Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis – Reviewed by Guy Portman


{Contains Some Spoilers}

Victor Ward aka Victor Johnson is a male model living in 1990s Manhattan. Victor is a vapid, soulless character, obsessed with celebrity culture, who lives 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, a haunt of the elite. Many of Camden’s former students reside in Manhattan and appear 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 him 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, then in London and later Paris, where his existence is 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.

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 encounter that is not in every instance heterosexual in nature. The author is a master of dialogue, and his skills are in evidence throughout the 482 pages, with layer upon layer of speech and continual torrents of conscious thought. As a result the text though often comical and engaging is at times arduous and confusing. The reader is left undecided as to whether many of the events, particularly in the second half of the book are real, or rather part of a constantly mentioned film set. There are many other bewildering elements such as the bizarrely numbered chapters of vastly varying lengths.

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, in which the author evaluates how reality is structured.


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