is a scathing satire of life in the fast lane for the up-and-coming and “quasi-famous.” There is a coldness and callousness in Ellis’ prose that he perfected in his last novel, American Psycho (for which he was lambasted by critics, yet it is now required reading at Yale), which is best represented in the sex scenes of Glamorama. The sex scenes are stripped of poetry and feeling in favor of graphic detail. It is pure pornography, and it is flawlessly delivered. Ellis seems no more interested in the sex in this book than he does a chic pantsuit by an, of course, very famous designer.
Ellis utilizes pop culture in such an extreme way that most readers will be lost in his references. From song lyrics to tireless name-dropping, Glamorama forces the reader to be ‘in the know’, while at the same time making itself seem dated. In twenty years is anyone going to remember Stephen Dorff? Nor does Ellis care. His goal is to be as caught up in the moment as possible. Detractors of Ellis’ writing (of which there are many) criticize his obsession with seemingly superfluous details and his lack of imagery. Glamorama will not make fans out of these people who have already made up their minds; however, it does go farther than any book in his oeuvre in experimenting with narrative and meta-narrative. Granted the first concrete image doesn’t appear until the last ten pages of the book, but Ellis’ totally calculated control over your emotions as a reader makes up for it.