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Showing posts from June, 2010

Relative Stranger

My uncle Jim died of cancer a few weeks ago. Hadn't seen him, or spoken to him, since his mother's funeral six years ago. At her funeral, Jim quipped with his usual sarcastic jabs how she was still bugging him about his drinking and his "cancer sticks," pestering him with her phone calls nearly to the day she died. He spoke as if her pestering had been obvious, that what she chided him about was absurd. Jim seemed to want a shrug of agreement, if not sympathy, but instead I said, "Hmmm," and barely nodded.

"See you around," he replied, but I didn't really agree with that comment either, knowing that we probably wouldn't be seeing each other around anytime soon again.

He sounded genuinely bitter toward his mother. It seemed more than just his usual sarcasm. No surprise. That was their relationship in a sentence: my grandmother nagging him about his drinking and "cancer sticks," and his automatic bitter reaction, masked with black…

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Meet Clay. He's bummed. No, "bummed" is too passionate a descriptive for Clay. Clay is emotionally neutral nonstop in this flatlining naught-plot narrative; he's pathologically emotively neutral to his empty core; he'd score a big fat zero on an Emo-Meter, if such said device existed.

Living in Beverly Hills his whole life has gotten Clay feeling blah, blase. Never having had to work for anything at all at anytime in one's life might do that to a fella. Clay's eighteen, but unlike that classic Alice Cooper song, he's eighteen and doesn't like it, even no matter now much cocaine he consumes or Valium he pops (to bring himself down from the coke), he's simply not content being so young and good looking, with a Mediterranean mansion for a pad (albeit his parent's posh crib), and driving a Mercedes Benz to all the Sunset Strip hot spots nightly, because, ultimately, doin' the same 'ol-same 'ol's a real drag man. It'…

The Imperial Bedrooms of Bret Easton Ellis

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.

Clay, despite being such a remorseless, unforgivable creep in Imperial Bedrooms, is by far the least depraved of characters in the diminuitive (only 169 pages) novel. His old friends from Less Than Zero: Blair, ex-girlfriend, married to his old bisexual best b…

The Same River Twice by Ted Mooney

Ted Mooney has crafted an intricate narrative labyrinth of intersecting realities, visible, but more often invisible, in The Same River Twice. His character's perceptions of high-stress events unraveling within and around them in Paris and, particularly, along La Seine, on a boat named Nachtvlinder, become so blurred at times, so ambiguous, that surreality is perception (and vice versa) in Mooney's character's collective eyes.

The novel, on its surface, focuses on art smuggling, and the violent, reverberating consequences spreading out from the original high crime in waves of interpersonal disconnectedness and conflict and, ultimately, brutal betrayals, when one of the original smugglers mysteriously disappears. The smuggler's disappearance, however, involves a powerful secret that could literally change the world, and everyone from respected art dealers to the Russian Mafia to the Paris police in riot gear, are hot on his dubious trail.

The plot's as complexly…