Bret Easton Ellis has echoed his own fiction before. His 1985 debut, Less Than Zero, was a tawdry tale of collegiate excess written while he was an undergrad; soon after its success, he moved to New York City, where he partied with suitably 1980s excess of his own.
But with Lunar Park, he goes beyond mere echo. This eminently readable piece of metafiction blends Stephen King-style supernatural thrills with the kind of suburban angst that befits a man now in middle age. Lunar Park centers on a character named Bret Easton Ellis (whom I'll refer to as "Bret") and opens with a tightly crafted rehash of Bret Easton Ellis the real-life celebrity ("Ellis," from here on in). "I was on display," Bret recounts. "Everything I did was written about. The paparazzi followed me constantly. A spilled drink in Nell's suggested drunkenness in a Page Six item in the New York Post. Dining at Canal Bar with Judd Nelson and Robert Downey Jr., who co-starred in the movie adaptation of Less Than Zero, suggested `bad behavior' (true, but still)."
Fast-forward two decades. The semi-fictional Bret has written a few more books, including 1991's controversial yuppie slasher chronicle American Psycho (real), and gotten married to actress Jayne Dennis (fiction). He finds himself far from the bars and clubs of New York, having moved with Jayne, her daughter Sarah and their son, Robby, into "the anonymous suburbia of the Northeast." He teaches writing at the local college and works on a book.
There is the expected satire of the lives of those who live outside the bright lights, big city (fellow Brat Packer Jay McInerney is a character, too). At parent-teacher night a couple are shown their son's drawing of a platypus and told that an average platypus should look "less deranged." ("That could be the reason your child ends up with interpersonal difficulties," the teacher concludes.) And as in American Psycho and 1998's Glamorama, Ellis uses the precision of brand names -- the Thermador range, Sub-Zero fridge and Gaggia espresso maker that populate the Ellises' 840m2 manse, where Bret imbibes his caffeine in a "Hermes Chaine d'Ancre china cup" -- to evoke a certain status-conscious lifestyle.
But the big surprise of the book is the way Ellis segues from this sort of quotidian detail into a something-wicked-this-way-comes tale full of truly terrifying moments. He injects a hint of dread with hallway sconces that inexplicably flicker as Bret walks by, and then amplifies the unease with weird scratches in Sarah's room that couldn't possibly -- could they? -- have come from Sarah's stuffed bird.
Toss in a sociopath who acts out the murders from American Psycho, the disappearance of neighborhood boys and strange emails that arrive every night at the exact time of Bret's father's death, and Park adds up to a genuine horror story. As he did in Psycho, Ellis suggests that his narrator's account of events might be skewed by his consumption of Ketel One and Klonopin. But the reader is clearly meant to think that his fictional double is really experiencing every weird last word of it, and using some rather stiff nightcaps to help cope -- when, for example, his dead father's cream-colored Mercedes (exact license plates and all) starts showing up outside his house.
"I convinced myself I hadn't seen anything," Bret thinks, the morning after the Mercedes appears and he chases after shadows silhouetted against his son's window. "I had done this many times before ... I was adept at erasing reality."
Adept, that is, because of his chosen vocation. In one of many passages that could easily be part of a memoir instead of a novel, Bret muses: "As a writer, it was easy for me to dream up the more viable scenario than the one that had actually played itself out ... (T)his is what a writer does: his life is a maelstrom of lying."
There are more examples of such self-flagellation, which lends credence to critics who have called Ellis a moralist, a label he has also adopted in interviews.
In fact, Lunar Park might present the strongest argument yet for Ellis as moralist. While lawless characters of Zero drifted indolently through their lives, and Psycho and Glamorama used violence as a metaphor for the soullessness of the 80's, Park is less about an era than about the personal journey of a sinner, who must do penance for his or her transgressions. I won't spoil the plot by offering more details, but Ellis plumbs the depths of his character's troubled past and offers redemption -- with a price. It's a different kind of Ellis novel, offering the sort of restraint that might have saved Psycho from vilification and a level of character development absent from Zero.
"As a writer you slant all evidence in favor of the conclusions you want to produce, and you rarely tilt in favor of the truth," Ellis writes. Maybe so, yet Lunar Park tracks closer to a truth more readers will identify with than any of Ellis' previous books. His fictional alter ego still clings to vestiges of his old life (toking up at a party, dalliances with a graduate student), but the questions that haunt him are more universal -- his relationship with his father and his family, indeed, the very point of his existence. It's a shift that marks Ellis' maturity much more than the requisite move to the 'burbs.
April 6 to April 12 Han Chinese settlers from Zhangzhou and Quanzhou were such fierce rivals that simple activities such as buying supplies for festivals would often result in armed violence. It’s said that this was especially severe just before Tomb Sweeping Festival, and to prevent bloodshed Qing Dynasty officials ordered them to conduct their rituals on different days. This is not unlike the government urging people to visit their ancestors’ graves on days other than yesterday’s official Tomb Sweeping Day, also known as the Qingming Festival, to curb the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Chinese Nationalist Party
As students wait outside an exam room in Seoul’s affluent Gangnam district, the air is tense. A girl in a school uniform rocks a guitar back and forth in her hands next to a boy who stares nervously into his fringe. Another girl sitting on a nearby bench adjusts her crop top. But in a neighborhood filled with English and maths crammers, this is no normal exam room. Mudoctor Academy is a K-pop training school, where dozens of students between the ages of 12 and 26 line up for their chance to audition for a visiting entertainment scout. Kevin Lee is
The lights shone more brightly than anything I’d ever seen. One million blinding watts strafed across the leaves of countless cannabis plants that peeled off in neat rows in every direction. The warehouse was as pristine as a pharmaceutical facility, and as we strode around in crisp white nylon overalls and box-fresh wellies, the atmosphere was surreal — interstellar, almost. It felt as if we were on a mission to Mars. It was definitely a glimpse of the future. It was 2017 and I had been invited to visit this legal medical cannabis “grow” in the town of Gatineau, near Ottawa.
The God of Medicine had an uneventful birthday yesterday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even celebrations for Baoshengdadi (保生大帝), also known as the God of Medicine, were significantly downsized across the nation. Tainan’s Singji Temple (興濟宮), for example, held a low-key candle placing ritual Monday night and focused on promoting its artifact exhibition featuring its recently restored door god paintings. Created by renowned temple painter Chen Shou-i (陳壽彝) in 1977, the doors were painstakingly restored over 18 months by Lee Chih-shang (李志上) and his team at Ming Shiang Art Conservation (名襄文化) and reinstalled last year. Lee, who calls himself a