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Lunar Park by Brett Easton Ellis
Published by Picador in 2005. 453 pages.
Although not an immediate sequel to 'American Psycho', Lunar Park is undoubtedly a follow-up of sorts to one of the most controversial novels of all time.
One either hated American Psycho or loved it. I was one of the smutty romantics who loved the bestselling novel, which was a stark look at the yuppie uprising of the eighties and a damn fine read to boot. The novel garnered even more attention through the notoriety of being banned; that and the fact that it contained explicit scenes of sex and violence.
So it was with great relish that I looked forward to reading Lunar Park.
I was also a little apprehensive as well as curious because although American Psycho was a brilliantly crafted sudo-seductive rant on life seen through the eyes of a would-be serial killer, it was also, at times, a little heavy going; Ellis fastidiously labeling and listing each character's likes and dislikes throughout. It left the reader feeling a little bogged down at times as there are only so many things I need to know about an Armani suit or tie.
So, I was obviously concerned that Lunar Park would contain much of the same. I was gladly wrong about that.
Lunar Park contains much of the same brilliant writing as American Psycho and alludes to the main character from that novel, namely Patrick Bateman. Lunar Park however, doesn't dwell on lists and description. To be fair to its predecessor the lists and descriptions were a big part of that whole 'I want to be the best of the best' yuppie status and way of life. Lunar Park is actually a fictional account of a non-fictional life; that of the author himself, Brett Easton Ellis.
The way that he portrays himself, or his fictional, supposedly real self, is so well crafted that it does have you questioning yourself as to whether it is fiction or not. Of course this is what Brett Easton Ellis wanted. He pokes fun at the media and press and gets his own back on the critics while still managing a tongue in cheek dig at himself.
In my opinion he is one of the most underrated writers in modern fiction and although Lunar Park does differ somewhat from his other works it is, in a fashion, a celebration of them all and a damn fine read and shows just how much this man was born to tell a good yarn.
The Fictional Brett Easton Ellis of this novel becomes a bestselling author at a very tender age, while still trawling his way through college. He witnesses the demise of his father and is at odds to come to terms with his feelings as the relationship was never based on anything solid. Brett descends into a life of drink, drugs and depression.
Married to a famous actress and father to her son, a son who does not acknowledge Brett as his father, his life begins to fall apart with some devastating repercussions. He is soon spiraling in and out of reality and becomes convinced his demons have come to life in order to put an end to his suffering. The story takes on a supernatural twist as the lead character struggles to decipher fiction from fantasy.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I kind of knew, or hoped, that I would but it surprised me in the fact that I found it so enjoyable. It was a pleasant surprise because I found it immensely entertaining and rewarding.
The novel is a character study in the life of a struggling writer and his relationship with a son who has long given up on him and also the relationship with his own father.
The fact that he starts to become so paranoid in the belief that Patrick Bateman (the nasty lead character from American Psycho) may be coming after him is a nice twist to the story. The fact that Bateman is a fictional character from one of our supposed fictional characters novels who comes to life to haunt his real life creator who is a fictional character based on a real life character himself is nothing short of genius.
Ellis makes the reader feel both empathy and hate for his main character and he does it in such a believable way that you do forget that this is fiction. You forget that is, up until the last quarter of the book when the story takes on a supernatural turn and becomes a thrilling horror story that were it a rollercoaster would garner the white knuckle status without any problems.
I found it both deep and yet subtly smooth and engaging. I felt myself flowing along with this character and thinking how much more can he fail and how can he mend his life. I almost felt as if I wanted him to fail more to keep the story plunging into the abyss of madness but secretly hoping he would win out in the end as all anti-heroes do.
If you've read Brett East Ellis before or not, you would enjoy this novel, but I will say that it would be one hundred percent in your favour to have read American Psycho first as it helps to know all the little nuances and references that appear throughout and it also makes you appreciate just how clever it is.
I love the fact that the last line of the blurb on the back cover reads...'And remember as you hold this book in your hands: all of it really happened, every word is true'.
Praise for Lunar Park
'The year's most interesting novel... A triumphant piece of storytelling from a rebel whose work is controversial precisely because its sinister themes are so dexterously written...Lunar Park is haunting because its many ghosts deceive us with such urgent honesty' - Christopher Cleave, The Sunday Telegraph.
'Lunar Park is an unnerving and funny puzzle of a book: undoubtedly the real thing, as it were' - Mark Lawson, The Guardian.
'As always Ellis is superb...Lunar park demonstrates a reinvigorated talent that is all the more impressive for its funny and frightening portrayal of failure' -Siddhartha Deb, The Daily Telegraph.
'Great emotional complexity and depth...it is a very interesting ride by an always interesting novelist - and, as such, is one worth taking' - Douglas Kennedy, The Times.
'An enormously entertaining novel, powered by a celebrity fun entirely absent in the writing of the generation of American writers who succeeded this' - Matt Thorne, The Independent.
Other works by Brett Easton Ellis
The Rules of Attraction
Less Than Zero
A definite recommended read from me but I would insist that you read American Psycho first and not pre-judge Lunar Park in doing so. Hope someone gets to enjoy this book as much as I did.
Lunar Park is the latest novel by Bret Easton Ellis, the author of American Psycho.
