Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews LESS THAN ZERO and reminisces about the Eighties

by Bret Easton Ellis

Let’s just say this author is a big deal in Ms. Hen’s world. Let’s say she tried to read another book that he wrote and she was so disgusted that she couldn’t finish it. This novel was on her Kindle for a while and she finally got around to reading it.

There’s nothing terrible about LESS THAN ZERO. But there’s nothing fantastic about it either. It belongs to the genre of what Ms. Hen likes to call “party novels,” about characters running around going to parties and misbehaving and getting into trouble, usually by authors such as Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski and sometimes Kurt Vonnegut.

It’s not to say that these pieces of fiction have no merit. It’s just that they’re all the same. The story of LESS THAN ZERO is this: a young man comes back from college for Christmas break and goes to a lot of parties and tries to score some cocaine and looks for his friend.

There are some graphic pieces here, but they are so tame that they are barely worth mentioning. Last year, Ms. Hen read TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller, and that was the most perverse thing she had ever read. LESS THAN ZERO pales in comparison if the purpose is to shock the reader.

The author tries to attract the reader's attention with minor sexual descriptions, and also, LESS THAN ZERO has no redeeming characters. Ms. Hen did not find herself rooting for any of the young people in the book. She read about LESS THAN ZERO, and a lot of readers could relate to what happened in the book, but Ms. Hen thought it is a novel about shallow, narcissistic jerks and if a person could relate to these characters, he must be like that, too.

The one positive aspect of this novel is that it’s a time capsule for an era that doesn’t exist anymore. Young people today would be interested in reading about the Eighties, when there were no cell phones, no computers, when the world’s information was not at your fingertips.

Ms. Hen remembers what that world was like. She knows people who do not. If anything, LESS THAN ZERO can show us how much the world has morphed into something different from what it used to be. It’s about a time when people had to talk to each other at restaurants, and were not staring at their phones.

There’s a payoff for everything. Ms. Hen knows that the world is as screwed up now as it was then. But as a hen, she can only sit by and watch to see what will happen.  She will remember the past, but look towards the future, knowing we’re spiraling in an unknown direction, and it could be either positive or negative. 

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