Rules of Attraction (Ellis)

Author Bio

Birth—March 7, 1964
Where—Los Angeles, California, USA
Education—B.A., Bennington College (Vermont)
Currently—lives in New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA

Bret Easton Ellis, an American novelist and short story writer, once regarded as one of the so-called literary Brat Pack, (which also included Tama Janowitz and Jay McInerney) is a self-proclaimed "moralist." Ellis employs a technique of linking novels with common, recurring characters.

Ellis was raised in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley, the son of Robert Martin Ellis, a wealthy property developer, and Dale Ellis, a homemaker. His parents divorced in 1982. He was educated at The Buckley School, where he did not distinguish himself; then he took a music-based course at Bennington College in Vermont, which is thinly disguised as Camden College in all of his novels. He was a part-time musician in 1980s bands such as The Parents before his first book was published.

Less Than Zero, a tale of disaffected, rich teenagers of Los Angeles, was praised by critics and sold well. He moved to New York City in 1987 for the publication of his second novel, The Rules of Attraction, which follows a group of sexually promiscuous college students. Although it sold fairly well, Ellis admits he felt he had "fallen off," after the novel failed to match the success of his debut effort.

That novel introduced Patrick Bateman, who would become the principal character of his controversial third novel, the graphically violent novel American Psycho. Originally intended to be published by Simon & Schuster, it was withdrawn after external protests from groups such as the NOW and others due to the alleged misogynistic nature of the book. The novel was later published by Vintage in 1991. Some consider American Psycho, whose protagonist, Patrick Bateman, is both a cartoonishly materialistic yuppie and a serial killer, to be an example of transgressive art. The novel has achieved considerable cult status.

His collection of short stories, The Informers, was released in 1994, while his publishers waited on the promised fourth novel. His fourth novel, Glamorama, published in 1998, is set in the world of high fashion. The story follows a male model who becomes entangled in a bizarre terrorist organization composed entirely of other models. Glamorama plays with themes of media, celebrity, and political violence and, like its predecessor American Psycho, uses surrealism to convey a sense of postmodern dread.

Lunar Park, released in 2005, uses the form of a celebrity memoir to tell a ghost story about the novelist "Bret Easton Ellis," and his chilling experiences in the apparently haunted home he shares with his wife and son. In keeping with his usual style, Ellis mixes absurd comedy with a bleak and violent vision. In this semi-autobiographical novel, the fictional Bret continues both transient affairs and long-term relationships with men and women at various points in the novel. Critical reaction to the novel was mostly positive, with many critics endeared by the tones of wistfulness and sentimentality Ellis had achieved.

When asked a 2002 interview whether or not he was gay, Ellis explained that he does not identify himself as gay or straight. He explained that he is comfortable to be thought of as gay, bisexual or heterosexual and that he enjoys playing with his persona, identifying variously as gay, straight and bi to different people over the years.

In an August 2005 New York Times article, "Bret Easton Ellis: The Man in the Mirror," Ellis revealed that his best friend and lover for six years, Michael Wade Kaplan, died in 2004 at the age of 30. Ellis described their partnership as being a "very loose kind" and "not particularly conventional" as "neither one of us was interested in the lifestyle." Kaplan's death left Ellis bereft and experiencing what he describes as "a midlife crisis" which acted as a "big catalyst" in helping Ellis finish Lunar Park, adding "a new layer of wistfulness and melancholy to the writing" that had not been there before."

Lunar Park was dedicated to Kaplan and Ellis's father, Robert, who died in 1992 and about whom he speaks openly in interviews promoting the novel. Ellis describes feeling liberated by completing the novel which allowed him to come to terms with many of the unresolved issues regarding his father. In his author Q&A on the Random House website, Ellis comments on their relationship, which left him with a lot of damage. Now older, Ellis describes how his opinion of his father changed over the prior 15 years while writing Glamorama, in which the central conspiracy concerns the relationship of a father and son. Even earlier, the character of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho was based on his father. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

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