lunar park

lunar park, the latest novel from bret easton ellis, is part autobiography, part domestic drama, and part ghost story. it's all of these things, and somehow manages to strike a nice balance between the three, never letting one part dominate the other two.

the book is very schizophrenic, with two separate voices seemingly at work. there's ellis the writer, and ellis the character, and somewhere out there in the vast space, time continuum, there's ellis the person. at times, the three blend together so seemlessly, you don't know where the reality ends and the fiction begins.

certainly, ellis is sort of indluging in his own notoreity here - or what is percieved to be his notoreity. accusations of living the lifestyle he condemns in his early books (i.e.: vacant, drug addicted lifestyles) has sort of dogged ellis all his career, and here, he seems to fully embrace it, whether it is true or not. everything from the drugs to the alcohol to the bisexuality. but that's really only the first part. the book is much more than that.

here, ellis has created an alterego for himself. ellis the character is now a family man, having given up his previous bachelor lifestyle for a life in the suburbs, living with his moviestar wife and trying desperately to be a father to his biological son, and to a lesser extent, the step-daughter.

the book, at its core, is about fathers and sons, and the havoc that fathers can wreak on their impressionable sons. certainly, any man that has had conflict with their fathers (which seems to be more and more these days), will understand just how damaging a father's actions can be. and sometimes, their influence lasts beyond the grave, which is what is occuring in lunar park. ellis, the character, finds himself becoming more and more like his father, all the while trying to keep some sort of connection with a son he never saw grow up.

and then there's the murders. someone, or something, is pretending to be patrick bateman, the notorious narrator of american psycho. here, ellis also plays into the fuss that was american psycho, which was panned before it was even published, by critics and feminists, who called it misogynistic. the ultimate irony being the book's transformation into a movie of the same name, this time adapted and directed by a woman, who subsequently made it a feminist movie. while ellis is trying to cling to a real family life, patrick bateman is murdering people, and no one knows why or how this is happening. and did i mention there was a ghost?

all this is weaved together into a fairly seamless book. i must say i admired the attempt more than the execution. that being said, this is the first readable ellis book to come out in a long time. i felt that american psycho was tedious and boring (despite the graphic sex/murder scenes that caused so much commotion in the press) and could have used several rewrites, and probably could have had its length cut by 2/3rds. then came glamorama, and i just couldn't care about fashion models that turn into terrorists. that being said, i've loved his earlier works, and i still count less than zero in my top five books of all time. i still think less than zero, more than his other works, still has relevance today.

all in all, his books are very hit and miss to me. with lunar park, i'd say it was a hit. not a very palpable hit, mind you, but it was worth reading, and i did quite enjoy a lot of it. (did you like that shakespeare nod? or how about the startrek one before about the space-time continuum? only on this blog will you find such geek popculture and old school literature in one!)

surprisingly, it is the first book of his where there are actual "innocents" and you end up feeling bad for some of the characters, especially the children. ellis really works hard to make ellis, the character, sympathetic, and to a certain extent, he succeeds.

ellis has attempted to make a very multilayered book, which is a first for him. usually his books are pretty simple. a whole lot of surface, with not much else. which is part of the point with his books. but with lunar park, he attempts at various levels of depths. the depths may be shallow, but at least he's got layers of it this time.