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Wednesday, August 10th, 2005


Lunar Park

by Bret Easton Ellis


A review by Gary Shteyngart

Reading Brett Easton Ellis is like watching a brilliant dive into a very shallow pool: We admire the technique while awaiting the splatter. His most impressive novels, American Psycho and Glamorama, with their murderous yuppies and brain-dead celebutantes, were note-perfect parodies of the '80s and '90s. His critics cried "Excess!" and "Misogyny!" but both novels are only as excessive and misogynistic as the decades in which they were set.

I expected his new novel to continue in that direction, to teach me how to hate the new generation of powerful American white males. But Lunar Park is a sad departure from his best work. The novel takes place in what for Ellis must be the final frontier -- the suburbs -- and is narrated by an endearing doofus named Bret Easton Ellis. The fictional Ellis -- married with kids, doped up, just a little gay (did I say the fictional Ellis?) -- is writing a novel called Teenage Pussy. 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. Slime trails and paranormal investigators and even a hairy evil doll supposedly illuminate the difficulty Ellis has in exorcising the tormented spirit of his father. Psychological insights are grudgingly dispensed; the tongue sometimes skirts the cheek. But all too often we're left with a literary adaptation of Ghostbusters II.

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.

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