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Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Less than Zero (original 1985; edition 1987)

by Bret Easton Ellis

Series: Clay (1)

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4,805661,433 (3.42)114
Title:Less than Zero
Authors:Bret Easton Ellis
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1987), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:teen, drugs, partying, rich, angst

Work details

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (1985)


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English (59)  French (3)  Swedish (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (66)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
I could not connect with this book on any level. The only good thing about it was that it was so short. Horrible. ( )
  MDusseault | Feb 6, 2019 |
While I love Ellis's style, I just couldn't get into this book as easily as the other two I've read by him (American Psycho and Rules of Attraction). I would read an entire page and realize I had no idea what just happened (although it's rare that anything ever did happen). Still, though, there were parts of this book that were redeeming, and I plan to read more of Ellis's work. Just a note: if you've seen the film, it is NOTHING like the book. ( )
  Borrows-N-Wants | Sep 23, 2018 |
I read "Less Than Zero" when it was first published in the UK simply because it takes its title from one of my favourite Elvis Costello songs, and then I was encouraged by reading that the protagonist has a poster of the cover of a favourite Costello album, "Trust". Then... what a catalogue of empty, shallow characters leading pointlessly empty and shallow lives. Surely this was "The Horror" whispered by Conrad's Kurtz.

More than once I closed the cover in disgust as Ellis seemed to wallow in this nihilistic celebration of vacuous, alienated, consumerist culture, only to see his judgement of what he was portraying: Less Than Zero. That kept me going to the end, though it's a journey I'm content with having made just the once. It is, for all that, an unflinching indictment of the vapid horror that neoliberalism, in all its rampant '80s glory, leads to. ( )
  Michael.Rimmer | Jul 18, 2018 |
This was a strange, strange book. Which I suppose is partially the point.

A bunch of rich kids doing drugs and trying to find meaning in the experiences of their empty lives. People chasing anything to get away from boredom, without ever really... taking action. There's no action. It's just a series of empty encounters that go deeper and deeper into the dark underbelly of LA in the 80s. Drugs, sex, and... well. Emptiness. A whole lot of nihilism, and the dull need to escape it although even the escape doesn't seem to have anything in it.

Was New Hampshire really better? Was it just more of the same?

I enjoyed reading the book after a while, but all in all it was just horrific in the true sense of the word. Empty. Meaningless. Darkness after darkness that lead to the point of even staring at a dead body, realizing it was someone you knew, and nothing more coming of it. This is meant to be the true nature of humanity: nothing.

Only I've seen so many better depictions of humanity and better people in my own life. This isn't all there is. I've known people like this, yes, and there is little hope for them until they wish to change themselves. There is just a lot of better people and better things out there. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
Conflicted does not begin to describe it. I really disliked this book – I did not warm to the characters, and the subject matter (I can’t say it was a plot) managed to be both horrific and repetitively dull. However, as much as it pains me, I can acknowledge that all the things I felt were those that Ellis probably set out to accomplish and this feat, especially in such a young writer probably needs to be recognised.

Plot in a Nutshell
Eighteen year old, wealthy and apparently bored of life, Clay returns to LA after his first four months of college on the East Coast. The novel spans the four weeks of his vacation and is one long drug and sex filled party.

Ellis has set out to produce, what I presume to be, a satirical look at the lives of the mega rich in LA in the early eighties. Neither his message nor his writing are nuanced. He hammers the reader over the head, via a combination of exceedingly drawn out sentences and very short ones, with the imagery of a repeating, unemotional cycle of parties, sex and drugs. A truly empty and unfulfilling life. Then, just when the monotony ceases to have any impact Ellis cranks up the callousness with a series of horrific scenes – at least one of which had me physically nauseated by both the action and the lack of action or response from Clay.

There is little emotional connection within the loose friendship groups, families or even place throughout the story. A reoccurring joke is that even over Christmas these teens are gallivanting through Southern California (he’s in Malibu… no Palm Springs… no a nightclub… no now someone else’s apartment) and no one seems to know where, in the actual world unless reported by the trade press, their parents are.

I think this is the novel Ellis wanted to write – a slightly overly self-conscious attempt at literary with all the subtlety of a brick. What really frustrated me is I think there is another story in here – one I would have connected with much more. Clay, is clearly making bad choices but also seems to be grappling with mental illness underpinning his hedonism. He seeks help from a psychiatrist who is more interested in discussing a script and the latest concert than he is trying to help. Clays’ memories and thoughts about his grandparents offer us a hint at a different boy and the path from there to where this story opens would also have been something I would have enjoyed.

A final word – rarely have I read a book with such a sense of place. From the pop culture references of the time; the restaurants and bars to the drives through the city, Los Angeles is perhaps the most real and dimensional character in the novel. However much like Clay and co not necessarily one you’d want to spend a great deal of time with. ( )
  itchyfeetreader | May 3, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
The narrator, Clay, and his friends - who have names like Rip, Blair, Kim, Cliff, Trent and Alana - all drive BMW's and Porsches, hang out at the Polo Lounge and Spago, and spend their trust funds on designer clothing, porno films and, of course, liquor and drugs. None of them, so far as the reader can tell, has any ambitions, aspirations, or interest in the world at large. And their philosophy, if they have any at all, represents a particularly nasty combination of EST and Machiavelli: ''If you want something, you have the right to take it. If you want to do something, you have the right to do it.''

» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bret Easton Ellisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Antolín Rato, MarianoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This is the game that moves as you play... - X
There's a feeling I get when I look West...Led Zeppelin.
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People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.
Disappear here!
The psychiatrist I see during the four weeks I'm back is young and has a beard and drives a 450 SL and has a house in Malibu (...) Sometimes I'll yell at him and he'll yell back. I tell him that I have this bizarre sexual fantasies and his interest will increase noticeably. I'll start to laugh for no reason and then feel sick.
Next day I stop by Julian's house in Bel Air with the money in a green envelope. He's lying on his bed in a wet bathing suit watching MTV. It's dark in the room, the only light coming from the black and white images on the television.
"You must do something"
"Oh, I don't know."
"What do you do?" she asks.
"Things, I guess". I sit on the matress.
"Like what?"
"I don't know. Things." My voice breaks and for a moment I think about the coyote and I think that I'm going to cry, but it passes and I just want to get my vest and get out of here.
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Haunting, scary, find fuck.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679781498, Paperback)

Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980's, this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money a place devoid of feeling or hope.

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 Porches, 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:12 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Returning to Los Angeles from his Eastern college for a Christmas vacation in the early 1980s, Clay "reenters a landscape of limitless privilege and absolute moral entropy, where everyone drives Porsches, dines at Spago, and snorts mountains of cocaine ... A raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation."--Back cover.… (more)

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