Bret Easton Ellis ventures into horror, weird and supernatural territory; who knew he had it in him?
The story is that of Bret Ellis, an author whose work made him famous from a very young age, and who has enjoyed a life of extravagance, wealth and relative ease apart from the drama in his private life. The book begins with an exposition of Bret's history (which contains both fact and fiction), beginning with his college days and the hugely successful publishing of Less Than Zero that made him a celebrity almost overnight. The opening chapter goes on to expound Bret's various troubled relationships with men and women, his drug use and partying, his gallivanting around New York and Los Angeles through expensive hotels and restaurants with his author friend Jay McInerney, his book tours for which he was scarcely sober (or coherent) and the repercussions of the terrible relationship he had with his late father.
Fathers and sons is a strong them in the novel. One of the most curious elements (when held up against Bret's actual life) is that he marries a fictional actress (in real life Ellis is gay) of substantial renown who has two children; a girl of seven or eight and a boy of eleven. His relationship with the boy, Robby, is strained from the start. At first, Bret seems disinterested in pursuing either of his step-children but becomes increasingly obsessed with making right with Robby in particular as the story goes on. Meanwhile, he wrestles with anger towards his dead father and the lack of closure they had when he passed.
Much of the weirdness of the book (which builds slowly and is expertly subtle—until it isn't) revolves around Ellis' previous books, as well as his father. For example, a young man named Clay (same name as the main character of Less Than Zero) shows up to Bret's Halloween party dressed as Patrick Bateman (the psychopathic killer from American Psycho). Bret keeps receiving blank emails at exactly 2:40 a.m. from the bank where his father's ashes are kept in a safe deposit box. He keeps seeing a cream colored Mercedes Benz 450 SL—the same car that his father owned and he himself drove as a teenager—parked outside his house or at the college where he teaches. To top it all off, preteen boys have been mysteriously disappearing all around the city... All that only scratches the surface; there's plenty of other weirdness that happens, as well as sections that are downright creepy and wrought with suspense.
What comes as such a surprise (though perhaps it shouldn't) is just how damn good Bret Easton Ellis is at combining a genuinely engaging story of a broken man and his troubled relationships with elements that are absolutely bizarre. Somehow, he makes this combination work. I suppose it is surprising because, apart from one short story that involves a vampire in his collection The Informers, Ellis' work always remains in the realm of the “real.” So to read material of his that would be perfectly suited inside a Stephen King novel is a unique pleasure.
There is a careful amalgamation going on in this book of factual Bret mixed with fictional Bret melding into an altogether strange central character whose reliability is questionable (not for his narrative dishonesty, but for his paranoia and abuse of drugs and alcohol). Additionally, I loved the meta quality of the novel—a literary gamble, and not an easy technique to pull off well—how it was written to be self-aware, self-referencing, branching outside the norms of a typical narrative and inclusive of Ellis' other works.
Having read all of his other works prior to this one (with the exception of The Rules of Attraction), Lunar Park became my new favorite before I was even halfway through it. I'm a sucker for strange fiction and already enjoyed Ellis' work so I may be biased, but I consider this book a triumph. Not many people can so expertly blend the dramatic with the weird.