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Lunar Park (Vintage Contemporaries)

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Lunar Park (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover

ISBN13: 9780375727276
ISBN10: 0375727272
Condition: Standard
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Author Q & A

A Conversation with Bret Easton Ellis

Q: We have to start with the most obvious question: the main character in Lunar Park is Bret Easton Ellis, author of Less Than Zero, American Psycho, etc…People are going to question just how fictional the novel is. What is your intention? How much of Lunar Park are we to believe is true?

A: My intention? My intention was to write a book that I thought was interesting, meaning there was no intention at all. The genesis for the book began in 1989 and changed a lot in the ten years before I began writing it. I first wanted to write a book that, I suppose, paid homage to a genre that meant a lot to me growing up (Stephen King was an idol of mine) and which was concerned with a house that was haunted. And it was really that simple. Bret Ellis was not the main character at that point, though the narrator was a writer and he was married and he did have children. And as I thought about the book–and as my own life became more complicated with age and experience–I realized that the book I had been planning was really about what it meant to be a writer. Sure, it was a ghost story and there were monsters and demons and I enjoyed playing with the traditional trappings of the genre, but I was also at the stage where the process of writing began to matter to me as material–and I think this happens with most writers. And that was a big jumping off point and energized me when I was having problems with the outline of the book. I don’t want to demystify the events that take place and I don’t want to have to clarify which things are autobiographical and which things are less so. But it is, by far, the “truest” book I’ve written, in terms of the majority of events that happened. It’s up to each reader to decide how much of Lunar Park actually occurred.

Q: The book seems to suggest your identity as a writer is dependent on press, and that your career might be in need of resuscitation. Do you resent how you’ve been treated in the press, even as some suggest those relationships are something you have actively courted throughout your career? Who, ultimately, determines a writer’s fate? You? Your readers? The press? Your publisher?

A: Well, I’ll grudgingly admit that to some degree your identity as a writer is dependent on press–if people aren’t writing about the book, or are writing about it negatively or positively, I guess that can be influential to readers. But your identity as a writer is really based on the books themselves–by the things you’re interested in writing about. I would hope the books define you as a writer and not anything else. Look at the art not the artist. My career in need of resuscitation? The press always seems to think that “my career”–something I don’t consider writing novels to be, since “career” suggests a plan and something far more within your control than the creation of books–is in need of resuscitation. It makes for a good story, I guess. I’ve only published five novels in twenty years, so if I really felt the need to be constantly out in public I would have forced myself to write more books–duh. And shorter, simpler books. But I’ve never felt that my career was in need of resuscitation. The press has actually always treated me pretty fairly, so I don’t resent them; besides, you can’t really court the press. They write about who they want to write about. Critics, on the other hand, have been less kind, so I’m not sure if I resent them or not, but it's obvious from how divisive my reviews are that I am not to everyone’s liking, and that’s something you just need to accept. A writer’s fate? That’s awfully dramatic. Who cares? And what does that mean? Their reputation? Not interested. If I had to answer that I guess it’s a combination of things: readers’ responses, the cultural moment, history. Things you can’t control, so why waste time worrying about them?

Q: You have said in the past that you based the character of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho on your father so seeing the new novel dedicated to him made me wonder if your feelings toward him have changed. Moreover, in Lunar Park, Bret has some tough times with his son Robby and vice versa–do you think it’s as difficult to be a “good son” as it is to be the “perfect dad”?

A: 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.

Q: There are a series of young boys who go missing throughout this novel. Are you writing about all the ways young boys get lost?

A: I really wasn’t thinking of them as “young boys”–I was thinking of them more as sons and children and how ultimately, at some point in their lives, they “leave” their parents. And again, I feel disinclined to demystify what that particular metaphor used throughout Lunar Park means to me.

