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Bad Boy of American Writing Scene: Brett Easton Ellis

 Bret Easton Ellis is an American author, screenwriter, short-story writer, and director. He has his own podcast where he, as he says, “delivers a weekly glimpse into one of popular culture's most fascinating minds. The entertainment industry's top writers, directors, actors and musicians will join Bret to discuss the issues and complexities that keep the creative world turning as we experience this intriguing period in our planet's history. The same sensibilities that have formed Bret's impressive catalog in literature and film will be on display with each and every new episode”. He is also quite active on Twitter.

Ellis at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 25, 2010 by 
Mark Coggins from San Francisco.
Taken from:

Bret Easton Ellis was born on March, 7th, 1964 in Los Angeles. He grew up in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles. He grew up in a wealthy family: his father, Robert Martin Ellis, was a property developer, and his mother, Dale (Dennis) Ellis, was a homemaker. They divorced in 1982.
Bret went to a local private school called The Buckley School and then continued in Bennington College in Vermont, where he was studying first music, but then moved towards writing. There he became friends with Donna Tart and Jonathan Lethem, both became published and known authors. As a teenager he drove his parents’ hand-me-down Mercedes 450SL. In a Paris Review interview in 2012 se said: “In retrospect, we were pretty well-off, but at the time, I didn’t feel that way. Most of my friends lived in bigger houses in better neighborhoods and drove nicer cars.”

In Bennington College he completed his first novel qhich he was working on for many years. “Less Than Zero” was published in 1985, when he was 21 years old, still a junior at Bennington and made him instantly famous. He sold it to Simon and Schuster for five thousand dollars. As we can read in the same issue od Paris Review that published the interview: “Not everyone at Simon and Schuster loved the book. In the words of one editor, as Ellis was later told, “If there’s an audience for a novel about coke-snorting, cock-socking zombies, then by all means let’s publish the damn thing.”.” But apparently it's what was needed on a publishing market. It sold millions of copies around the world and made out of him a young literary star.

Morgan Entrekin, a senior editor at Simon and Schuster, years later remebered:
When I read the pages—I think Bret referred to them as excerpts from a journal—I was blown away. They were more or less the pages that became the opening to Less Than Zero. The style—a kind of flat, transparent prose—seemed to me to be the incarnation of Roland Barthes’ Writing Degree Zero. It was if this young guy from L.A. was channeling the nouveau roman thru MTV and the Valley. Though he was only a few years younger than I was, he had a voice and attitude that was markedly different from my generation, which was bohemian and gonzo and influenced by the 1960s. Instead this was a kind of nihilism (though not the too-cool-for school kind, just the flat kind) and rampant materialism that was shocking in its blasé-ness. I thought it was the freshest, most original thing I had read since I came into the business.”
So, that would confirm what many of you have probably suspected. If these were diary pages, the book would be at least partially autobiographical.

In 1987 XX Century Fox released a very loose adaptation of the novel, which had little in common with the book aparte from the title. Due to all the changes, Ellis refused to see it, he stated only things taken from the book were the names of the character and locations.
After college he moved to New York where he bought an apartment at Union Square. He lived there for about 20 years.
It is necessary to say that in the 1980s and ’90s, Bret Easton Ellis was seen as a literary bad boy and the voice of his generation. He had lots of bad publicity. People or loved his style or hated it and expressed it rather violently. Those who praised him compared his style to “Catcher in the Rye”. “An updated Catcher in the Rye” wrote the Los Angeles Times ina review of his debut novel.
The second novel, The Rules of Atraction (1987), didn't cause much stir. But in 1991 Ellis published American Psycho, it was immediately dubbed New York noir. A novel about a materialistic 26-year-old financier who suffers a breakdown while pathologically committing gruesome acts of rape and murder caused public outcry. Actually in 1990 some fragments leaked to Time and Spy magazines and the criticism received was so strong that in November 1990 Simon & Schuster canceled the book just two months before its scheduled release. Thats when the publishing house Alfred A. Knopf bought it from them and published it as a Vintage paperback in March 1991. It sold extremely well, but at the same time the response and attacks on the author were becoming stronger. He was receiving death threats, the book was condemned by Gloria Stienem, Tammy Bruce, the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women, Norman Mailer, from Vanity Fair, Roger Rosenblatt from The Times Book Review, and many many others. The controversy was ready and people started to debate on if Ellis was really talented or just provocative. About that, Morgan Entrekin, the editor of his first book said: “Over the years Bret and I became great friends and I have always championed his work, especially during the dark days of American Psycho, which, though another story, was a shameful moment for American publishing in that so many people not only refused to defend Bret but they joined in the attacks on him.”

In 2000 American Psycho was adapted into a dark comedy horror film starring Christian Bale. Unlike the book it was received positively, praising especially Bale's performance and the screenplay.
Bret Easton Ellis wrote 4 more fiction books: a collection of stories The Informers (1994) and the novels Glamoram  (1998), Lunar Park (2005), Imperial Bedrooms (2010). That last one is a sequel to Less Than Zero.

After 20 years n New York he moved to Beverly Hills, where he has a two-bedroom apartment. One bedroom he uses as his official office. Currently he writes screenplays, television scripts, or pilots.He also publiched a new book last year, on April 2019, titled “White”. It is hos first experience with non-fiction, an essay collection. Mixing his own memories and current cultural commentary. I´ve read some really harsh reviews of that book. For example the one from BOOKFORUM.COM calls it “deeply needless book, whose existence one assumes we could have all been spared if Ellis’s millennial boyfriend had simply shown the famous man how to use the mute feature on Twitter.” Again, without reading it, it's hard to say if it's the same case as his other books, or the criticism is toatally objective.
In 2013 he launched a podcast, a show that lasts 1 hour and in each episode tries to have an open, honest and natural conversation with his guests. Among his most recognizable gusts are Kanye West, Marilyn Manson or Kevin Smith.

There is little I found about his private life. He has decided not to declare his sexuality because he doesn't want people to base their opinion about books on that fact.
Have you read anything by Bret Easton Ellis? Have you seen American Psycho? I would like to get to know your opinion! In Donostia Book Club we have talked on Monday about Less Than Zero and the opinions were rather divided 😉