Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

In Less Than Zero Clay is an 18-year-old student living in the ’80s. Born and raised in Los Angeles with al lot of money, sex drugs and famous people around him. Clay studies at Camden College in New Hampshire and comes home to L.A. for Christmas vacation. His girlfriend Blair, about whom he has certain doubts whether he is still in love with her, picks him up from the airport. He comes back in a totally different world than he is used to at college. He is reunited with the things he used to see when he was growing up and all of his friends. Clay gets sucked into the party scene again. A scene with which he was once so familiar, but as the story unfolds he grows alienated to this world and loses the faith he once had in his friends.

People are afraid to merge on the freeway in Los Angeles.

Blair said this in their first conversation with Clay when he got back to L.A. The comment sticks with him and is often repeated by Clay himself. The comment really shows what this book is all about. L.A. and all the people in it have changed when he was gone, and that people have become more afraid of each other. And Ellis describes perfectly how Clay comes to the same conclusion, in a sometimes lurid way, and how he himself doesn’t like the way it all turned out in L.A.

What may strike some as annoying is the monotonous and unappealing way some things are described in Less Than Zero. At first the book may seem boring but after a couple of pages the book will have you completely under its spell. It is absolutely mesmerizing. It is shown under a very bright fluorescent light which goes through everything. The ugliness of the L.A. scene in which Clay finds himself is bare naked for you to see. Like the pain of his best friend Julian selling himself to a businessman to fund his heroin addiction. There is no glorification in Less Than Zero.

The luridness of the story can leave one completely horrified but that is all just part of the story. Certain things that happen in the book raise goosebumps, like in a documentary about a serial killer. It’s harsh but on the other hand it’s very refreshing. The book leaves you with a feeling of dissatisfaction but that’s how it is supposed to end. No cinderella story with a typical happy ending. It wouldn’t be appropriate. Ellis showed us perfectly how the rich kids with famous parents grew up in L.A. in the ’80s.

Many people have been inspired by this original and horrifying story. Like the British indie rock band Bloc Party that made their whole album Weekend in the City inspired in this book.

Bloc Party – Song for Clay (Disappear Here)


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