49th Parallel Vol 28 Spring 2012 Lutton ISSN 17535794

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49th Parallel Vol 28 Spring 2012 Lutton,ISSN 17535794 online. of Ellis s and so by extension Bret s authorial persona and his early fiction which is. more thoroughly outlined elsewhere in the chapter Of the critical response to American. Psycho for example Bret at one point notes that I was taken seriously I was a joke I was. avant garde I was a traditionalist I was underrated I was overrated I had orchestrated the. controversy I was incapable of orchestrating anything 2 While Bret here refers to the. notorious controversy surrounding the publication of American Psycho in summary pre. publication leaks of its more lurid content prompted media based outrage resulting in the. novel being dropped by Simon and Schuster 3 it should be noted that even in more academic. critical contexts Ellis s fiction did not initially elicit overwhelmingly positive readings 4. Certain early academic critics such as John W Aldridge straightforwardly dismissed the. import of Ellis s writing of Less Than Zero Aldridge writing in 1992 remarked that surely. no other novel in recent history has concerned material that is indeed so much less than. zero in dramatic content and thematic meaning 5, A number of slightly later studies while notionally more generous in their. assessments of the content of Ellis s writing nevertheless orientated their readings within an. already accepted rhetoric foregrounding its affectless aspects lending it a certain cultural. currency despite the apparently vacuous nature of its content Both Elizabeth Young and. James Annesley published in 1993 and 1998 respectively important and influential readings. of Ellis s early writing identifying Ellis as a principal exponent of blank generation fiction. a concept still frequently remarked on in readings of Ellis Both critics identify Ellis as. representing a society where the increasing prevalence of consumer culture has rendered. identity as traditionally delineated no longer representable Young suggests for example. that Ellis is describing a world where even the most extreme attempts at individuality are. doomed because personality itself has become commodity 6. 49th Parallel Vol 28 Spring 2012 Lutton,ISSN 17535794 online. While critics today have developed alternate approaches to Ellis s writing and the way. in which it addresses broader social and theoretical concerns there nevertheless remains a. strong conceptual focus blankness has not been forgotten but rather incorporated into. broader political and social critiques which tend to privilege Ellis s voice and to some degree. overlook the more localised self consciously playful aspects of his texts 7 Particularly new. interpretations of Ellis s fiction often consider the concept of authorship in light of the critical. heritage outlined above Annesley himself has more recently drawn attention to Ellis s self. conscious authorial practice In a recent discussion of celebrity authorship in Lunar Park he. comprehensively considers both the critical context surrounding Ellis s early fiction and the. fictional authorial processes outlined in the novel ultimately echoing the influential. perspective he initially outlined in Blank Fictions with the concluding assessment that in the. novel answers can only be found by skating on the surface not by diving into the depths 8. Other recent critical approaches would have authorship as a nuanced practice which allows. the concept of identity to be considered at a metatextual level 9. This article would suggest a third way to approach Ellis s writing and so to uncover. the perspectives on authorship and identity which it initiates that is through consideration of. the way in which Ellis s protagonists negotiate problematic space Indeed Ellis invests a lot. of meaning in the physical geographies which provide the backdrops to his novels The. opening of his debut novel Less Than Zero 1985 is arguably one of his most widely. recognised textual constructions People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles. Thus with the first sentence of his first novel Ellis initiates a disjunctive relationship with. urban space echoed in writing subsequently 10 The expression of fear to merge becomes a. repeated refrain throughout Less Than Zero as its protagonist Clay lurches about the city of. his youth and is often understood as emblematic of the kind of disaffection and alienation. typical of the privileged discontented young people who populate the novel s pages they. 49th Parallel Vol 28 Spring 2012 Lutton,ISSN 17535794 online. are literally afraid to merge both with each other and with society in general From this. point Less Than Zero s unsettling of space and identity develops Clay subsequently notes. that the expression of fear to merge is the first thing I hear when I come back to the city 11. anchoring an apparently generalised observation to a particular time and place It is worth. noting here the context of Clay s return to Los Angeles in an exemplary textual realisation of. the East West opposition he has come back to the city for the Christmas break from the small. East Coast liberal arts college he now attends It quickly becomes apparent that both. psychologically and physically 12 he is removed from his contemporaries and this is. emphasised as he drives round the city he used to call home registering apparently. increasingly affectless responses to the urban environment he encounters of Wilshire. Boulevard for example he notes that there always seem to be too many cars and old people. and maids waiting for buses and I end up looking away and smoking too much and turning. the radio up to full volume 13, It is upon this premise the re encountering of previously familiar physical and.
