Bret Easton Ellis' "Glamorama"

So I'm reading this novel and thinking, "Wow, it's a pity "Zoolander" was so wacky and entertaining, because this novel about a nitwit male model who gets into a situation that's way over his head would make a great movie." Glamorama came out in 1999, two years before Zoolander, so then I start thinkning that maybe the movie is loosely based on the novel, like 2005's "The Island" was loosely (very loosely) based on the 1996 novel "Spares" by Michael Marshall Smith. Unlike Smith, Ellis actually sued the people behind the movie that was similar to his book. There must have been some merit there, because the suit was settled out of court. As a condition of the settlement, Ellis is not allowed to discuss the similarities or how they might have occurred. I find that pretty disappointing personally, but the settlement is as good as an admission of fault in my book, so I'm happy for Ellis. I hope they paid him a bunch of money.

Anyway, Glamorama starts out with Victor Ward's crazy Manhattan lifestyle spiralling out of control, and in this way it is very similar to Ellis' other novels. At the end of the first section the plot has gotten completely out of Victor's hands, but instead of charting Victor's decent into hell at home, the novel takes a turn ina completely new dimension. This begins the pattern of the book. Each section's chapters are numbered in reverse, counting down to the next point at which the plot will twist in a way that wrenches Victor's life off its tracks. I've yet to read the final section, so I can't even give away how the book ends, because I don't know where he can possibly head from where Ellis has ended section five.

What really makes this book is how internally important every little thing becomes. It's very Gene Wolfe, with its unreliable narrator who doesn't recognize the importance of something the first time he sees it, and maybe doesn't even recognize the importance of something the second or third time he sees it. At the same time, Victor is maybe mildly delusional, but this enables Ellis to add stylistic flourishes to the movel like the way scenes that are supposed to be glamorous have confetti in them, but as the novel progresses, Victor begins to notice a pervasive smell of feces and characters begin waving flies away from their faces. At the same time, it's not clear some of the things you believe are Victor's delusions are not actually there, like the way he keep talking about a "film crew" that starts following him around in section two, who you think are just a device by which the unstable Victor can disassociate himself from his life, but who later start interacting with the other characters.

I'm really glad I got started on this Brett Easton Ellis kick. I'm enjoying his books immensely. His earlier books are great stylistically, but somewhat lacking in substance. He's really growing as a writer though. I loved American Psycho, the plot of this one is even more engaging, and I still have one more to go. Please keep writing, Mr. Ellis!

2009.01.10 at 10:00am EST