on 27 December 2010
I understand those who say it is a completely meaningsless book, because it really is a book about nothing and I completely get those who say that it is absolutely brilliant, because it is about nothing and still leaves you with something. Reading The Rules of Attraction is like listening to a friend who tells you too much of what you don't want to hear and while he/she is talking and talking you realize that he/she got it all wrong, everything, the whole life, but you really can't do much about it because he/she is too far off for you to even bother.
Bret Easton Ellis lets a couple of college students (mostly Sean, Paul and Lauren) talk about their completely meaningless existance of sex, drugs and parties. What is fascinating here is to get the different perspectives of different people involved in the same love triangle and to see how the same situations, words and actions are perscieved completely differenty depending on what the person wants it to be. As the satirical elements were too hidden for me to find the book funny and the characters too unengaging to find it tragic, it were exactly those glimpses of hope and complete denial that made the book interesting to me.
Would I recommend The Rules of Attraction to my friends? Not really. But maybe I don't have the right kind of friends.
on 20 November 2001
Having read all of BEE's work, I believe this is the best example of his misunderstood genius. A complex, subtle and strangely poignant account of American college life in the 1980's, played out through three first-person narrators who show us the world through disillusioned, disaffected eyes. The characterisation is expertly done, and in the end we are left feeling a strange empathy with these hollow lives. It begins in the middle of a sentence and ends in the middle of a sentence, and true, nothing much happens in between, but this is a book about characters, not plot. Style truly reflects content, and the effect is to immerse you totally in the world being portrayed...
on 28 October 2009
We all know the masterpiece of that author, viz. American Psycho (please watch the uncut unrated video version: the extra five minutes make a real difference), and I was curious to see what he had become with time and age. This novel is situated in the same period as the one that made his fame, the mid 80s, under Ronald Reagan, the time of the emergence of financial capitalism, or shouldn't I say the emergence of speculative stock exchange financial greedy deregulated adventure. We are dealing here with the children of the first generation of these speculators who were inventing that golden boy and yippy/yuppy age that was just being born under our eyes. The children are all in college doing anything you may think of from drama to poetry, from art to just nothing. They do not plan on getting any real competence or skill in the social field of productivity and the economy. They are just expressing, satisfying and even trying to satiate their unfathomable hunger and thirst for anything that is not advised by moral and ethical authorities in the American world or what's more that is heavily not recommended and harshly rejected, i.e. drugs from cocaine to mushroom and all kinds of other grass, substance or concoction that could get you high or just wasted; then alcohol for the very purpose of being drunk as long as possible, forever if possible (And there they are creative like champagne on the rocks or rum diet coke, and some other barbaric mixtures); and of course sex, sex and sex. The book is in fact detailed only at that level and explores all kinds of possible orientations from plain gay to plain straight and all the variations, nuances, hues and other shades in-between for both girls and boys. In fact the book is becoming obsessive about male homosexuality with a few characters. Paul who is all gay but has some non-gay adventures on the side. Sean who starts very, very, very gay and turns straight later on and anti-gay at the same time. And you have those here and there who condescend to have a gay episode provided it is not made public, and at times even take a second helping of that liquor. There even is a pregnancy that is terminated in a clinic of some kind, a revealed, accepted, celebrated, resented, rejected, hated and finally gotten rid of pregnancy. All that is pathetic if not even miserable. The future leaders and profiteers of this society of ours in the 1980s were just corrugated and totally spaced-out and learning nothing because they did not need anything, except poker and bridge: their daddies and their mummies were able to provide them with the means and the positions they needed to make money, and the only objective was to make money in society, and to sexually milk the cow in college and of course not beyond graduation, if ever reached. It is well written, and maybe even funny, though it is essentially sad and dramatic, essentially when we know it is these people who were the central actors and engineers of the 2008-2009 crisis. They live in a bubble, their mind is a bubble, and they managed what they were supposed to manage in our society as if it had to be a bubble. Bubble after bubble we have a comic book that is not comical or funny at all. Gadoosh! And our dear traders are starting again, and will always start again because for them life is a party when they get high and drunk, then a hangover, then another party when they get high and drunk, then another hangover, and so on till the end of time, till some kind of God tells them: "That will do!" and throws the Tables of the Law to the ground and breaks the covenant to give it back anyway just one fit of anger later.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
on 15 February 2008
This was the second book by Easton Ellis that I read (after american psycho) and focuses on the complicated lives of three characters caught up in a nasty love triangle (square? pentagon?) It slowly leaks information regarding the personas and backgrounds of the characters and does a good job of drawing you in, and putting you behind their eyes so to speak. For me the best thing about Ellis' works are the way the characters are linked, for example, one of the three primary characters in the rules of attraction, Sean Bateman, is the the brother of American psycho Pat Bateman (Sean stars in that book, for about 4 lines, and Pat is mentioned in this) Likewise, the love of one of the other leads lives, Victor, is the main character in Glamourama. These links are ingenious and very subtly deployed. From the second I clocked that Sean was Pat Batemans brother, I was hooked, and read all the rest of Easton Ellis' novels. I havent been dissapointed with a single one of them. Whilst this isnt as good as American Psycho, it stands alongside Glamorama, and above less than zero. A worthy read!
