Bring up novelist Bret Easton Ellis around a dinner table, and it's almost inevitable that somebody will say American Psycho
was gross. In extreme cases, people may leave the room. Ellis's violent streak tends to have that effect on people, and as it turns out, it has the same effect on Bret Easton Ellis.
Years after he wrote American Psycho, he read it over and decided
it was "really hard core," he told the audience last night at San
Francisco's Commonwealth Club. "The violence shocked and upset me," he
The night's live interview with book critic and author Tom
Barbash kicks off Ellis's current book tour (Imperial Bedrooms
is his latest). Not having toured in a while, he admitted that his
public speaking abilities were a little rusty. But a less-polished
Ellis, as it turned out, was pretty
Perhaps the most important thing to know about Bret Easton Ellis, apparently, is that he has daddy issues. "Every book I've written is about my father," he said a few times, in a few different ways.
Also interesting: Ellis's mentor at Bennington was Joe McGinniss, the subject of The
Journalist and the Murderer
, Janet Malcolm's fascinating takedown of both McGinniss and the profession of journalism. (McGinniss is also the guy who just moved next door to Sarah Palin
to write his book about her.)
A writer Ellis doesn't know very well, on the other hand, is Tama Janowitz. She was the third member of "the literary brat pack"
-- a group of young writers in the 80's who supposedly hung out all the time. That whole thing was a strange invention of the media, Ellis explained, but it actually became a catalyst for his lasting friendship with the third alleged brat packer, Jay McInerney.
As for the films his work has inspired, Ellis liked The Rules of Attraction
best. He was significantly less thrilled with American Psycho
, which he considers a book that did not need to become a movie. "It doesn't fully work as a film," he said.
On the publishing industry: Sorry young writers. He doesn't think the publishing industry is what it used to be. "Publishers are less interested in grooming writers," he said. Also, he thinks "people are reading less and people are distracted by technology." He then admitted he is one of those people distracted by technology.
On process, Ellis expounded on his rigorous outlining process. The outline winds up far longer than the actual novel, he said. And when he's completed the novel, Ellis admits that's it's sort of like he's written out a dream. "There's no huge game plan," he said. As soon as he said it, he seemed embarrassed. "That was not a good answer," he said. "I could have given a fake answer...I'm in the mood."
As things were winding up, an audience member asked if Ellis would say some things about his father. "No," he said. "I'm having too good a time."