Q: You tackled drugs in the 80s with Less Than Zero and The Rules of Attraction and in the 90s with American Psycho and The Informers. But in Lunar Park the characters (including kids and dogs) seem to get most of their drugs over the counter. Do you think there’s been a shift in the drug culture of the 21st century?

A: Well, I never thought those books were about drugs and I was never particularly interested in drug culture. I usually channeled what I experienced and saw and wove it into my fiction. I came of age in a generation where drugs were pretty rampant. The books were populated by characters from my generation and so, yes, they did drugs. But I never wrote a book about drug addiction or what it means to be an addict. I wrote about drugs as a social aspect in a certain echelon of society. I might have used a lot of drugs but I was never pro-drug and I certainly wasn’t interested in what taking drugs “meant” except having a good time (unlike, say, the generation that came of age in the 60s, when the drug culture symbolized something far larger). But being older now, and since drugs aren’t part of the fabric of my life anymore, I have a slightly more jaundiced view of them, especially of over-the-counter meds, which have devastated far more people I have known than pot or cocaine ever did. It’s obvious: we’re an overmedicated society. I don’t know how much of that is an aspect in Lunar Park that I thought was important to explore, but it’s definitely part of our world now, and not just the one depicted in the novel.

Q: I never thought I’d see Bret Easton Ellis (the real one or his fictional counter-part) in the sleepy suburbs, complete with McMansion and Golden Retriever. Is this lifestyle in the cards for you or are you really trying to drive home the point that this is fiction?

A: Well, I feel I grew up in the suburbs. That’s all Los Angeles is. And I’ve given suburban life a couple of tries (most notably in the mid-90’s when I spent a good deal of time in Richmond, Virginia), but for the most part the majority of my friends and family live on both coasts and so I divide my time between LA and NY–but not in a McMansion, and I don’t own a Golden Retriever. Plus I never felt in Lunar Park that I was trying to drive home the point that what the reader was experiencing was fiction–quite the opposite, in fact.

Q: Bret is haunted, literally, by his fictional creations. Many people might think that writing is a way of exorcising one’s demons. Are you, in fact, saying that the opposite is true?

A: Exorcising one’s demons is a little dramatic, and I know I used the phrase a lot when I was defending American Psycho. But if exorcising one’s demons means that you’re trying to make sense of your unconscious–that, in effect, you’re mapping out your dream life in your fiction and trying to understand, through writing, what is obsessing you and why, then certainly. I don’t think writing is not about that. But, yeah, there are cases when you write something that has such a huge impact on your life (and the reaction to the publication of American Psycho was one such thing) that it causes more problems–it creates more demons; it messes you up–than you could have ever anticipated, and I think that idea is explored in Lunar Park.

Q: How did you decide which of the characters from your previous books to “reincarnate” in Lunar Park? Do you have favorite characters that you just can’t write off?

A: The only one I can think of is Mitchell Allen, who was a supporting character in The Rules of Attraction. And I’m not quite sure how he ended up on Elsinore Lane or why I put him there. I know I definitely wanted to write about getting older and what the differences are between your youthful days in college and the more sobering responsibilities of adulthood, as well as delineating the cultural shifts between the 80’s and today–most notably the pre-AIDS attitudes among a certain group of men I came of age with. Using characters from book to book is not something I think about, but since I’m always asked this I should make up a better answer, rather than: gee, it just happens. And no, I don’t have favorite characters, though maybe I found Mitchell Allen pretty amusing in The Rules of Attraction and as a private joke that would only mean something to me decided to place him next door to the narrator of Lunar Park.

