Saturday, June 19, 2010

Still swimming in that same pool...

Bit more of the same. Think it's dressed pretty nicely. Well, what else can I give you here? This is the end of the specific focus of BEE, if that makes you happy. I've fallen behind in posting lately, but it has potentially made later posts stronger than they would've been, because more information has come to light. That makes me happy. You? Well, I'm sure that I definitely have no idea about that, my dear sir or madam, but I try...

There’s always the risk of appearing like an English teacher who dissects a living text to such an extent that the body parts are no longer particularly interesting as the creation of their creator, but rather simply another piece of furniture in the ivory tower. So I could say, “The name Clay is a fitting one, because in this revisitation of the character, a keen eye will notice clear changes. Our narrator even addresses them himself when he explains how he was not the speaker of the first novel, but rather someone was writing as him. The duality concept and the idea of posing as someone else can be seen as leftovers from Glamorama. But back to the aptronym, Ellis makes the speaker Clay, a character that would then get misinterpreted, would get molded by various readers’ eyes into someone to be admired, whereas in Ellis’s view he was simply the guy on the lookout at the door where the girl inside is getting raped—still guilty, but less expressive. This is nowhere more clear than in Imperial Bedrooms, where Ellis himself takes this lump of clay called Clay and creates a clearer man with it. However, Clay Easton is still our protagonist; it is perhaps easier to identify with him here than in Less Than Zero. The zombie is gone, now we have the inner-workings of the mind that create that superficial layer, which might be something new for Ellis, who once in the voice of someone else, the ever-present Patrick Bateman, stated, ‘Inside doesn’t matter.’ It’s hard not to think that Ellis isn’t changing quite a bit with this book.”

What I’ll instead talk about is once again, this: the prolonged fascination that I’ve gained when it comes to the question of reality: when does something unreal become real? and when does something fake establish its own reality? (I’ve constructed those two questions to not read well, to be ugly, with the same word reappearing over and over, because I’m trying not to be writerly here, but rather to simply get points across. I’m sure it still doesn’t make much sense, but, well…I guess there’s no but that I can make there.)

The sort of irony that results from Danny Bonaduce writing a book can be viewed by many, so that’s not the slant I’m going for here, but rather a comment he makes in his Random Acts of Badness. I’m going to quote Wikipedia quoting from this book from the page on Less Than Zero: “When the book Less Than Zero came out, all my classmates were pissed. Not because it was an exact portrayal of our school – but because we failed to get any royalties.” The cool thing about a line like this is how it gets thrown around in the wake of a book like Imperial Bedrooms, which states the same premise, albeit fictionally. “It was labeled fiction but only a few details had been altered and our names weren’t changed and there was nothing in it that hadn’t happened,” Clay says in the first paragraph, and sure the reason for the names being the same is because we need to be able to recognize the same characters so they need the same names (this isn’t The Atrocity Exhibition), but otherwise Ellis is almost admitting to having written down things that happened. However, he’s admitting to it fictionally: a point that a reviewer brought up in an article I read on Lunar Park, he’s using fiction as a means of saying things that you can’t take at face value. Another phrase from American Psycho echoes here: the meaningless confession. I don’t think that Danny Bonaduce is telling the whole truth in his book, but merely making a joke; however I could be wrong. I do think that Ellis isn’t trying to say that Less Than Zero was more autobiographical than he’s admitted before, but rather just toying with the reader. To go back to his most-well known work, one epigraph to American Psycho is the quote from Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground: “Both the author of these Notes and the Notes themselves are, of course, fictional. Nevertheless, such person as the composer of these notes may not only exist in our society, but indeed must exist, considering the circumstances under which our society has generally been formed.” It’s ironic, because I would say that the books that this quote least attaches itself to are those from the Bateman period: American Psycho and Glamorama. Perhaps Lunar Park as well, but we’re only talking about the writer existing and the fact that the composer of the notes that are Lunar Park just happens to be someone named Bret Easton Ellis makes this difficult to disagree with.

Now, putting an end to that unwieldy paragraph, I’ll put in a final thought for the end of this week of Easton Ellis (which I happen to be getting to more than a week late now): I really like the use of the phrase “the dead zone” in Imperial Bedrooms. There’s no specific definition, but this is one of the places that Clay retreats to through liquor and cocaine (less frequently now) and sex and pretending (in other words writing) that his life is better than it is. The phrase has a life of its own, as most people reading it will think of the Stephen King book with that title: The Dead Zone. There was an unreachable part of Johnnie Smith’s memory, if mine serves, and also an allusion to Johnnie’s gift of foresight. The way that Ellis appears to have picked this phrase is close to as fun and interesting (if definitely not as innovative) as the various cutthroats of the history of poetry—two examples that I connect to this do not involve simply changing definitions but rather changing sounds. Andrade’s “Tupi or not Tupi, that is the question,” from the Cannibal Manifesto which reformats Shakespeare and Ron Silliman’s “iamb/what iamb” from June's Poetry and Revelator which makes light of the semi-apology that you can force out of a lot of people sometimes, “I am what I am.”

What Clay is saying in Imperial Bedrooms is that he is what he is, not what he does or appears to do or appears to be and Ellis has become interested now in this aspect, which definitely keeps the writing fresh.

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