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Bret Easton Ellis (born March 7, 1964 in Los Angeles, California) is an American author. He is considered to be one of the major Generation X authors and was regarded as one of the so-called literary Brat Pack, which also included Tama Janowitz and Jay McInerney. He has called himself a moralist, although he has often been pegged as a nihilist. His characters are young, generally vacuous people, who are aware of their depravity but choose to enjoy it. The novels are also linked by common, recurring characters, and dystopic locales (such as Los Angeles and New York).
He was born March 7, 1964 in Los Angeles and raised in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley, the son of Robert Martin Ellis, a wealthy property developer, and Dale Ellis, a housewife. His parents divorced in 1982. He was educated at The Buckley School, where he did not distinguish himself, and then took a music-based course at Bennington College in Vermont, which is thinly disguised as Camden Arts College in his novel The Rules Of Attraction and his other books. He was a part-time musician in some minor 1980s bands, such as The Parents, before his first book was published while he was still a student. Less Than Zero, a tale of disaffected, rich teenagers of Los Angeles, was praised by critics and sold well (50,000 copies in its first year). He moved to New York City in 1987 to release his second novel.
His most controversial work, the graphically violent novel American Psycho, was intended to be published by Simon & Schuster, but they withdrew after external protests from interest groups such as the NOW and many others due to the perceived misogynistic nature of the book. The novel was later published by Vintage. Some consider this novel, whose protagonist, Patrick Bateman, is both a cartoonishly materialistic yuppie and a Serial killer, to be an example of transgressive art. American Psycho has achieved considerable cult status and is considered by many to be Ellis' magnum opus.
He was known to be heterosexual for most of his life, but in August 2005 he broke his silence about his sexual orientation and told The New York Times that his best friend and lover for six years, Michael Wade Kaplan, died in January 2004, at the age of 30. The article entitled, "Bret Easton Ellis: The Man in the Mirror" states the following about Michael Wade Kaplan and Bret Easton Ellis' relationship:
- The other dedication is to Michael Wade Kaplan, who Mr. Ellis said was his best friend and lover for six years, and who died, in January 2004, at the age of 30. They did not live together, Mr. Ellis said: "It was a very loose kind of partnership. It was not particularly conventional, and neither one of us was interested in the lifestyle, I guess." Mr. Kaplan died barely a month after Mr. Ellis had traveled from New York to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his mother and two sisters, as he has in most years since he finished college and moved to Manhattan. He planned to spend a few months finishing the final draft of "Lunar Park" and then return to New York. Instead, he said, Mr. Kaplan's unexpected death left him in a tailspin. He did not attend the funeral in Michigan, he said, because he could not even bring himself to leave his room - the room in his mother's house in Sherman Oaks, in the San Fernando Valley, where he grew up. And he stayed in Los Angeles for 19 months, shuffling from mother to sister to friend and finally a series of hotels, suffering what he calls "a midlife crisis." "His death was a big catalyst to finish the novel," Mr. Ellis said, and it probably added "a new layer of wistfulness and melancholy to the writing" that had not been there before.
His latest novel, Lunar Park, was dedicated to Michael Wade Kaplan as well as his father, Robert Ellis, about whom he speaks openly in interviews done while promoting this novel. Robert Ellis died in 1992. In one interview he states:
- "Saying that: I suppose there were moments during the writing of Lunar Park that made me sad because I was writing about unresolved feelings I had about my father and I was drawing on a lot of negative stuff that had happened between the two of us. On the other hand, by the time I finished the book I felt liberated. I did feel I had worked something out between the two of us – even though my main intention was to write a fun genre novel. When his ashes are spread at the end of the book I felt something lift off me."
In yet another interview Bret Easton Ellis comments:
- "My feelings have changed. You get older, you mellow out. My father was a tough case and there was a lot of damage done. But since his death in 1992—and writing about the feelings I have experienced and that are detailed throughout Lunar Park—obviously I’ve thought about him differently than I did, say, when I was writing Glamorama (which I had begun writing while he was still alive), which at the heart of its conspiracy concerns the relationship between a father and a son. To a certain degree I’ve worked out a lot of issues I had with him, but I think a residue of anger and defeat will always exist. A child should never even think about being a “good son.” A parent decides that fate for the child. The parent encourages that. Not the child himself. And the “perfect dad”? I shudder at thinking what that may be."
Bret Easton Ellis has said that the character of Patrick Bateman, from American Psycho, was originally based on his father.
- Less Than Zero (1985)
- The Rules of Attraction (1987)
- American Psycho (1991)
- The Informers (linked short stories, 1994)
- Glamorama (1998)
- Lunar Park (2005)
- Untitled Sequel to Less Than Zero (TBA)
Less Than Zero was made into a film in 1987, directed by Marek Kanievska and starring Andrew McCarthy, Robert Downey Jr and Jami Gertz. American Psycho was filmed in 2000, directed by Mary Harron and starring Christian Bale. The Rules of Attraction was filmed in 2002, directed by Roger Avary and starring James Van Der Beek and Shannyn Sossamon. A film based on Glamorama was set for a 2007 release, again directed by Avary, but has been delayed for unknown reasons. Additionally, there is a film called Glitterati being made that takes place in between the events of The Rules of Attraction and Glamorama.
