There's an excruciatingly disturbing scene (as opposed to just the raw standard disturbing scene) in Less Than Zero, involving pre-teens, a boy and a girl, who are raped and then murdered in a "snuff" movie bought for $400 by Rip, infamous drug dealer, for the viewing pleasure, or, rather, the viewing dispassion and ennui of his client, Clay, and other coked-up collegiates on winter break in Los Angeles, partying in Rip's posh Century City condo, that, twenty five years later, in Imperial Bedrooms, has essentially come full circle - the "snuff" movie motif - in the "life" of Clay, narcissistic narrator of both novels, though now a borderline-sociopath and full blown boozer, in the latter.
The irony, of course, so important to Ellis - irony, IRONY (and the more bitter the IRONY, the better!) - is that while offering her a role in his (Clay's) movie, The Listeners, nobody in the novel is ever listening to anybody! Get it? Especially Clay. Rip, Blair, Julian, even Rain, all try and warn Clay...but will he listen? No. Because he, like they, are always too busy listening to the dictates of their mostly fiendish, sometimes repulsive, always self indulgent and over-the-top, desires, for any real communication - or connecting - to occur.
Haute couture? Check.
Grotesque murders? Check.
"Pauses," paranoia, and palm trees? Check.
Sex, drugs, and rock and roll? Duh.
Bret has written this novel before - and better. No surprise there. It was called American Psycho; it was called Lunar Park. In fact, he keeps writing the same damn novel over and over and over again... And his enabling fans - I'm an enabler, I admit it! - keep buying them, over and over and over again, the same damn novel, with a different title and dust jacket... Because his novels are like comfort food to me (and to millions of others) or maybe like crack, I mean. Even the aesthetic layout of Imperial Bedrooms: Uber-wide margins, vignettes rarely more than a page long, and each first letter of each vignette ten times the size of the rest of the text, mirrors the layout of Less Than Zero (or, really, long before LTL, in the short novels of Joan Didion or Jerzy Kosinski).
There's not much substance to this novel, I guess is what I'm trying to say, even despite so many controlled substances.
But if I'm going to have a serious problem, Bret Easton Ellis (and Imperial Bedrooms), his latest, if not gravest, novel, is nevertheless, a pretty good serious problem to have.