I will admit now, I found this week's subject quite challenging.
Luckily, I am rather familiar with Less Than Zero, I read it in the summer of 2009, finished it in a few days and I've read it maybe four or five times since then. I'm also a huge fan of Bret Easton Ellis, I've read all of his books, and a I'm a fan of 'blank fiction' as my blog last week on Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City will show. So, instead of focus sing on the style of writing, I'm going to instead talk about the book's cultural significance, and the role it had in creating an image of what it was like to be a rich kid in 80s America.
Less Than Zero is a novel primarily about the effects of wealth.
Every one of Bret Easton Ellis' books is concerned with wealth, its effects and the ability it has to change people. Clay, the lead character, has a father working in Century City, a huge mansion, a fast car, and access to all the drugs, booze and fun a college aged boy could want. He attends Camden College, a liberal arts school on the East coast (that would later be explored through Ellis' second book, Rules of Attraction) but feels lost, apathetic, lonely. Returning home for Christmas vacation, Clay really see's what his friends, loved ones and family are like, and he in turn becomes more withdrawn, and feels more and more alienated from his home. Hauntingly, one solitary figure seems to understand him; a lonely poster, a billboard, reading 'DISAPPEAR HERE'.
Now, the billboard is in many ways more famous than Clay. It is of the most oddly moving, troubling and memorable passages of the book deals, totally unsettling and a total mystery - we are never told where this billboard is from, or what it advertises, or even its purpose, but it does perfectly sum up 'blank fiction' and Ellis' literary style.
Dismissed by many as being a writer who writes about nothing, Ellis, while popular in the 80s, did not achieve world wide critical acclaim/infamy until 1991's American Psycho. For me, his real talent lies in his ability to depict boredom and apathy in a heavy, very atmospheric sense. When reading Less Than Zero there is a distinctly empty feeling that grows and grows until the climactic scene with Clay, Julian and Julian's client.
While perhaps critics and other authors are not so kind to Ellis as I am, there is a sense that his cultural impact and lasting importance is still felt through the works of younger, equally nihilistic and empty authors.