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Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
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Less Than Zero (original 1985; edition 1998)

by Bret Easton Ellis

Series: Clay (1)

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4,174511,200 (3.44)95
Member:nicole2222
Title:Less Than Zero
Authors:Bret Easton Ellis
Info:Vintage (1998), Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
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Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (1985)

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English (43)  French (3)  Swedish (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (50)
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
I've read both Ellis's 'American Psycho' and 'Rules of Attraction,' and thought it'd be good to read his first published book.

The story is about a kid named Clay, on break from his school on the East Coast, visiting with family and friends back in Los Angeles. The plot sounds simple enough, but add the 80s, copious amounts of drugs, sex and money, and also inner turmoil, teen angst and existentialism (and still more drugs, sex, and money) and you've got something more familiar to Ellis's other works. It definitely gives an inside look at the lives of privileged teens living the fast life in Southern California.

The story reads pretty quick and easy. Some of the 80s pop culture references may be lost on most kids these days, but trust me, write them down, look them up and learn a bit of 80s culture. There are no formal chapters, just sections/extended-passages. This seems appropriate as the story itself doesn't really follow any sort of formal structure. Things just happen. And then it kind've just ends. You're left with a few questions, and given virtually no answers...Luckily Ellis wrote a sequel, to continue the story...25 years later!

I liked it enough to bump it up an extra star, as I too grew up in Southern California and experienced a lot of the 'plasticy', nihilistic tendencies of the affluent in Southern California. ( )
  agvuerdua | Nov 4, 2014 |
Having recently read Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, I was interested in reading other books by this same author. I can see Less Than Zero being a build-up to American Psycho, although the former actually became Book One of a different series later.

This is not the kind of book that you read for its story. It's a voyeuristic look into life of older teens in wealthy, film industry-affected, drug-overpowered, music and club-filled areas of California (mostly Los Angeles and Palm Springs).

The story follows Clay, an eighteen-year-old, who is back in Los Angeles during a 4-month hiatus from college in New Hampshire. He has an on again/off again relationship with his girlfriend Blair, a dependent relationship on his drug dealer Rip, and a puzzling relationship with Julian, a not-so-good drug dealer who borrows money from Clay for reasons unknown.

What do Clay and his friends and acqaintances do with their time? They really don't know. You'll find clubs, parties, film talk, ostentatious wealth, sex, as well as drug dealing and drug taking in this story. The narrative displays scene after scene of disaffected youth. It's almost as if you're watching a documentary of what happens to youngsters who have no responsibility nor a need to do anything significant with their lives.

The story is depressing, but quite well told. I hope that Clay and his friends, most of whom are in college (many at UCLA or USC) in this story change by the time they graduate! I'll have to check out Book Two. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Oct 17, 2014 |
Profoundly disturbing. ( )
  champerdamper | Aug 13, 2014 |
Catcher in the Rye with cocaine.
1 vote BrianFannin | May 31, 2013 |
The defense I see most often of Ellis is: "You just don't get the joke." And could there be a more annoying defense? How can you even respond to that? It's meaningless.

And it's not a joke. It's satire; that's totally different.

I spent tonight arguing about Ellis with some very smart contrarians, and here's what they said: Ellis has captured the soulless Me First Generation, and their failure to connect with life, in a really effective way. He refuses his rival David Foster Wallace's edict that literature has to solve something; he insists, with merciless implacability, on simply showing it to you. No solutions, no conclusions.

They're right, and that's not valueless. Ellis has achieved something. I actually know these people - not Ellis' caricatures of them, but the real people - and I see what he's describing.

The only problem is here's the first sentence of this book: "People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles." This is a metaphor, I happen to know because I was an English major, and it's fucking stupid. And it's his big theme! This! People are afraid to merge! Like he's discovered some grand truth! He'll return to it like fifty times!

So. It's not a useless book. It's a decent satire of shallow pop culture sociopathy. Like Wallace, Ellis is concerned with connection: he wants us to engage with life. (To "merge," even!) Unlike Wallace, he refuses to make helpful suggestions; if you're irritated by Wallace's desperately wide-eyed sincerity, Ellis might speak to you.

But for fuck's sake, it is all awfully tedious. ( )
1 vote AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (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 editionsconfirmed
Antolín Rato, MarianoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Information from the Swedish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
This is the game that moves as you play... - X / There's a feeling I get when I look to the West... - Led Zeppelin
Dedication
Information from the Swedish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
For Joe McGinniss
First words
People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.
Quotations
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:00 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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