That’s So Bret!

I don’t know how to process Bret Easton Ellis. I don’t know if I like him, think he’s a twat, find him being a performative act. I just don’t know. I tend to like the fact that his opinions piss people off, and I always find myself not really caring what it was that pissed those people off. But fuck, he comes off like a pompous ass which sets my hair on end.

(From a Goodreads review of this book: “Banal, polemical, self-indulgent, misogynistic, sensationalist, verbose, and frankly, just all over the place. Ellis is an edgelord who brought to mind those wannabe auteurs like Sam Levinson whose work is desperately trying way too hard to be transgressive and brilliant (emphasis by the reviewer.)” Bret must have really pissed this reviewer off.)

Nonetheless I always tend to like his novels. I love his drug-hazed, philistine characters who are bereft of any emotions. I like the how they can be like caricatures at times much like how I love Gregg Araki’s characters in this teenage films.

In The Shards, Bret goes faux-tobiographical to his senior year at Buckley, a rich hoity-toity private school in the hills. It’s 1981, the start of his senior year, and he just wants to get through senior year and get the fuck away. A few things keep him occupied: writing his first novel which would become Less Than Zero; staying mostly in the closet by dating the prettiest girl in school Debbie Schaffer while having side pieces Matt Kellner and Ryan Vaughn; having a crush on his best friend Susan Reynolds’s boyfriend Thom Wright; a serial killer nicknamed The Thrawler on the loose attacking random young women in the area; a new kid Robert Mallory from Chicago transferring in his senior year who has a mysterious past who Bret thinks is mixed up with the serial killer (if not the serial killer himself.) Bret documents the murders, the parties, the shenanigans that all lead to the climax on Saturday night, November 7, 1981.

Bret does a great job of setting the scene. He gets everything down to the clothes, the scent, the cars, the places, the soundtrack. While the aforementioned reviewer thought it was Bret flaunting their status and wealth, these are things that 17-year olds are obsessed with regardless of status. As someone who grew up 15 years later (and much poorer) on the other side of the hills, I did appreciate the details. As cool and blasé as he wanted to be, he fully acknowledged some of the naïveté he still held on to: when his girlfriend’s father Hollywood producer du jour Terry Schaffer came calling for script ideas, he was disappointed when it amounted to nothing more than a booty call. I also thought it was funny that Bret kept interspersing full names throughout the story as if he was also trying to keep acquainting himself with the characters.

This book could have used some editing. It is 588 pages, and there are parts when Bret takes us out of the narrative to tell us just how his friends don’t understand all of his misgivings about Robert Mallory. Even I did not see how he jumped to the conclusion that Robert was the Trawler, although I would have liked to have seen them hook up.

Yeah, the book is worth the read. Bret Easton Ellis can be a total cunt for all I care, but he surely can create one hell of a story.

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