Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Holiday Trip

I decided to bring along Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero over the fourth of July holiday weekend. I figured I should read it if I wanted to get to it’s sequel, Imperial Bedrooms.

Big Mistake.

It’s not that I wasn’t gripped by Ellis’s book. I was gripped. It’s just that for two days, while the rest of the country was in happy-patriotic mode, I was down in the depths of an overdose.

Less Than Zero, published twenty-five years ago, is about a college freshman named Clay who comes back to L.A. for Christmas break. We quickly see that Clay is a drug addict and so are most of his wealthy friends. He lives a life of privilege—the cars, the mansions, the parties. . . But most disturbing is Clay’s empty approach to life. He recounts the hazy days and nights with such passivity, simply recording the day’s events. There is no remorse, no feeling. It’s haunting.

I was trying to keep my jaw from dropping after every page, while others were happily splashing in the pool. I kept waiting for the characters in the book to turn a corner, to make it all stop, for something to be gained. Someone to at least say, hey, our lifestyle is really bad.

I was melting in the sun, and started to believe, that maybe I was feeling like someone who was on drugs might feel—dehydrated, hallucinating, a little tired. I began to wonder myself, am I just like Clay?

Soon enough, everyone around me was on drugs. They had to be. The overly tan guy that kept saying “brah” to his friend—definitely has a dealer and does cocaine. The conversations I heard around me—ah, so disconnected from reality—just like the people in the book.

Bret Easton Ellis pulled me in. The book altered my state of reality. I may look like I’m being social, around family and friends during a holiday—look I’m sitting right next to them—but really I’m in Ellis’s world.

On the train back to the city, I got through the book’s most disturbing parts of sexual violence, while a cute two-year-old jumped up and down in the row in front of me. I felt a little sick. At one point, my boyfriend turned to look at the page I was reading, and I instinctively covered the page with my hand. I didn’t want him to see the exact words I was reading—he’d think I was sadistic.

Maybe there's never a good time to read a depressing novel. Or maybe you should read it when you’re actually doing something fun. Just remember to come up for air. Now, with a few days off, I guess I’m ready for some more Ellis. I'll let you know where I end up.

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