I mention this because Ellis has been defined by American Psycho since it was published in 1991 - suffering more criticism than most authors - because of the incredibly graphic and gratuitous descriptions of torture and sexual mutilation.
I was one of those critics that felt so physically sick on reading American Psycho that I wrote to express my bewilderment at his choice of narrator (the merciless Patrick Bateman) and to him to ask why he felt the need to share such horrific imagery with the rest of us.
I waited and waited - in fact sixteen long years went by until I receive his reply. It came in the form of his shiny new hardback, Lunar Park.
IN THE BEGINNING
The opening two chapters of the book are a prequel to the Lunar Park story and serve to establish the narrator's frame of mind when he wrote the book. It starts out very light-hearted and I laughed out loud a few times whilst reading the first chapter. The style of prose is back to the Ellis I like - sharp, witty and full of self-loathing.
He leads you upbeat into the second chapter and suddenly the atmosphere starts to turn as he confesses that writing American Psycho had been "an extremely disturbing experience" because the anti-hero, Patrick Bateman, was actually based on his father, whom he had a life-long hatred for.
Whether the real Ellis is being truthful with us here is anyone's guess but that's not the point. The fictional Ellis is obviously still very much haunted, not only by the memory his father but, by of his strongest character to date - Patrick Bateman.
And that brings us to Chapter three, where the book's tale really starts.
THE STORY (in part)
Lunar Park is about an author (aptly named Bret Easton Ellis) who is also the narrator of the book. Having over-indulged in the success achieved by his earlier works, Ellis is now financially and emotional drained. He lives in a huge house in some unnamed affluent suburb of New York with his wife (Jayne), son and stepdaughter.
But all is not well in the Ellis camp. He is utterly miserable as he attempts to fight past demons and make the transition from the shameless, cocaine and alcohol fuelled singleton into a loving, honest and responsible husband and father.
When the book picks his story up, the couple have been married 3 months and are already in "Couples Therapy". Jayne and Bret's utter contempt for each other is uncomfortable to read and, at times, you wonder why they even bothering trying. But it slowly becomes clear. With the children doped up on Ritalin, the family dog hooked on Prozac and several failed affairs under her belt, Jayne is desperate for the marriage to work out. Ellis' reasons, on the other hand, are far simpler. He's lost so much sense of worth that Jayne is the only stable thing left he can cling on to. Without her, its clear he'll slide into psychotic oblivion.
Ellis has such an addictive personality, that to grasp back the reigns of his life, he has to fight several battles all at once. Drink, drugs, young men, young women all have to go. This, coupled with his father's death and the inner demons that he's unwittingly unleashed in his previous books, spins the poor guy into an acute spiral of paranoia and self-hatred.
Bearing his present state of mind, an eerie encounter at the start of the story triggers a twelve-day string of events that unfold at a nail-biting pace.
Ellis believes that one of his new college students is the physical incarnation of Patrick Bateman and whether it's coincidence or not, a serial killer is on the loose bumping of people in the manner of his anti-hero. Ellis also thinks he's being followed but his home offers no solace. Furniture keeps moving, the exterior paintwork is changing colour, Jayne's dog hates him, someone is sending him a blank emails and his stepdaughter's wind-up toy appears to be attacking animals.
If this weren't enough to drive a man head first into his addictions, the spirit of his father is hovering around the house issuing unnerving warnings about his son at a time when young boys in the neighbourhood are mysteriously disappearing. Is there a connection? I'm not telling!
What Ellis does best with Lunar Park is to separate himself from the character. While Fictional Ellis is indifferent toward his writing pursuits, the Real Ellis shows us that he has not.
I definitely felt that Ellis has used Lunar Park as a vehicle to repent for his past literary sins. His attention to the finer points of a very public, high-fashion lifestyle are still at the forefront of his writing and scenes of the grotesque are still present, however, the characters perpetuating the acts show a distinct lack of confidence. Where a younger Ellis gladly had a character smacking someone in the face with an axe, this matured Ellis has a character frozen on the spot at an incident that happens towards the end of the novel (no room for spoilers here!).
There is a certain grace to the prose in the final chapter, which is noticeably absent from the rest of the book. The ending is rather ambiguous, but I think it's meant to be that way. I've read it three times now and have come away with a different understanding each time. Some readers might find this unsatisfactory, but for me, it was perfect.
Would I recommend this book? Well yes AND no.
You aren't familiar with Ellis then I'm really in two minds whether to recommend it or not. Without an understanding of the author's background, the novel takes on a different meaning to the one, I imagine, he'd intended and, instead, it reads like a run-of-the-mill psychological horror story with a hint of Stephen King sprinkled here and there.
I feel to fully understand and appreciate Lunar Park you need some knowledge of Ellis's previous books, his reputation and his writing style. If this is you, then YES, I definitely recommend Lunar Park - it's by far his best work since Less than Zero so go out and buy it - I promise you won't be disappointed.
Hardcover 360 pages (October 7, 2005)
Cost: £10 to £17
The paperback as far as I know, isnt available until later this year. The hardback retails at £16.99 but I bought it in Books etc on a special promotion for £11.99. You can purchase the hardback new and used on Amazon (and similar) for somewhere in the region of £10.
© Jaggynettles / kollarosie on ciao