mental geographies and the resulting difficulties of narrative adjustment that the novel. hinges despite Clay s subsequent insistence to a friend that things aren t that different out. East 14 In particular Less Than Zero s most evocative representations of place come when in. italicised passages set apart from the rest of the text Clay mentally re charts geographically. specific memories of his past in the first of these a recollection of skipping school and. driving out to Palm Springs to remember how things were is triggered in the narrative. present when his father asks if he would like to spend Christmas there 15 The idea of. psychogeographical flashbacks being prompted by allusion to place or sense in the present is. revisited throughout Less Than Zero and Ellis s canon more generally and particularly in. Lunar Park Notably this novel introduces a further factor to the negotiation of space place. and identity which figures as a significant preoccupation of Ellis s later fiction that is the. 49th Parallel Vol 28 Spring 2012 Lutton,ISSN 17535794 online. practice of authorship Specifically Bret s relationship with the space he inhabits in which. he writes and has written clearly marks him as a figure of problematic authorial status The. remainder of this article will focus on the ways in which this relationship between space and. place writing and author develops in Ellis s later fiction Expanding and revising readings of. Ellis s early writing which interpreted its preoccupation with space as necessarily limiting. with the casting of characters adrift in the non lieux of Los Angeles 16 a city which owns. and spawns its residents was a given 17 it will explore the physical and ontological. configurations of Ellis s late period authorial protagonists arguing that the space in which. authorship is practiced always for Ellis impacts strongly on the formation of both author and. It is worth beginning such a reading by turning again to Bret Ellis s most. distinctive writerly protagonist Lunar Park s opening chapter illustrates the disjunctive. relationship with urban space which had at the start of his career found Bret at the centre. of the aforementioned Brat Pack of writers whose constant presence on the late 1980s New. York City bar and club scene resulted in their mythologisation on a global scale As Bret. details the prevalence of the group led to a situation whereby the New York as well as the. national and international press became entranced 18 eventually allowing that he and his. contemporaries had invaded the world 19 Such an account subtly implies that a productive. and self reinforcing relationship with his immediate surroundings can enable an author to. positively orientate himself within the far broader space within which he is read This. perspective is ultimately revised in Lunar Park however when Bret s negotiation of. various emotionally formative events including fatherhood drug addiction and. bereavement prompt a more problematic relation to urban space anticipating the narrator s. move away from the city to the anonymous suburbia of the Northeast 20 Ellis here initiates. Lunar Park s many references to the space in which the figure of the author and the practice. 49th Parallel Vol 28 Spring 2012 Lutton,ISSN 17535794 online. of authorship are constructed precisely through illustration of the way in which this space is. for Bret determined by the critical context in which he initially existed That this was itself. linked to his parallel geospatial context suggests that Ellis whose novel consistently toys. with notions of Bret as being of dubious literary reputation stresses the possibility that the. authorial figure is writing himself into a context which develops beyond the origins of. affectlessness which initially facilitated it 21, Lunar Park in this way is underpinned by the renegotiation of critical heritage from. a spatial as well as temporal distance and is particularly illustrative of the impact of this. process on contemporary authorial practice This is evident for example when Ellis s Brat. Pack contemporary Jay McInerney visits the narrator s home in the posh suburbs 22. occasioning a disjunctive comparison between Bret s current situation and his geospatial. and authorial pasts This echoes the ways in which negotiations of space impacted on the. formation and articulation of the narrative identities of Ellis s earlier protagonists Less Than. Zero for example presents Clay s apparently affectless narrative within a. psychogeographical context in which it might have previously been more coherent As. already noted Clay s narrative is frequently punctuated by italicised flashback sequences. which usually following a synaesthetic trigger propel it from listless description of the. geographical present to more deliberate orientation within the psychogeographical past. Moreover the entire novel could be read as a geographical flashback its final words after. I left figure what has previously appeared to be a delineation of contemporary geography as. remembered underlining that for Ellis the narrative present and the geographical past are. often intertwined, Before considering this issue in more detail it is useful to expand upon the kind of. physical and mental geographical environment in which Ellis operates Particularly it is. worth clarifying exactly what can be understood by the term psychogeographical in relation. 49th Parallel Vol 28 Spring 2012 Lutton,ISSN 17535794 online.
to his work It is impossible to address the subject of psychogeography without referring to. the fl neur the nineteenth century explorer of the city and of Paris specifically who. drifted through the streets in a concerted aimlessness observing and noting the irregularities. of the environment he encountered The role of the psychogeographer has subsequently been. expanded and developed by a number of writers and thinkers notably Guy Debord whose. definitive 1955 essay Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography stressed. psychogeographical thinking as a way in which to explore the interaction of behaviour and. the urban environment Debord called for the investigation of the arrangement of the. elements of the urban setting in close relation with the sensations they provoke 23 This. foreshadowed the work of Michel de Certeau whose study The practice of everyday life. features a chapter on Walking in the City which Americanised and expanded the definition. of psychogeographical relations to urban space Following de Certeau it was no longer only. the fl neur who could negotiate meaning in the city but also the voyeur a more detached. figure whose relation to urban space is conducted at something of a remove from the top of. the World Trade Center to give de Certeau s most famous example 24 This perspective also. recalls the figure of the stalker an allegedly more manic and uncontrolled fl neur of a kind. foregrounded by Baudelaire who believed that the modern city he inhabited with its. increased levels of noise and danger to the pedestrian prohibited the whimsical kind of. fl nerie practised by his predecessors 25, None of this might seem of particular relevance to Ellis whose depictions of urban. life are equally not commensurable with the contemporary British delineations of. psychogeography in for example the bleak urban landscapes of J G Ballard or the more. whimsical musings of Will Self 26 Not all contemporary definitions of the psychogeographic. are alien to the kind of textual cartographies fashioned by Ellis however In an essay entitled. Desert spectacular which fittingly appears in an edited collection which treats the subject. 49th Parallel Vol 28 Spring 2012 Lutton,ISSN 17535794 online. of the fl neur and strongly evokes American geography as perceived by Baudrillard. 49th Parallel Vol 28 Spring 2012 Lutton ISSN 17535794 online 1 East is not East the Strange Authorial Psychogeography of Bret Easton Ellis Alison Lutton St Hugh s College Oxford1 In the first chapter of Bret Easton Ellis s Lunar Park 2005 the author or rather his pseudoautobiographical protagonist Bret relates his experience of travelling around the

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