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"Everything is the same, but different"
on 13 August 2013
"I don't want to care. If I care about things, it'll just be worse, it'll just be another thing to worry about. It's less painful if I don't care." - Clay
If there is ever an overlooked aspect to the work of Andy Warhol, it's that he's not known by the majority so much for his writings, beyond those found on a soup can label.
Warhol's deadpan distanced view of the world, found in work such as The Andy Warhol Diaries seems to have rubbed off on Ellis, the book drifts through the central character Clay's world of meaningless conversations and drug fuelled orgies, where billboard slogans are given more attention than any of the characters within the book.
The strongest aspects of the book are the enigmatic memories of the main character watching his cancer ridden grandmother fade away and descriptions that give some meaning to advertisements, such as the watchful eyes of an Elvis Costello which clearly recalls the billboard of T.J Eckleburg found within The Great Gatsby. At these times, it feels like Ellis is truly shoving the mirror of society in your face and forcing you to comprehend a dose of full fat banality and mortality. Be warned, working off seeing things the way Ellis does within his work takes more than a few Valium.
Less than Zero was written before American Psycho and in some ways, it's a lesser version of it's brilliance. It has all the long paragraphs about 80′s pop culture, described in the same tone as violent and perverse acts causing same desensitizing effect on the reader.
What is missing for me, beyond the higher shock value is any major experimentation with the written style that was found in American Psycho and in many ways, Clay takes on all of Patrick Bateman's banal aspects without the surreal humour of the character coming across as someone Bateman would hack to bits after a nice dinner at Dorsia's.
This is where it all falls apart and Ellis's style becomes tiresome, without any conclusion, you are just getting enigmatic paragraphs that can seem either harrowing or just narrow minded. You are left feeling empty by its motto of: "Everything is the same, but different" and no doubt this is the intended effect. But like Clay, you are left not caring and while you know it's an important first work...you...just...don't...care.
Skip this and make a reservation with American Psycho for a full flavor of the authors distinctive style.