Q. Lunar Park is, at times, very scary. Okay-- very, very scary. Did you set out to write a kind of horror novel?

A: As a kid I was hugely entranced and influenced by comic books and Stephen King–as were most guys my age–and I always wanted to write a book that dealt with the supernatural. So, yeah, I did set out to write a book that was an homage of sorts but as the outline changed and I thought more and more about the book it became less about supernatural events–though they do occur within the novel–and more concerned about the person experiencing them and why they announce themselves to this particular character. Are the events something that would have happened to anyone who moved into 307 Elsinore Lane? Or are they brought on by the narrators own fears and desires? And is Lunar Park an accurate representation of what really happened during those twelve days? That idea–the fact that we’re not quite sure if the narrator is telling us the whole truth–is something I’ve been interested in for years. But with Lunar Park I believe everything the narrator tells us. The sort of illusion vs. reality game-playing that was so evident in Glamorama and American Psycho (and to a lesser degree in The Rules of Attraction) doesn’t interest me as much anymore.

Q: What do you expect the reaction to Lunar Park will be? Can you, as a novelist, have an inkling of what the reception will be to your work?

A: Well, I have inklings and I’m always wrong. I didn’t think anyone outside of LA would read Less Than Zero. I thought The Rules of Attraction would be a huge hit. I assumed people would react to American Psycho as a comedy. I thought I showcased some of my best writing in The Informers. And I was totally caught off-guard by the amount of good reviews and bad reviews Glamorama elicited. I’ve stopped guessing because I’m always wrong. And quite honestly: I don’t care. Writing the book is the main thing. Waiting for a reaction: a waste of time. But, obviously, I hope people respond to the book in a favorable way. I don’t want people to dislike it. But I don’t really mind if they do.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I’ve been thinking about Less Than Zero a lot since living in LA for the past year, and wondering what happened to those characters.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780375727276
Author:
Ellis, Bret Easton
Publisher:
Vintage Books USA
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Psychological
Subject:
Suspense
Subject:
Horror - General
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
fiction;horror;novel;drugs;american;21st century;usa;literature;thriller;postmodern;satire;contemporary;metafiction;fantasy;contemporary fiction;american literature;america;2000s;american fiction;family;addiction
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries
Publication Date:
20060831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
8.04x6.10x.91 in. .67 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Horror » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Suspense
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Lunar Park (Vintage Contemporaries) Used Trade Paper
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Product details 416 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780375727276 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Having ridden to fame as the laureate of Reagan-era excesses, Ellis serves up a self-eviscerating apologia for all the awful things (wanton drug use, reckless promiscuity, serial murder) he worked so hard to glamorize. Narrated faux memoir style by a character named Bret Easton Ellis, author of bestsellers, L.A. native, friend to Jay McInerney, the book seeks to make obvious its autobiographical elements without actually remaining true to the facts. In the novel, Ellis marries B-list actress Jayne Dennis (with whom he'd fathered a child years earlier), moves to the New York City suburbs and begins working on his latest neo-porn shocker, Teenage Pussy, when things start to go awry. His house becomes possessed by strange, threatening spirits intent on attacking his family and transforming their home into the pink stucco green shag disaster of Ellis's childhood; a well-read stalker begins acting out, victim by victim, the plot of American Psycho; and the town becomes enthralled by a string of child abductions (oddly, only the boys are disappearing) that may or may not be the work of Ellis's son. This is a peculiar novel, gothic in tone and supernatural in conceit, whose energy is built from its almost tabloidlike connection to real life. As a spirit haunting Ellis's house tells him, 'I want you to reflect on your life. I want you to be aware of all the terrible things you have done. I want you to face the disaster that is Bret Easton Ellis.' Ultimately, though, the book reads less like a roman clef than as a bizarre type of celebrity penance. The closest contemporary comparison is, perhaps, the work of Philip Roth, who went for such thinly veiled self-criticism earlier in his career, but Roth's writing succeeded on its own merits, whereas Lunar Park begs a knowledge of Ellis's celebrity and the casual misanthropy his books espoused. Yet for those familiar with Ellis's reputation, the book is mesmerizing, easily his best since Less than Zero. Maybe for the first time, Ellis acknowledges that fiction has a truth all its own and consequences all too real. It is his demons who destroy his home, break up his family and scuttle his best chance at happiness and sobriety. As a novel by anyone else, Lunar Park would be hokum, but in context, it is a fascinating look at a once controversial celebrity as a middle-aged man. Agent, Amanda Urban." