Growing up with Bret Easton Ellis

05 July 2010

Read the reviews today and there are still those who get him and those who don't. 

It was over 25 years ago when Picador published Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero. It bemused, delighted and confused in equal measure. I read it at the till of the bookshop I was working in and loved it. He too was 21 years old, but he had written a book that was like nothing else I had ever read (and he'd experienced much more in his first 21 years than I would in a lifetime).

 

Bret Easton Ellis holds a unique place in American literature. Whilst his contemporaries have mellowed, Bret, I am delighted to say, refuses to.

 

The first readers who were asked to report on Less Than Zero for Picador couldn't really place it and only brave and passionate advocacy managed to ensure it was published.

I was recently shown from our archive a couple of (sadly anonymous) reader's reports on that very first manuscript.

One didn't get it at all, concluding: "Clay and his wired, tanned friends have barely a personality between them, less than zero indeed. I'd pass"

Another report was more pragmatic: "Will it sell? It has all the ingredients of sex and violence and rock and drugs and glamour. But it has no real story. It's good as far as it goes. But it's not particularly intelligent or demanding. I don't think it measures up in the long term. But on cheap paper and a good display at the railway stations, the title could turn a quick profit."

More than 25 years on Less Than Zero has sold God knows how many copies and has become a modern classic. And Bret Easton Ellis has retained his impeccable ability to divide readers and his unique power to shock.

Image of Los Angeles at night © Edward de la Torre


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