Book Review: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis


Maybe I’m just a sucker for punishment but I chose to read this because I had just finished The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger and hated it and when I was deciding what to read next, a newspaper review comment in the front of my copy of Less Than Zero caught my eye: “An updated Catcher in the Rye.”

I have to agree. It’s very much in the same vein as The Catcher in the Rye, so if you didn’t like the JD Salinger “classic” then don’t bother with this. It’s better written than The Catcher in the Rye with a much more obvious voice that sounds like a disillusioned teenager while still being readable but it suffers the same problems – nothing happens, the main character is dull and stupid and wanders around imbibing addictive substances and doing not much else and then wondering why his life feels empty.

Clay has been away at college on the US East Coast and has returned home to LA for the Christmas holiday. His parents are divorced, his mother is vacuous, his father is shallow, his sisters are brain dead bimbos and his friends are just as directionless as he is. Clay sees a psychistrist who doesn’t seem interested in sorting out his lack of direction but wants them to collaborate on a screenplay (because, of course, everyone who lives in LA must want to be in the movie business). His on again, off again girlfriend, Blair, wants to know if they are on but Clay doesn’t love her and can’t think of a way to tell her until close to the end of the book.

The more books I read about drug culture and the more I see real life accounts in the news, the less sympathy I have for people who think they can escape their problems through narcotics. The story of everyone who has ever tried should be a cautionary tale but stupid people won’t take their word for it. They have to go through it themselves. For centuries, people have been trying to lose themselves in drugs and failing spectacularly and nobody ever seems to learn from these mistakes. Fine, whatever, but don’t expect me to care about your “troubles” because they’re no worse than anyone else’s. Whether you’re a fictional character or a real person, I’m just over it.

Despite my withering review of this book, it still shows the talent of Bret Easton Ellis as a writer and I might read some of his other work in the future – the story might be lacking but the execution has saved it from a one star review.

2 stars

*First published on Goodreads 6 July 2015


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