Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis – Reviewed by Guy Portman
Set in 1980s Los Angeles, the story follows eighteen-year-old Clay, returned home for Christmas from college in New Hampshire. Clay immediately falls back into the L.A. social scene, spending his time hanging-out with various wealthy teenagers who include former girlfriend Blair and high school best friend Julian.
This group of vapid, vacuous characters are virtually identical to one another. They wear the same fashionable clothes, have the same hairstyles and suntans, listen to the same bands and frequent the same restaurants and nightclubs. Their existences are the quintessential eighties lifestyle revolving around materialism, consumerism and excess. A world of endless parties, sex, drugs and cruising around L.A. in expensive vehicles.
This, Bret Easton Ellis’s first book, sees the young author adeptly explore how this privileged group, who appear on the surface to have an idealistic life, are in reality characterised by boredom and detachment. These spoilt teenagers brought up on a diet of MTV and computer games have been starved of love and emotional security, the result being that their lives are superficial and unrewarding.
The social commentary and plotless realism that were to become Easton Ellis’s hallmarks are in evidence throughout this compelling, accurate and nihilistic account of nineteen-eighties L.A. Unrelenting in its bleakness, at times graphic and disturbing, Less Than Zero is a must read for all Easton Ellis admirers.