Still BEE, but not so much Imperial Bedrooms. Just another exploration of what I'd call the main theme of this month of blog entries: fictive layering, but with a special flavor because this isn't just the story-within-the-story, but the real within the story and the fake within the reality. I go on about three examples of such from Easton Ellis's fiction.
Dorsia is a restaurant in New York that you can find reviews for on various internet sites. Bryan Metro is the lead singer of a vaguely famous band by way of the web as well. Rielle Hunter is the mother of a former presidential candidate’s daughter out of wedlock. What do these people and places have in common? Their stories are slippery little tales throughout fact and fiction that would, in any exhaustive telling, involve the ever present subject of this week: Bret Easton Ellis. This is the fictive layering, once again, but even more completely in this sense, because all of the examples I’ve given have a presence in the real world.
I, as a writer, have brought them up in an ascending ranking of their very existence outside of fantasies of the writer and the reader (the two people that make up everyone in this sort of debate). Dorsia, then, is almost entirely unreal. The would-be favorite haunt of the most ghastly of characters, Patrick Bateman, our generation’s Norman Bates—made all the more mysterious because we’re always in his mind, but Bateman appears to be a bit of a dweeb in the more real world that lies still in the book, but outside of his head. Sean, his brother—who we’ve talked to somewhat occasionally in The Rules of Attraction, but heard more about from Paul or Lauren, or outside of that sophomore novel, in an overheard one-sided conversation in The Informers and not least of all from Patty, the serial killer—has no problem getting a table. Neither does Paul Allen or Owen, the man who has a bit of a problem with Huey Lewis and the News (Patrick’s own problem with them in polite society is simply an example of racism, his way of “fitting in,” the book really begs the reader to commentary).
Even though “no one goes there anymore,” Jean wants in, and this bothers our villain a slight bit, but other than waxing philosophic on the plot of the movie more so than the book American Psycho, I should get back to my job here: Dorsia slips into reality by way of the internet more so than anything else. It’s the only one in this example that couldn’t have gotten a foot into our world in any other way. This is, I’m sure, simply an example of a very common phenomenon these days. The impact of the internet on how we create objects and ideas cannot be overestimated and it definitely cannot from someone my age, as I can’t really imagine the world without it (the time I spent in that place was my youth and it is doomed almost always to become vague and nostalgic, a series of memories that you’re not entirely sure actually happened or rather that you actually remember, not so much questioning yourself but whether if you aren’t only remembering imaginings, sparked by people telling you tales of their observations of your childhood…one of the themes of Imperial Bedrooms appears to be the different life that’s lived by the writer, and perhaps in this parenthesis I have fallen into the trap of that person, losing the topic again to follow out yet another digression…)
Various restaurant ranking sites will have a page on Dorsia, which will become an ongoing joke, as people reference American Psycho in various attempting-to-be-clever ways. This is a new game to play, the one-upmanship of the world today delights in it. Whether you’re going with a direct, somewhat boring, relevant quote (great sea urchin ceviche) or a somewhat more innovative grab from the film (eggshell with Romalian type) or even the occasional pastiche, this is definitely something cool. I, myself, were I to enter this landscape, would go in this direction: Took Patrick. He spit out a bite and exclaimed, “That’s bone!” while pointing to his hand.
Bryan Metro is a musician in The Informers that holds his own alongside the likes of Victor Ward or Patrick Bateman; more realistically you can throw him in the same hotels as various bands that trash the rooms. Perhaps surprisingly, this man has become somewhat of a role model for the lead singer of a real music group. This couldn’t come across as quite odd to Bret Easton Ellis, however, who’s had to deal with people stylizing his characters since he first put them out on the market: the polite view of Clay, Christian Bale’s coming to see him in character as Bateman during the filming of American Psycho, I’m sure that if he hears about these things, they don’t shock him anymore.
The band that Bryan Metro leads has an even more suspect name than his choice for namesake. But the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre actually does exist and I found Bryan by way of Twitter, came across him as simply another Bret Easton Ellis spitting writer of some sort (like the people who wrote the not so subtle Stalking Bret Easton Ellis). It seems interesting then to question, how much of Bryan becomes real when someone takes his name? This is something I’m going to write about some day in a story I’ve mentioned here before (have written a trial run of here before), about a gawky guy who just happens to have gotten named James Bond.
Rielle Hunter, however, is not a fictive character bleeding out into our world. She’s very much real. What is so much fun about this story is how it slips in and out. Jay McInerney’s novel, Bright Lights, Big City, written in the second person, came out in 1984 and paved the way for the cocaine culture of novels that would continue in Easton Ellis’s debut (Less Than Zero). Funnily enough, then, another McInerney book would provide the spark for further of Bret’s stories. This would be Story of My Life, a novel narrated by Alison Poole, who just happened to be based on McInerney’s girlfriend at the time, Lisa Druck. Poole would get lifted by Bret for a victim of Patrick Bateman who just happened to live. Alison would then become Victor Ward’s on-the-DL squeeze in Glamorama. You might be seeing where this story is going…
When news hit about the alleged affair between Rielle Hunter and John Edwards (alleged at the time of the news being new; Edwards has come forward and admitted to being the father of Hunter’s child), this became the media story: people were talking to McInerney about Hunter, because her name had once been Druck, fictionally Poole, a woman who’d done any number of fake, crazy things to rival her real self.
Truth is often odder than fiction. This said, what I’ve been trying to portray here is how what is the most interesting of all is the blending of the two, the blurry lines on the edge of the fourth wall that you’re just not at all sure of. As a writer who spends a lot of time writing about a universe that is changed and melded, molded and blended by the writing of four writers who happen to live in it, this is an explanation of a sort. The reasons I can’t get over the metafiction? Maybe. I’m not so sure. I might be lying. This could just be me writing another story.