Bret Easton Ellis - Imperial Bedrooms (3 stars)

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Bret Easton Ellis - Imperial Bedrooms

(Picador)

Bret Easton Ellis blazed onto the American literary scene in 1985 with a novel so filled with hedonistic excess, you felt drunk just reading it. Populated by a cast of largely dislikeable teenagers, Less Than Zero took us to the heart of rich kid Los Angeles, where money, sex and Class A drugs were easier to come by than a fully functioning conscience. When you read it as a teenager, as most people do, Less Than Zero comes with a certain frisson of excitement. We know that protagonist Clay – with his dysfunctional family, promiscuity and label obsession – is little more than a troubled soul, but part of us wants to live like him, if only for a moment.

Then you grow up. Or at least that’s the idea. Twenty-five years after Ellis first created Clay and his shallow pals, follow-up novel Imperial Bedrooms suggests that although we’ve moved on, he hasn’t. Now aged 43, Clay seems stuck in a state of arrested development, as keen on drink, drugs and casual sex as ever. Somehow in the intervening years, he has carved out a vaguely successful career as a writer, but rarely do we get a sense that he has the mental capacity to sign a birthday card, let alone create a screenplay. His conversations are banal, his vocabulary limited. After a brilliantly postmodern opening, Imperial Bedrooms peters out into a half-baked thriller and little more, leaving the reader as unfulfilled as Clay himself.

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