on 26 January 2000
Ellis' second novel, sandwiched between scathing debut "Less than Zero" and the hard-hitting "American Psycho", was always going to be somewhat overlooked. However, it is just as involving and affecting , albeit subtler than A.P. It is the literary equivalent of creeping up on someone, tapping them on the shoulder and putting a mirror up to their face the instant they turn around. For a few seconds they are shocked by their own appearance... This novel is not about "them", the characters, the situations, it's about you. People you know, things you've done, or thought, or thought you've done but can't remember. An examination of a generation so bored with itself and its preoccupations that it's forgotten it was bored at all, and is simply floating from one pointless event to the next, one partner to the next, one drug to the next. It works on so many levels - outwardly shallow, but it's the superficiality that leads you to look deeper into the characters actions and motives. I personally would not criticise either the novel itself or Ellis style, but it has been mentioned elsewhere that he has been criticised for leaving a page blank, with accusations of pretentiousness for this. However, for me this was one of the most powerful moments of the story - the absence of Lauren's contribution for that day says more about her feelings then than she would ever spell out herself...
Bret Easton Ellis' novel of the shallow, superficial world of self-obsessed, self-indulgent privileged preppies in an 80's American college setting is itself a perfectly mirrored shallow, superficial, self-obsessed, self-indulgent piece of work.
Yes, I can concede that Ellis knows how to write, his prose has craft, yes I can concede it has moments of bleak comedy, but at the heart (there is none) of this novel, as at the periphery, are only shallows.
Easton Ellis appears to feel nothing but easy, judgemental, one-dimensional contempt for his angsty, barfing, bonging, coke and drink fuelled characters, to a man or woman they are obsessed with getting wasted or not getting wasted, getting meaningless leg-overs or whining at their lack of meaningless leg-overs.
However, the lack of variety, each stream of consciousness voice equally self-pitying, equally gothic in its misery, became like being beaten over the head with a hammer, unvarying in its noise and pressure.
What I disliked, intensely was the absence of light and shade, of dapple, of variety to the fairly amorphous blobby group. I'm aware that for some reason Easton Ellis has some sort of cult status - I assume because somehow the times are admiring of tales of excess, the more wasted and degraded, the better.
This is a novel which only shocks (briefly), but never surprises. Once you begin the journey is absolutely known and never varies. Sure, we will get that classic triangle of A loves (well, actually, lusts for - no character touches real depth of emotion, just whines) B who whines and lusts for C who whines and (briefly) lusts for A. We are absolutely bound to get suicides, failed suicide attempts, lots and lots and even more lots of bump grind, lots of detail about getting wasted in different ways, and lots of self-referential clever - weaving in of the peripheral occasional presence of Donna Tartt's characters from The Secret History (the two went to the same college) pulling in name-dropping of real figures - a character from the book is mentioned as dating some relative of Philip Glass's, models from GQ, someone else is offensive to Bianca Jagger in a night-club, its all just an endless clever sneer - and the lack of engagement, inside understanding of the characters written about pulls Ellis himself into being a part of their company.
I know that Ellis has been compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald - the same sense of privileged golden boy achieving glitter early through the laying out of a group of self-indulgent, narcissistic, hedonists, shocking the mores of middle America with their shallow glitter and indifference. What Scott Fitzgerald always had, however, was heart, within this. The heart and sudden tenderness gave his characters depth, so that we, and he, could feel a sense of their more complex humanity, and a quiver of pain at their wasted potential. Ellis does not touch the heart, either of the reader, or of his characters, and that lack of any heart towards his characters, any sense that they may be more than just a barfing bonking cipher, is exactly what prohibits the reader from caring. Okay, this one kills themselves, that one tries to kill themselves, someone has an abortion. Who cares - its not real, its an imaginary set of words upon a page about an imaginary set of one dimensional characters. Is the reader's lack of response merely an example of their own inhumanity? Well, no. One of the reasons we read (or write) is that literature is one of the ways we expand our awareness and understanding of what it means to be `other'. The writer should find a way to make us care and understand something about those imaginary characters - and the effect may be to make us care and understand a little more about ourselves and about other.
