This week I finished reading Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis, which I review below.
Victor Ward aka Victor Johnson is a male model living in Nineteen-nineties Manhattan. Victor is a vapid, soulless character, devoid of meaningful content, obsessed by celebrity culture and living an existence that revolves around social connections and physical appearance, abdominals being a particular obsession.
Prior to moving to New York, Victor attended the illustrious Camden College, which is evidently a haunt of the elite with many of Camden’s former students residing in Manhattan and appearing in the book. Victor is in a long-term relationship with model girlfriend Chloe, but has no qualms about seeing a host of other women, who include wealthy Damian’s girlfriend Alison. Victor had been planning to open a nightclub with Damian, but matters go awry when Damian discovers the affair.
Shortly thereafter Victor, who is increasingly suffering from mental turmoil, is visited by a mysterious private investigator, by the name of Palakon. Palakon persuades Victor to leave New York and travel to London, his mission to locate Jamie Fields, a former female pupil of Camden, who is apparently still in love with our protagonist. We follow Victor’s escapades, first on the journey across The Atlantic on the QE2 and then in London and later Paris as he finds his life entwined with a group of fashion models turned terrorists, led by the dangerous former male model Bobby Hughes. A confused and increasingly Xanax dependent Victor struggles to comprehend the events that he finds himself unwittingly involved in.
Glamorama can essentially be viewed as a satirical work, which is adept at capturing the hedonism of New York during this era. In typical Ellis fashion, the text is punctuated with numerous pop-culture references, in addition to the occasional vivid description of violence and prolonged graphic sexual encounters, which are not in every instance heterosexual in nature. The author is widely regarded as the master of dialogue and his skills are in evidence throughout the book’s four-hundred and eighty-two pages, with layer upon layer of speech and continual torrents of conscious thought. As a result the book though often comical and engaging is at times difficult and often extremely confusing. The reader is left undecided as to whether many of the events, particularly in the second half of the book, are actually real or are merely part of a constantly mentioned film set. It could be argued that the film set is not real and its presence is allegorical or maybe merely a comment on the protagonist Victor’s world view. At any rate it is not clear and there are many other bewildering elements such as the bizarrely numbered chapters of vastly varying lengths, which are for sections of the book in descending order while during other parts seemingly random.
To appreciate this book it is essential that the reader does not become overly obsessed with the myriad of unanswered questions, but instead allows themselves to surrender to the endless display of surfaces and be engulfed by the convoluted world of confusion, more akin to Burrough’s Naked Lunch than a novel, so unconstrained is it by the burden of plot. Glamorama is a polarising work by a polarising author that is unique, exploratory and free-flowing, in which the author evaluates how reality is actually structured.
Bret Easton Ellis’s most famous work, American Psycho is also reviewed on this site.