Lunar Park Paperback – 2 Jun 2006
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"Addictive. . . . Sublime. . . . Exquisite. . . . Stirringly executed. . . . A phantasmagoria of love and loss, a fusion of hallucination and wisdom."-"The New York Times" "The deftness with which Ellis handles an entertaining and suspenseful plot, as well as a sophisticated play between truth and fiction, real selves and imagined selves, is impressive. "Lunar Park "is not only enjoyable and consuming, but insightful."-"San Francisco Chronicle" "John Cheever writes "The Shining," . . . A strange triumph. . . . Here is a book that progresses from darkness and banality to light and epiphany with surprising strength and sureness."-Stephen King, "Entertainment Weekly" "A mesmerizing read. . . . Genuinely frightening. . . . "Lunar Park" is a story about the momentous pain parents inflict on their children. . . . The worst violence is internal and emotional, and in its beautiful closing pages, this rich, deceptively complex novel argues that's the most damaging violence of all."-"The Miami Herald"
The most exciting novel Bret Easton Ellis has written since American Psycho, and the publishing sensation of the year.
The author of American Psycho rips into his most frightening subject yet: himself.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
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The main character is…Brett Easton Ellis. Yes, in an incredibly self-indulgent move, Ellis has made himself the lead character. Not the author Ellis you understand, but a ‘fictional version’-which just annoys the reader from the start and gives the impression of an author far too pleased with himself. The story is also littered with in-jokes [A guy called Clay writes a piece called ‘Negative Numbers’, Detective Donald Kimball enquires about a murder], a cameo from friend Jay McInerney and references to the glory days [The dogs called Victor, Mitchell Allen lives next door]. There has always been cross-references in Ellis work, but the smugness is very off putting and just takes you out of the book each time it occurs.
The situation is that Brett has been plunged into suburban hell from his previous hedonistic lifestyle and is part of a thrown together family with a son and stepdaughter while struggling with writer’s block. Seeing this family try to survive when one of the parents is a lapsed addict is well realized and interesting, particularly in regard to the children [The son Brett wants to know hates him, the daughter he sees as an inheritance adores him] who are both fleshed out well. The wife, Jayne, isn’t as well drawn, mainly being a lesser version of Chloe in Glamorama [far brighter than her bad boy lover but is fatally attracted to him]. The first half of the book is the strongest with the author making some good points about childhood and develops his character and the situation well [Such as in the dinner party scene] which is a sign of new territory for him.
Although it is fermenting throughout, the second half takes a new turn as a Stephen King-esq ghost story, and it doesn’t really work. The early part has a ‘shining’ influence [an author falling out of love with his family], but when it morphs fully into a ghost story, it feels like another book and is pretty silly at times. There is tension built with one line sentences but it doesn’t develop into anything great and spoils the mood the author was trying for. While the Robert Ludlum formula was an influence on Glamorama, it felt like its only book while here the homages to King feel counterfeit.
What nearly redeems the book is the final scene, a heart to heart talk between Brett and his son. While rather short, it’s does pack an emotional punch and returns to the themes shown early on.
Writing this book was probably a cathartic experience for Ellis [It’s dedicated to his deceased partner and father], and if he’d focused on the strengths of the first half, he could have been onto something but ultimately it squanders the potential of the situation in a fog of ego and pastiche. A frustrating and only occasionally rewarding read.
As one might imagine, Ellis is wholly aware of the precedents, and the novel is seamed with references to contemporary horror cinema that acknowledge the second-handedness of his theme, while undercutting criticism by introducing an element of knowing postmodernist play. This is greatly reinforced by Ellis's adoption of the classic doppelgänger motif; his protagonist is a writer haunted by his own fictional creations. But Ellis doesn't stop here: instead he redoubles the atmosphere of paranoid suspicion by making this character himself a doppelgänger, a 'Bret Easton Ellis' who shares some details of the author's biography but whose fictional life then departs in significant ways from the 'real-life' template - for whose ultimate veracity we have only Ellis to trust.
The result is a book that isn't wholly successful as literature but that holds an odd fascination. In this it resembles nothing so much as the tales of H.P. Lovecraft, which have something of the same dynamic of remorselessly accumulating dread, and the same implication of an existential horror that lies unvoiced beneath the surface effects.
Ellis has made something of a motif of the wholly unreliable narrator, and here he goes further than before, offering the reader a drug-addicted and alcoholic celebrity writer as the only real source of information within the narrative. The resulting hall-of-mirrors leads only inwards, until the reader is struggling with multiple levels of 'reality' in which real people, fictional characters and the spirits of the dead all seem to have similar ontological status. This makes 'Lunar Park' at times more difficult to follow than the earlier books, whose narratives for the most part lack these complications.
Readers who know and like Ellis will persist with this, although it does lend some credence to the notion that the writer is steadily cannibalising his own talent. For readers new to Ellis, I would strongly suggest starting with 'Less Than Zero' and 'American Psycho'. Not only does 'Lunar Park' refer frequently to these earlier books, but by reading them in sequence one may glimpse a seriousness in the later novel that might escape a completely uninformed reading.
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