Bret must’ve been sitting around his apartment one night watching ‘Batman Begins’ eating PinkBerry with his collar popped and focusing on Christian Bale’s line about ‘sycophantic suck-ups’ and thinking … hey … he’s using my Patrick Bateman character in a completely different way … maybe I should do something similar. Thus we have Imperial Bedrooms. This 168 pages feels like a forced half-measure for somebody’s contractual obligation more than a novel, or rather a novella. Maybe Bret will come out and say differently, he is on tour after all and will probably relish some level of buffoonery about the unwritten back-story or the several ‘much longer versions’ that he thought inappropriate. Please, Ellis, spare us.
Everybody has already delved deep about these subcutaneous references and what they mean from the title to the last page in the multitudinous reviews across both print and on-line mediums, but I’ll spare us all any of that tomfoolery. We get it. We’re over it. Get to the meat or art of the matter, and don’t play cheap and nice either. Worn-out, direct referencing without subtlety is ‘sooo yesterday’, as one of his characters might assert.
First, I really wanted to puke every time I stumbled over ‘another’ pop-culture reference that Ellis had dropped in, which not just felt random and out-of-place, but highly contrived. Someone got ‘out-of-control’ with the Global Find & Replace feature in Word, methinks. He does these things on purpose and that’s his style – yes, I get it. The real problem is that it just doesn’t work anymore and trying to emulate yourself for a struggle of a sequel that reads like something he wrote over a long weekend on meth comes across as wankery, for a use of a better term and one that won’t get picked up by the censors.
Ellis tells you close to the end that the whole thing will not tie up in the third act and boy is that an understatement. A lot of the devices employed come across like Chinese mix-mix left-over soup; ideas hobbled together from other books that he’s done, which to no surprise are the real masterpieces. This thing just feels like an injustice to the whole collection, like he’s micturating on his entire body of work out of apathy, languid curiosity or jaded depravity.
I would be surprised to see this become a movie, in fact I highly doubt that it would. There’s just not enough here to warrant an engaging story. However, films are sometimes more visual and Ellis draws heavily upon some stereotypes that most people are overdosing on to move his tale along and make you wonder how much of this is social commentary. Unfortunately, it lacks a message so whatever commentary there is, comes across hollow.
Tom Waits once said in a lyric, that ‘all the girls had names like jelly donuts’, here all of Ellis’s characters, who are supposed to evoke some sense of nouveau-riche, detached upper-elite or people above ‘our station’ (like something regurgitated from a Whit Stillman scenario) but they all read like nothing more than soft-core Swedish Tennis players gone wrong.
I’m reminded of another Christian Bale performance from ‘The Prestige’ where he speaks about an ageing magician he works under:
“He's complacent, he's predictable, he's boring. I mean, he's got success, whatever that means, and now he's scared -- he won't take any risks at all. I mean, he's squandering the goodwill of the audience with these tired, second-rate tricks …”
If this was a book written by anyone else but Ellis, this would have never have made it into print and thus it adds to the detritus and argument about the state of modern publishing. Honestly, this should’ve never left his laptop. Publishing material on your name alone for a cheap money grab is bad business. Maybe he needs to keep his pool-heated? Maybe he’s in heavy debt? Maybe Bernie Madoff -- made off with his fortune? I don’t know. I don’t care in all honestly. This book is a cheap imitation of what it’s fronting to be and it does nothing for the vast amount of readers that will be turned away and wondering why they wasted both their time and money on this. Is this the new thing, Alienating your audience for less than zero reason? We live in a very competitive time right now for the reader’s attention. Either bring you’re ‘A game’, or stay home.
Note to Bret Easton Ellis: Try a bloody bullet catch, mate.