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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 15 August 2019

"The Rules of Attraction" by Bret Easton Ellis

Rich Americans behaving badly. Young adults enjoy themselves at a college in New England by taking large amounts of drugs and by sleeping around. This book leaves one with a feeling that these people have no morality and are, perhaps as a result, floundering desperately, seeking love and finding only meaningless sex in an utterly nihilistic society. It starts with a girl who loses her virginity to two boys, one from the college and one from the town, whilst herself being unconscious because of drugs. Perhaps the only character who explicitly seeks love commits suicide. It is all very depressing. One fears for the generation depicted (who were the last generation before mobile phones).

The story is told in multiple points of view, each introduced by the narrator's name. There are no formal chapter headings.

Intriguingly, this novel parallels The Secret History by Donna Tartt. There is an oblique reference to it on page 160: "that weird Classics group (and they're probably roaming the countryside sacrificing farmers and performing pagan rituals)". Tartt and Easton Ellis knew one another.

When the novel starts Lauren is missing Victor, her boyfriend, who is spending a term in Europe (where he has slept around with both boys and girls, principally in order to find a bed for the night, or transport to his next bed, despite the fact that he is presumably sufficiently well off to be able to travel without worry). But Lauren's love for Victor doesn't stop her fancying Paul and sleeping with Sean.

Paul, though from time to time he sleeps with girls such as Lauren, is principally gay and has got a crush on Sean. He and Sean indulge in an affair lasting most of the second quarter of the book.

But Sean, who is dealing drugs and running up debts with the townie drug dealer, despite his private fortune and rich, dying father,  is really not interested in Paul. He wants Lauren, with whom he has a relationship for the third quarter of the book. Sean is, initially, incredibly cynical and talks about "fucking" girls as if they were nothing more than the passive victims of his needs. He lies to Paul and finds Paul little more than a nuisance to be discarded as soon as he finds a love. Yet it is Sean who ends up jealous and heart-broken over Lauren and it is Sean who says: "If you can't make a girl come why even bother? That always seemed to me to be like writing questions in a letter." (p 139)

So Paul wants Sean who wants Lauren (triggered by the fact that he thinks she is the author of the love letters sent to him) who wants Victor. As Paul says near the end: "No one ever likes the right person." (p 261) Even the adults, as represented by the parents and teachers, flit from relationship to relationship, though they are rather more concerned with preserving a facade of respectability.

If anything it is about the cruelty of an object of desire when he or she is unaware (or doesn't care).

Great quotes:

  • "Beautiful, slow-witted Dance majors writhing about shamelessly." (p 21)
  • "So much attention paid, so much detail studied, worked over so hard that he loses it all."
  • "I sat there feeling like the hapless lover. But then I remembered, of course, that now I'm only hapless." (p 39)
  • "It always seemed that there was just one minute left, all the time." (p 86)
  • "I browse through the porno magazine rack that's placed next to the Oral Hygiene section." (p 215): This dates the novel to those last moments before internet pornography.

August 2019; 283 pages

Bret Easton Ellis also wrote: 
Less Than Zero, his debut
American Psycho, narrated by Sean Bateman's elder brother Patrick, an investment banker (and serial kliller?) in Manhattan

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