In Bret Easton Ellis’ (BEE) Imperial Bedrooms, the sequel to Less Than Zero, we follow Clay, the producer back from NY to LA, where he is casting actors for a new series he is writing and co-producing.
In the style of a first person narrative, Clay becomes involved with a wannabe actress, in the Hollywood world of parties, launchings, opening, drugs and sex, and becomes fixated on getting her into his new series. We follow the evolution of this personal/business relationship, as it becomes evident throughout the book that it involves other interested “movie-world”influentials.
The beauty of this book, however, does not lie in the construction of the plot, which I found of the most ordinary, but in the self-absorption of the characters, tending even towards isolation and individualism, of which only a modern, interconnected society is capable of.
Traditional, absolute values of friendship, forgiveness and altruism have no place in this story, except when they serve the primal needs of the characters. The setting of movie-world LA is probably the ideal location to account for such an absence of values, and I tend to think that BEE is both portraying the modern selfishness of man, but also reflecting the actual workings of this environment; an environment he himself knows quite well as he does screenwriting and his books were turned to movies (Another world he explores in a not-entirely dissimilar story is Wall Street in American Psycho).
To embody such a world of isolation and individualism, BEE adopts a writing style in which the sentences run uninterrupted, in which coordinating conjunctions (and, or, so but) are generously employed, especially in the first-person narration style. Such writing, enable BEE to evoke a multitude of events without dwelling too much on each, thereby reinforcing the feeling of a mechanically functioning human being. Not surprisingly, in the introspective monologues of the narrator, I couldn’t help but detect a wink to Camusian (in L’Etranger) writing as in:
“How did you find out about it?” I don’t want to know, but the silence, amplified, ramped up, makes me ask just to say anything
The haze obliterates everything; you can’t see the Pacific or the pier behind us, the Mexican restaurant is barely visible at the end of the Pier and nothing else at all
Obviously, there is more to the story than what I have wrote, but my suggestion, not to be disappointed in the ending, is to read or check out Less Than Zero before reading Imperial Bedrooms.