Comparing Ellis to two absolutely unlike writers - I think of Sartre's play In Camera, where we have a triangle of A loves B loves C loves A - okay, this is a play, and will be given life by the actors, but Sartre too is writing from a bleak place - yet even to read the dialogue on the page, cerebral though it often is, is too be engaged by the suffering of the human condition, one's own, and that of others.
Secondly, I have just finished reading a very unlikely comparison indeed, Mary Wesley's book The Camomile Lawn, written when she was in her 70s, looking back to the rackety, bed-hopping, booze fuelled world of the young privileged on the Home Front at the outbreak of war. Characters often as careless about conventional morality - yet written not as ciphers, but as clear individuals, so we see both their selfish flaws and their sudden tendernesses. She paints in colours, and moreover her acerbic, sharp humour and darkness is delivered with a variety of precise tools.
I did however keep reading Rules of Attraction to the bitter end - irritated though I was at other marks of `clever' style, such as the blank page and the ending. I kept reading because yes, there is a writer here - and that was part of the frustration, I hoped the skill would have yielded more of substance. Skill meant 2 star and completion. No skill, and similar emptiness would have been abandoned, and no doubt therefore unreviewed.
The Rules of Attrction (Brett Easten Ellis's second novel) is a richer and deeper expression of the nihilistic, satirical themes he covered in his stark debut. Whereas Less Than Zero concentrated on the pointless existence of rich, hedonistic Camden student Clay (covering his drug-fuelld return to LA one holiday), The Rules of Attraction follows three -- similarily pampered and self-obsesseive/destructive -- students (this time at Camden college itself).
It is much more of the same, really -- none-stop partying, drinking and references to popular 80s youth culture -- and in some ways is a much better novel. It is funnier (Ellis is sharper and more comfortable when swinging his satirical axe -- though his humour is still very subdued in comparison to American Psycho); it is more complicated (not just in there being three protagonsists, but also in scale (the college social drug sex mess is effortlessly constructed) and with a much bigger focus on the effects their bohimiem lifestyle has on their purchased souls) and you are left with an even bigger void of hope at the end of it all (despite its title, this is no romantic comedy).
I didn't really enjoy it as much, though. I guess, because it wasn't new to me anymore. I think I was hoping for a greater shift towards the raging satire of American Psycho. More of this novel is filled with the same empty observations and dialogue that made Less Than Zero so effective. This isn't a bad thing, but it takes greater effort to get into (getting to intimatley know three characters instead of one) and doesn't reward you with enough new ideas.
Anyway, that is only a slight disapointment: more of Less Than Zero is a good thing and I did enjoy reading this. Fans of his first novel will feel instantly at home here. If you haven't read that, then you I reccomend that you read it first -- I think it is a more focused and fluent example of Easton Ellis's early work.
on 15 July 2009
This book is a brilliant social commentary. It's not a story with a beginning, middle & and end wherein every event causes another and so on. Nothing's strategically placed. Therefore, the structure of this novel is unlike the mass of contemporary fiction out there.
The reason this book would receive a low vote is if a reader can't get passed the deliberate execution of the book. For example, there is no protagonist, victim, villain etc, as there are in many other novels. And there is no particular plot, which is commonly found in novels.
Take it for what it is; something different, a fluid read and very funny.
on 19 November 2002
This is Easton Ellis' most often over-looked (and slighted) novel. After the precocious talent and nihilism of "Less Than Zero" and before the media-bating frenzy of "American Psycho", this novel is a gentle, funny and caring character study of three people in a sad and confused love triangle, all at university in America.
Each of them (and a cast of supporting characters) tell their linked, over-lapping story from their own perspective: reading into actions and words what they want to believe is there. It's in this dramtic construct that much of the poignancy and the humour lies.
It's funny, it's sexy and it's very involving - and it deserves to be given a bit more attention.
on 13 February 2008
This was the first Bret Easton Ellis book I'd read, so I wasn't sure on what to expect, but the book didn't disappoint. In fact it has made me stick a few more of his books in my Amazon wish list.
The start of the book sets the tone for the characters. It starts mid-sentence like your just dropping in on the book, and it ends mid-sentence, as if you just drift off not really caring about what has happened. This juxtaposition works very well and helps show the characters true essence.
Are money and drugs ruining the world? After reading "The Rules of Attraction" you will certainly believe so. The wild times, out-of-control students and disregard for anything other than oneself, doesn't paint a very pretty picture.
The story revolves around three main characters, Sean, Paul and Lauren. All rich, beautiful and delusional. Which attribute describes them best is hard to tell. As you go deeper the characters become entangled in various situations, some more serious than others. But all with the same terrible, depressing & soul-less attitude.
As the old cliche goes, after I started I didn't want to stop. A great read.