Brett Easton Ellis introduces us to Clay and his journey through a non-stop montage of monotonous partying, sex, drugs and drinking and his descent into decadence. Clay and his friends pay homage to a consumer culture confine them whilst instantaneously selling them notions of escape. Ellis’s thoroughly descriptive writing is a crucial key in Less Than Zero, as Clay describes his ability to work relentlessly, overtime, forever recognising every little detail, down to the fashion labels of a character’s clothing, until these semantics cease to sustain any real value to the reader. Clay is not unique amongst his friends, as they also appear obsessed with status and perception; lazy, rich, bored, self-interested to the point of obliviousness. Their self-involving personalities along with the precise detail, reach a point where a scene description of a welcome home party, to the seemingly never ending bed-hopping, is no different to the reader and our protagonist, than a snuff film, or a heroin addiction or sex trafficking. The nihilistic nature of Clay’s persona lacks any kind of moral compass or ethical values; frequently reminding the reader to question the direction of the next generation is headed.
Having enjoyed the book immensely, I came across a paper submitted from a female student entitled, From theory to practice: blank fiction, ethics and hybridism in Palahniuk’s Stranger than Fiction and Invisible Monsters. She highlights the representation of Blank Fiction shifting away from post-war obsession with obscure plots and political affairs. She brings other authors into the equation, stating that writers like James Annesley and Brett Easton Ellis seems to value shallowness over complexity and youth over experience. She considers Annesley’s extensive range of new American writing and identifies their main combining characteristics. Of course, Annesley show the challenging side to blank writing to be linked to the domineering economic strengths of modern capitalism. She discusses Ellis’s, Less Than Zero and his other popular book, American Psycho, stating that violence is equated with power, cosmetic surgery and brand labels become identity.
The topics discussed both by the student and in Less Than Zero provide a reflection on the frightening aspects of life in consumer culture and the way it’s accounted for by the characters mirror a continuous deterioration. There is a dark under-belly to Less Than Zero and there is no doubt in my mind, that the attitude of the world described became increasingly like the one we live in today which appears bleak at best.