Well this shouldn’t work. A sequel to Bret Easton Ellis’ debut novel? Your initial response is that he’s run out of ideas/steam and is falling back on something to get attention. Then you read it and realise he’s still a fucking genius and ‘Imperial Bedrooms’ is as much of a masterwork as ‘Less Than Zero’ was.
The genius of the novel is that the voices are all the same as you remember them. The images you carry in your mind of Blair, Rip, Julian and Clay come back to life speaking exactly as themselves, this isn’t a Xeroxing of the first book, in fact if it wasn’t for references to Pixar, iPhone and IMDB then you could imagine he sat down the day after finishing ‘Less Than Zero’ and created this. By page two you’re back in the muddy waters of love, desire, loss, confusion, depression, aloneness and friction. As Clay describes it “A mosaic of youth, a place you don’t really belong anymore.” Things have changed on the outside, Clay is a successful writer, Julian is clean, Rip is botoxed to high heaven and Blair is married. To none of them.
References to U2 and Hungry Like The Wolf might drag you back but soon Clay is listening to The Fray (The Fray!) as a girl he likes has them on her MySpace. We’re not in the eighties anymore, Toto.
What is it about? Like the original, it’s about people. It’s about change and staying the same. It’s about protecting yourself whilst simultaneously laying yourself open to hurt. There’s less drugs, less sex, more exercise and a couple of disturbing incidents which see Ellis juggling a mix of nausea and voyeurism not seen since American Psycho.
It’s beautiful. It’s shocking. It’s Bret Easton Ellis at the top of his game. Amazing.
“The ghosts swarming everywhere whispering ‘you need to be careful who you let into your life’”