Friday, November 30, 2007

The Rules of Attraction

The Rules of Attraction
by Bret Easton Ellis
$11.16 at Amazon.com
There was a movie version a few years ago, starring Dawson's Creek heart-throb James van der Beek.  A pretty good movie version, if memory serves, and an outstanding example of how even a good movie can't compare with a book. There's a lot more hedonism in the novel version.
Bret Easton Ellis writes grisly tales of modern alienation, usually set like this one, among rich people in the 1980s. Rules of Attraction takes place at an expensive, private, Northeastern college campus. The story takes place among 
the college kids, who seem to spend very little time going to classes or studying.
Most of them have been over-indulged, and grown bored with everything around them. There's loads of drugs, wild parties, and frequent, empty sex. The characters spend a lot of time plotting and lying to one another, and the novel's written in non-linear time (it jumps around between the past and present) which fills it with plot-twisting surprises.
The main character, Sean, spends his days getting high and inventing lies to get unwitting girls to go to bed with him. Considering he 
spends all his time in the pursuit of pleasure, he seems dreadfully unfulfilled. 
There's a love affair, if you can call it that. It's interesting how years of self-indulgence have affected Sean's ability to even experience emotions like love. He majors in Ceramics and talks about Ginsberg with classmates over mountains of grass. It's a charmed life.
I've read most of Ellis' books, and consider him one of the best writers of his generation. His characters create an interesting paradox: they have a joyless existence, yet (if you're like me) the things they're doing all seem 
like a lot of fun. To be young, attractive, and have lots of money to throw around just has to be fulfilling, doesn't it?
The chapters jump back and forth between the perspectives of different characters, which can be distracting at first. It's fairly post-modern, to less-experienced readers this may seem confusing. Just relax.
Overall, the Rules of Attraction is a fun ride. It's an especially good choice this time of year, if you are someone who finds holiday pageantry a bore.

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