A film about Ellis, titled This Is Not an Exit: The Fictional World of Bret Easton Ellis, was made in 2000. The film is a combination of a documentary on his life as well as dramatizations of scenes from his books.
There is also talk of an adaptation of the collection of short stories The Informers by Ellis. The rights to the book were recently purchased but it is unclear how soon an adaptation would materialize given the long gestating status of Glamorama. Nicholas Jarecki will direct a script he's writing with Ellis. Senator's Marco Weber produces.
Ellis often uses recurring characters and settings. Major characters in one novel may become minor ones in the next, or vice versa. Camden College, a fictional New England liberal arts college, is frequently referenced. It is based on Bennington College, which Ellis himself attended, where he met and befriended fellow writer Donna Tartt.
- Less Than Zero - Camden is referred to several times. Both Clay, the novel's protagonist and narrator, and Daniel, are said to be attending it.
- The Rules of Attraction - Clay appears as a minor character and narrates one chapter. He is referred to as "The Guy from L.A." before being properly introduced. Main character Sean Bateman is younger brother of Patrick Bateman, who will later become the protagonist of American Psycho. Patrick appears briefly and narrates one chapter. Camden is the main setting of the novel. Additionally, the creations of Ellis' friend and fellow author Donna Tartt's 1992 novel The Secret History are referenced in the form of a passing mention of "those creepy Classics kids, off in the woods performing human sacrifice or whatever".
- American Psycho - Sean Bateman appears briefly. Paul from The Rules of Attraction is mentioned, as well as Victor Ward. Camden is referred to as both Sean's college and the college a minor character named Vanden is going to. Vanden was referred to (but never appeared in) Less Than Zero as well as The Rules of Attraction. Certain passages from "Less Than Zero" reappear, almost verbatim, here, with Patrick replacing Clay as narrator. Patrick occasionally makes reference to his sexual attraction to Jami Gertz, the actress who portrays Blair in the film adaptation of Less Than Zero
- Glamorama - Patrick Bateman appears briefly, as does a character said to resemble Christian Bale, the actor who portrays Bateman in the film version of American Psycho. Main characters Victor Ward and Lauren Hynde were first introduced in The Rules of Attraction. Bertrand, Sean and Mitchell, all from The Rules of Attraction, appear in a Camden flashback and several other Rules characters are referenced. Alison Poole, a minor character from American Psycho, in fact first appeared as the protagonist of fellow literary Brat Pack member Jay McInerney's 1988 novel Story of My Life. Both Jay and Allison make return appearances in Lunar Park.
- The Informers - Chapter 3: The son of one of the many narrators in the book The Informers, Graham, buys concert tickets from Julian, a character from Less Than Zero. The daughter of the narrator, Susan, goes on to say that Julian sells heroin and is a male prostitute (which he is). Graham refutes the claim that Julian is a male prostitute. In this chapter, Susan also hangs out with Alana and Blair, characters from Less Than Zero.
- The Informers - The son of the narrator of Chapter 4, "In the Islands" is Timothy Price, an acquaintance/friend of Patrick Bateman's in American Psycho.
- The Informers - Chapter 8 consists solely of letters written to Sean Bateman, of The Rules of Attraction, by a girl named Anne who leaves Camden to visit her grandparents in L.A. The letters never reveal Sean's last name, but they reference one of his catch phrases: “Deal with it.” The letters are also never replied to (as is evident from the way Anne begs for a reply during each letter) which is typical Sean Bateman behavior.
- Lunar Park - All the author's previous works are heavily referenced, in keeping with the book-within-a-book structure. Jay McInerney has a cameo role, attending the Halloween party Bret hosts at his house with Jayne Dennis.
In popular culture
On Bloc Party's 2007 album A Weekend In The City, the opening track "Song For Clay (Disappear Here)" is based on the main character from Ellis's novel Less Than Zero.
- List of novelists from the United States
- List of horror fiction authors
- Transgressional fiction
- Biography of Bret Easton Ellis, celebrity novelist. associatedcontent.com (2006-11-30). Archived from the original on 2013-07-06. Retrieved on 2007-02-25.
- Birnbaum v. Bret Easton Ellis. The Morning News. themorningnews.com (2006-01-19). Retrieved on 2007-02-25.
- Bret Easton Ellis loses a few marbles in `Lunar Park'. Taipei Times. taipeitimes.com (2005-08-21). Retrieved on 2007-02-25.
- Author Q & A: A conversation with Bret Easton Ellis. randomhouse.com. Retrieved on 2007-02-25.
- Exclusive: Kele Okereke Talks New Bloc Party Album. Pitchfork Media (2006-06-08). Archived from the original on 2007-10-24. Retrieved on 2007-02-25.
- Official website of Bret Easton Ellis
- NotAnExit.net - Weblog discussing author and novels
- The Guardian Bret Easton Ellis
- A short bio on Ellis at acidlogic.com
- Bret Easton Ellis at the Internet Movie Database
- BBC Collective: Watch 'Lunar Park' interview, October 2005
- Bret Easton Ellis KultureFlash interview October 2005
- 1986 Audio Interview of Bret Easton Ellis with Don Swaim, RealAudio
- French weblog about BEE, his novels, the films and his universe.
- 1999 Salon.com article
- Bret Easton Ellis at the Cheltenham Literary Festival on ReadySteadyBook
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