by Bret Easton Ellis, reading at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside, Wed Sept 7, 7:30 pm
Reading Lunar Park is like going on a first date with a recently jilted dude. Said dude will name-drop celebrities in order to impress, bare his soul to show his softer side, and mock himself to exhibit his sparkling sense of humor. It's all a pretext for getting down your pants, though—and, most importantly, coming on your face.
The mysterious sexual antics of Bret Easton Ellis have always been part of his massive public appeal, and no one would be surprised if at one time he was such a jilted dude on such a jilted date. His new book, Lunar Park, is, at the very least, the literary equivalent of such an experience. It follows a semi-famous novelist (named Bret Easton Ellis, sure enough) who, after years living the Less than Zero lifestyle (drugs and sex on an epic scale), settles down in the suburbs with his girlfriend and her two children. Try as he might, Bret (the character) cannot seem to shake his drug/muff-chasing habits—which hinders the writing of his new novel (titled Teenage Pussy), and jeopardizes his already fragile relations with his children.
Beyond this John Cheever-esque initial premise, Ellis' penchant for gore and violence soon creeps in, and Lunar Park winds up being a suburban psychological horror that tributes both Stephen King and... Bret Easton Ellis. As Ellis the protagonist learns of a local serial killer copycatting the murders from Ellis the author's American Psycho, a minor character from The Rules of Attraction pops up, and significant passages from Less than Zero emerge as plot points.
In portraying himself as a middle-aged voluptuary, Ellis lampoons his projected image and, in doing so, pens an often-shrewd tale. Lunar Park features some of Ellis' best writing to date. Both author and character mature with/in this novel and the reading is regularly intriguing, even while the self-indulgence is at times overbearing. No matter how self-aware/deprecating Ellis can be, it still feels like he's coming on your face. He's not entirely to blame, though. You're the one who let him get this far.