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Bret Easton Ellis

Bret Easton Ellis (born March 7, 1964 in Los Angeles, California) is an American author. He was regarded as one of the so-called literary Brat Pack, which also included Tama Janowitz and Jay McInerney. He has called himself a moralist, although he is one of his generation's most controversial authors because of his graphic prose style. Influenced by French social realists like Flaubert and Balzac, Ellis updates those novelists' themes of youthful ennui, materialism, status obsession, and social trangression; he also employs their technique of linking novels with common, recurring characters. His dystopic locales typically make use of large, dense cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Paris.

Biography

He was born March 7, 1964 in Los Angeles and raised in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley, the son of Robert Martin Ellis, a wealthy property developer, and Dale Ellis, a homemaker. His parents divorced in 1982. He was educated at The Buckley School, where he did not distinguish himself; then he took a music-based course at Bennington College in Vermont, which is thinly disguised as Camden Arts College in his novel The Rules of Attraction and his other books. He was a part-time musician in 1980s bands such as The Parents before his first book was published (while he was still a student). Less Than Zero, a tale of disaffected, rich teenagers of Los Angeles, was praised by critics and sold well (50,000 copies in its first year). He moved to New York City in 1987 for the publication of his second novel.

The Rules of Attraction followed a group of sexually promiscuous college students, and sold fairly well, though Ellis admits he felt he had "fallen off", after the novel failed to match the success of his debut effort.

His most controversial work, the graphically violent novel American Psycho, was intended to be published by Simon & Schuster, but they withdrew after external protests from interest groups such as the NOW and many others due to the perceived misogynistic nature of the book. The novel was later published by Vintage. Some consider this novel, whose protagonist, Patrick Bateman, is both a cartoonishly materialistic yuppie and a serial killer, to be an example of transgressive art. American Psycho has achieved considerable cult status.

His collection of short stories, The Informers, contains vignettes of wayward Los Angeles characters ranging from rock stars to vampires.

The novel Glamorama is set in the world of high fashion, following a male model who becomes entangled in a bizarre terrorist organization comprised entirely of other models. The book plays with themes of media, celebrity, and political violence, and like its predecessor American Psycho it uses surrealism to convey a sense of postmodern dread.

His most recent novel is Lunar Park, which uses the form of a celebrity memoir to tell a ghost story about the novelist "Bret Easton Ellis" and his chilling experiences in the apparently-haunted home he shares with his wife and son. In keeping with his usual style, Ellis mixes absurd comedy with a bleak and violent vision.

Personal life

In August 2005, Ellis broke his silence about his homosexuality and told The New York Times that his best friend and lover for six years, Michael Wade Kaplan, died in January 2004, at the age of 30. The article entitled, "Bret Easton Ellis: The Man in the Mirror" states the following about Michael Wade Kaplan and Bret Easton Ellis' relationship:

The other dedication is to Michael Wade Kaplan, who Mr. Ellis said was his best friend and lover for six years, and who died, in January 2004, at the age of 30. They did not live together, Mr. Ellis said: "It was a very loose kind of partnership. It was not particularly conventional, and neither one of us was interested in the lifestyle, I guess."

Mr. Kaplan died barely a month after Mr. Ellis had traveled from New York to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his mother and two sisters, as he has in most years since he finished college and moved to Manhattan. He planned to spend a few months finishing the final draft of "Lunar Park" and then return to New York.

Instead, he said, Mr. Kaplan's unexpected death left him in a tailspin. He did not attend the funeral in Michigan, he said, because he could not even bring himself to leave his room - the room in his mother's house in Sherman Oaks, in the San Fernando Valley, where he grew up. And he stayed in Los Angeles for 19 months, shuffling from mother to sister to friend and finally a series of hotels, suffering what he calls "a midlife crisis."

"His death was a big catalyst to finish the novel", Mr. Ellis said, and it probably added "a new layer of wistfulness and melancholy to the writing" that had not been there before.

His latest novel, Lunar Park, was dedicated to Michael Wade Kaplan as well as his father, Robert Ellis, about whom he speaks openly in interviews done while promoting this novel. Robert Ellis died in 1992. In one interview he states:

Saying that: I suppose there were moments during the writing of Lunar Park that made me sad because I was writing about unresolved feelings I had about my father and I was drawing on a lot of negative stuff that had happened between the two of us. On the other hand, by the time I finished the book I felt liberated. I did feel I had worked something out between the two of us – even though my main intention was to write a fun genre novel. When his ashes are spread at the end of the book I felt something lift off me.

In yet another interview Bret Easton Ellis comments:

My feelings have changed. You get older, you mellow out. My father was a tough case and there was a lot of damage done. But since his death in 1992—and writing about the feelings I have experienced and that are detailed throughout Lunar Park—obviously I’ve thought about him differently than I did, say, when I was writing Glamorama (which I had begun writing while he was still alive), which at the heart of its conspiracy concerns the relationship between a father and a son. To a certain degree I’ve worked out a lot of issues I had with him, but I think a residue of anger and defeat will always exist. A child should never even think about being a "good son." A parent decides that fate for the child. The parent encourages that. Not the child himself. And the "perfect dad"? I shudder at thinking what that may be.

Bret Easton Ellis has said that the character of Patrick Bateman, from American Psycho, was originally based on his father.

Bibliography

Films

Less Than Zero was made into a film in 1987, directed by Marek Kanievska and starring Andrew McCarthy, Robert Downey Jr and Jami Gertz. American Psycho was filmed in 2000, directed by Mary Harron and starring Christian Bale. The Rules of Attraction was filmed in 2002, directed by Roger Avary and starring James Van Der Beek and Shannyn Sossamon. A film based on Glamorama was set for a 2007 release, again directed by Avary, but has been delayed for unknown reasons. Additionally, there is a film called Glitterati made from additional footage that was filmed for "The Rules of Attraction."

