For Bret Easton Ellis, it turns out that you can go home again. Twenty-five years after he burst onto the literary scene with Less Than Zero, a novel that encompassed the bleak ennui of an ‘80s Los Angeles.
Ellis is back living in his hometown and has returned to Zero’s cast of characters in the just-released sequel, Imperial Bedrooms.
Q. Nice author photo! It seems to sum up your L.A. life.
A. Every single author photo I have has been carefully choreographed. I wanted this one to look older and douchier than that louche young man in a loosened tie I took when I was 21 for Less Than Zero. This one took two days to pull off.
Q. So in 30 years, your author photo will be in a nursing home?
A. [Laughs] One day. Or hey, maybe in the next two years.
Q. Why the title Imperial Bedrooms?
A. When I first began thinking about the book and the characters of Less Than Zero and the sexual exploitation that happens, I thought of the Elvis Costello song. It’s really as simple as that.
Q. The use of violence — especially against women — is always a lightning rod for your work. Are you ever surprised by how many fans you have when your writing can be so dark?
A. Maybe that’s why I have so many fans. Really. Do people only respond to sympathy and lightness? If that were the only thing people liked, then 80 per cent of the literary canon wouldn’t have been read. It’s a tired complaint — the violence in my work. Look, this is how I feel. I’m writing within a fictional context. It isn’t something I am thinking about when I’m having dinner.
Q. Now a California resident, and a once-infamous New Yorker do you he ever missed living there.
A. No, I don’t. Every now and again there is a pang. I’ll read something somewhere about a party or see a Patrick McMullan photo and think, ‘Oh yeah! I would have gone to that.’ And then I think, ‘Thank God I don’t have to go that,’” he says. “It was a great run, 17 really fun years. The party just ends for some people.”
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