Bret Easton Ellis Criticism - Essay

Richard Eder (review date 13 September 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Flopsy, Mopsy, Paul, Sean and Lauren," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 13, 1987, pp. 3, 8.

[In the following review of The Rules of Attraction, Eder critiques Ellis's style and examines the author's themes.]

Bret Easton Ellis' characters have an odd resemblance to Beatrix Potter's.

True, they drink, get high, get tranquilized, spend a great deal of their parents' money, and practice junk-food sex. The comparison with the chaste Miss Potter may seem farfetched. Furthermore her rabbits and squirrels are more human than Ellis' college kids, and livelier.

But the resemblance is there. Both groups live snugly...

(The entire section is 926 words.)

Scott Spenser (review date 13 September 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Love Me, Love My Porsche," in New York Times Book Review, September 13, 1987, p. 14.

[In the following review, Spenser critiques the superficiality of Ellis' characters in The Rules of Attraction.]

With his first novel, Less Than Zero, Bret Easton Ellis made a name for himself here and abroad with an account of life among the overdrugged, underloved rich kids of southern California. It was a kind of Valley of the Dolls for the 80's, but it had its own oblique power, and there was something remarkable in the fact that the author was merely 20 years old. Now, two years later, Mr. Ellis gives us The Rules of Attraction—maybe the first...

(The entire section is 1064 words.)

David Pan (essay date Summer 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Wishing for More," in Telos, No. 76, Summer, 1988, pp. 143-54.

[In the following essay, Pan looks at the stylistic features of Less Than Zero in relationship to the visual media of television, video and film.]

The first question which comes to mind in reading Ellis' bestseller, Less Than Zero, is "Is Los Angeles really like that?" This astonishment betrays not only the vague feeling that one has somehow missed out on all the action in Los Angeles, but also the compulsion to continue reading in order to experience, at least vicariously, all the sordid details of life in the American "elite." This voyeuristic query fits perfectly into the framework...

(The entire section is 5405 words.)

Peter Freese (essay date 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero: Entropy in the 'MTV Novel'?" in Modes of Narrative, Königshausen & Neumann, 1990, pp. 68-87.

[In the following essay, Freese contemplates the narrative qualities and social commentary of Less Than Zero.]

In 1985, a twenty-year-old Bennington College undergraduate named Bret Easton Ellis published a book which, as rumour has it, he had typed on his bedroom floor in about a month and which he entitled Less Than Zero. The young man, who had grown up in Sherman Oaks as the son of a well-to-do real estate analyst, wrote about what he seemed to know well from personal experience: the aimlessness and angst...

(The entire section is 8382 words.)

Nicki Sahlin (essay date Fall 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "'But This Road Doesn't Go Anywhere': The Existential Dilemma in Less Than Zero," in Critique, Vol. 33, No. 1, Fall, 1991, pp. 23-42.

[In the following essay, Sahlin considers Ellis's Less Than Zero in the existential tradition of writers such as Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.]

In Less Than Zero (1985), Bret Easton Ellis joins the tradition of Hollywood writers who have been capitalizing on southern California, its landscape, and its lifestyle for more than fifty years. That group includes writers such as Nathanael West, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, and, more recently, Joan Didion...

(The entire section is 9135 words.)

Elizabeth Young (essay date 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Beast in the Jungle, the Figure in the Carpet," in Shopping in Space, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1992, pp. 85-129.

[In the following essay, Young appraises American Psycho as a postmodern text.]

The publication of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho in 1991 was replete with ironies. It seemed as if the world had decided to add to the book all the old-fashioned fictional qualities that it so conspicuously lacked: melodrama, plot, characterization, irony, hubris. The story of the book—its publication history, its author, its controversial aspects, its fashionability—had to stand in for the lack of story in the book which no one...

(The entire section is 13448 words.)

Neal Karlen (review date 21 August 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Attack of the Anti-Heroes," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 8, 1994, pp. 3, 8.

[In the following review of The Informers, Karlen critiques the development of Ellis's work.]

Joe McGinniss' gravest crime against literature was not The Last Brother, the author's recent and ridiculous faux-biography of Ted Kennedy. Rather, McGinniss' worst felony was rushing Bret Easton Ellis, his fiction-writing student at Bennington College, to publish Less Than Zero at age 21.

Ironically, the 1985 first novel was an excellent beginning for an obviously talented writer; Less Than Zero provided a provocative snapshot of a...

(The entire section is 1235 words.)

Alexander Star (review date 5 September 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Informers, in New York Times Book Review, Vol. 211, No. 10, September 5, 1994, pp. 46-7.

[In the following review, Star identifies Ellis's themes and his stylistic contributions to the "L.A. novel."]

As if to make up for the city's incessant boosterism, the Los Angeles novel carries a strong current of disaffection. Brooding despair mocks buoyant dreams; cynicism poisons the sunshine. This tradition distilled itself in Joan Didion's Play It as It Lays, where the entire metropolis was coolly reduced to a few locations (restaurants, hotel rooms, the freeway) and an even smaller number of emotions (anxiety, disengagement). Play It...

(The entire section is 1484 words.)

George Stade (review date 18 September 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hopping, Popping and Copping," in New York Times Book Review, Vol. 99, p. 14.

[In the following review of The Informers, Stade links features of Ellis's novels and addresses the author's thematic concerns.]

The setting of Bret Easton Ellis's fourth novel is that of his first, Less Than Zero (1985), a critical and popular success made into a movie that was neither. In these two novels, the setting, Los Angeles and environs, has more motive force than any character. But the method of the new novel is pretty much that of Mr. Ellis's second. The Rules of Attraction (1987), set in the fictional and farcical Camden College in New Hampshire. In...

(The entire section is 1166 words.)

James Gardner (review date 17 June 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of American Psycho, in National Review, Vol. 48, No. 11, June 17, 1996, pp. 54-7.

[In the following review, Gardner considers American Psycho among a group of other "transgressive novels."]

Thirty years ago the art of fiction began to undergo a change similar to one that had already befallen the theatrical arts. Though theater had once been the best loved form of mass entertainment, it yielded that title to film and then turned inward, catering to an elite taste that saw theater as art rather than diversion. As a result, these two factors, which had formerly been united, increasingly went their separate ways. Fiction also used to fulfill...

(The entire section is 2936 words.)

Carla Freccero (essay date Summer 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Historical Violence, Censorship, and the Serial Killer: The Case of American Psycho," in Diacritics, Vol. 27, No. 2, Summer, 1997, pp. 44-58.

[In the following essay, Freccero discusses reactions to American Psycho and explores the significance of the novel's violence.]

US mass media has become a much-publicized target of censorious commentary within American public culture in recent years. Censorship, as E. S. Burt notes, may take at least two forms: philosophical censorship, such as that discussed by Leo Strauss's Persecution and the Art of Writing, and the more commonly applied form of US censorship enacted against "pornography" or...

(The entire section is 6911 words.)