A film about Ellis, titled This Is Not an Exit: The Fictional World of Bret Easton Ellis, was made in 2000. The film is a combination of a documentary on his life as well as dramatizations of scenes from his books.

An adaptation of the collection of short stories The Informers by Ellis is in post-production due for release this year (2008). Directed by Gregor Jordan, script written by Ellis and Nicholas Jarecki, staring Brad Renfro.

He recently wrote the screenplay for a film titled The Frog King which is set to start filming with Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring.

His latest novel, Lunar Park, is being made into a movie looking towards a 2009 release date. It was adapted into a screenplay by Lane Shadgett.

Recurring characters

Ellis often uses recurring characters and settings. Major characters in one novel may become minor ones in the next, or vice versa. Camden College, a fictional New England liberal arts college, is frequently referenced. It is based on Bennington College, which Ellis himself attended, where he met and befriended fellow writer Donna Tartt.

  • Less Than Zero - Camden is referred to several times. Both Clay, the novel's protagonist and narrator, and Daniel, are said to be attending it.
  • The Rules of Attraction - Clay appears as a minor character and narrates one chapter. He is referred to as "The Guy from L.A." before being properly introduced. Main character Sean Bateman is younger brother of Patrick Bateman, who will later become the protagonist of American Psycho. Patrick appears briefly and narrates one chapter. Camden is the main setting of the novel. Additionally, the creations of Ellis' friend and fellow author Donna Tartt's 1992 novel The Secret History are referenced in the form of a passing mention of "those creepy Classics kids, off in the woods performing human sacrifice or whatever". On "the guy from L.A.'s" door someone wrote "Rest In Peace Called"; R.I.P., or Rip, is Clay's dealer in Less Than Zero, also Clay says that Blair from Less than Zero sent him a letter saying she thinks Rip was murdered.
  • American Psycho - Sean Bateman appears briefly. Paul from The Rules of Attraction is mentioned, as well as Victor Ward. Camden is referred to as both Sean's college and the college a minor character named Vanden is going to. Vanden was referred to (but never appeared) in Less Than Zero as well as The Rules of Attraction. Certain passages from "Less Than Zero" reappear, almost verbatim, here, with Patrick replacing Clay as narrator. Patrick makes repeated references to Jami Gertz, the actress who portrays Blair in the film adaptation of Less Than Zero. Scott and Ann or Anne Smiley have "California Classic Cuisine" at Deck Chairs with Patrick and Courtney.
  • The Informers - Chapter 3: The son of one of the many narrators in the book The Informers, Graham, buys concert tickets from Julian, a character from Less Than Zero. The daughter of the narrator, Susan, goes on to say that Julian sells heroin and is a male prostitute, which is true. Graham refutes the claim that Julian is a male prostitute. In this chapter, Susan also hangs out with Alana and Blair, characters from Less Than Zero.
  • The Informers - The son of the narrator of Chapter 4, "In the Islands" is Timothy Price, an acquaintance/friend of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.
  • The Informers - Chapter 8 consists solely of letters written to Sean Bateman, of The Rules of Attraction, by a girl named Anne who leaves Camden to visit her grandparents in L.A. The letters never reveal Sean's last name, but they reference one of his catch phrases: "Deal with it." The letters are also never replied to. This is evident from the way Anne begs for a reply during each letter.
  • Glamorama - Patrick Bateman appears briefly, as does a character said to resemble Christian Bale, the actor who portrays Bateman in the film version of American Psycho. Main characters Victor Ward and Lauren Hynde were first introduced in The Rules of Attraction. Jamie Fields, who has a major role in the book, was first briefly mentioned by Victor in "The Rules of Attraction", though she does not make an appearance in the book, just is referenced to. Bertrand, Sean and Mitchell, all from The Rules of Attraction, appear in a Camden flashback and several other Rules characters are referenced. Alison Poole, a minor character from American Psycho, in fact first appeared as the protagonist of fellow literary Brat Pack member Jay McInerney's 1988 novel Story of My Life. Both Jay and Allison make return appearances in Lunar Park.
  • Lunar Park - All the author's previous works are heavily referenced, in keeping with the book-within-a-book structure. Jay McInerney has a cameo role, attending the Halloween party Bret hosts at his house with Jayne Dennis.

In popular culture

On Bloc Party's 2007 album A Weekend in the City, the opening track, "Song for Clay (Disappear Here)", is based on the main character from Ellis's novel Less Than Zero.

An album by Porcupine Tree, Fear of a Blank Planet, was largely inspired by Ellis' novel, Lunar Park. While the novel is told from the father's point of view, the record is mostly from the son's point of view, although "My Ashes" reflects the regrets of the son's dead grandfather as they scatter his ashes, referencing the scene at the end of Lunar Park.

Eminem's group D12 have two songs called 'American Psycho' and 'American Psycho 2'.

The Misfits have a song called American Psycho off their 1997 album American Psycho. The song is written about Patrick Bateman and references the story many times.

Bret Easton Ellis is mentioned in the songs "Obsessions" by the UK band Suede and "The Booklovers" by the Northern Irish band The Divine Comedy.

Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers wrote a song about the character Patrick Bateman entitled 'Patrick Bateman'. The song was featured on the B-side of their single La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh) released July 26, 1993. The song gained a small amount of notoriety for the line 'I fucked God up the ass'.

In the television series Dexter, the main character uses Patrick Bateman as an alias.

The metalcore band Zao has a song called Breathe Of The Black Muse in reference to American Psycho

See also

Footnotes

External links

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