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "The descriptions of wealthy children are top-shelf Ellis, the ubiquitous celebrity lists of his previous novels replaced by Zoloft-stocked medicine cabinets. But then, for some reason, a ghost story is grafted onto the proceedings....Ellis wants this novel to be about Fathers and Sons. But a 21st-century Turgenev he's not. What we really want is more Teenage Pussy." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review" by , "[H]is fifth and most enjoyable novel....[A]s fascinating as a car wreck and...frequently very funny....Even his harshest critics may now have to acknowledge that this versatile, resourceful writer has formidable skills."
"Review" by , "Ellis delivers for his fans and for the new guard of Palahniuk readers who will appreciate his straightforward prose and twisting plot lines. He even seems to have matured — or perhaps he is simply acknowledging that his best subject has always been himself."
"Review" by , "The sense of creeping dread is excellent, and the beasts confronted by the Ellis character are genuinely frightening, but they don't lend any meaningful urgency to his psychological journey. It's as if he used an ax to kill off his ax murderer."
"Review" by , "Ellis has managed to weave a seamless whole out of a collection of contradictions....He fuses the black humor, the self-mockery and the raw intensity of terror into a compelling emotional roller-coaster ride that seems to reflect a longing for the bonds of family and a desire to take on adult responsibility."
"Review" by , "Lunar Park is easily the most readable of Ellis' books: less name-dropping, more plot. Also good is a sustained awareness on the part of Ellis-the-character that he is failing pathetically at his own redemption."
"Review" by , "The problem with this novel is not that it is a fast, lurching ride to nowhere. Of course it is; it's a Bret Easton Ellis novel. The problem is that it does not have the honesty to admit that it wants to be more."
"Review" by , "Ellis...evokes with nightmarish clarity a certain kind of upper-middle-class life, where all the children are Ritalin-dependent and even the family golden retriever is on Prozac. These scenes...suggest the chilly horror of J.G. Ballard's best work."
"Review" by , "The deftness with which Ellis handles an entertaining and suspenseful plot...is impressive. Lunar Park is not only enjoyable and consuming but insightful and mirrors...the psyche of a nation forced to question itself and the world it creates."
"Review" by , "[B]reezily written and sometimes wickedly funny, but Ellis seems so eager to shock and entertain that he can't choose a single, elegant ghoul...to make his case. Like his early work, Lunar Park is a victim of sophomoric overkill. (Grade: B)"
"Review" by , "By combining equal parts John Cheever and Stephen King, and infusing the novel with his own, distinct brand of social satire — in this case upscale, uptight white angst and modern child rearing (Meds! Meds! Meds!) — Ellis has created a potent and intoxicating cocktail, one that affords us visions without the ugly hangover."
"Synopsis" by , Bret Ellis, the narrator of Lunar Park, is a writer whose first novel Less Than Zero catapulted him to international stardom while he was still in college. In the years that followed he found himself adrift in a world of wealth, drugs, and fame, as well as dealing with the unexpected death of his abusive father. After a decade of decadence a chance for salvation arrives; the chance to reconnect with an actress he was once involved with, and their son. But almost immediately his new life is threatened by a freak sequence of events and a bizarre series of murders that all seem to connect to Elliss past. His attempts to save his new world from his own demons makes Lunar Park Elliss most suspenseful novel.

In this chilling tale reality, memoir, and fantasy combine to create not only a fascinating version of this most controversial writer but also a deeply moving novel about love and loss, parents and children, and ultimately forgiveness.

"Synopsis" by , From the author of "Less Than Zero" comes a work that confounds one expectation after another, passing through comedy and mounting psychological and supernatural horror toward an astonishing resolution. It's a novel about love and loss, fathers and sons, in what is surely the most original and moving novel of an extraordinary career.

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