Sun, Aug 21, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Bret Easton Ellis loses a few marbles in `Lunar Park'

The author's most recent novel is about a man who loses his grip with reality and needs to redeem himself

By Sharyn Vane  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , AUSTIN, TEXAS

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.

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