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Donna Tartt is the author of the novels The Secret History and The Little Friend, and is currently at work on a third novel. Read her review of Imperial Bedrooms:
As Dante’s hell is circular, so is Bret Easton Ellis’s L.A. Everywhere in Imperial Bedrooms there is a sense of time frozen, time collapsed and time rounding back on itself in various diabolical ways. The novel marks a return to the characters of Less Than Zero, twenty-five years on, where it’s still the same old scene, camera flashes and sun-blinded gloss--only this time, there’s a persistent echo of unease, the sadness of moving in a young world while no longer young in it. Clay, casting teenagers for his eighties period film, ominously named "The Listeners," finds himself eyeing the sixteen-year-old actors dressed in the style of his youth and thinking they are friends of his, though of course they aren’t. His old friend Julian, affable as usual, is rumored to be running a teenage hooker service ("Like old times," as Clay comments acidly), while Rip, he of the trust fund that "might never run out," is in his middle age so disfigured from plastic surgery as to be practically unrecognizable, though he still has the whispery voice of the handsome boy he once was.
This is the most Chandleresque of Bret’s books, and the most deeply steeped in L.A. noir. No one is trustworthy; everyone is playing everyone else. Moreover, as in all Bret’s novels, fiction collides with reality, and fiction with fiction. Clay is being followed, for reasons he comes to suspect may have to do with the girl he’s fallen for. There are mysterious texts (from a dead boy? the previous tenant of Clay’s apartment?) a message written in red on a bathroom mirror: Disappear here. Running throughout are cocktail-party rumors of vans in the desert, ski masks, chains and mutilations, mass graves, a videotaped execution, though--as will be no surprise to any reader of Bret’s books---the rumors aren’t entirely rumors, in fact, the truth is rather worse than anything one has imagined. But what stays with one is not so much the concluding note of betrayal and horror as the mournfulness of the book, its eerie sense of stasis: clear skies, vacuum-sealed calm, the BlackBerry flashing on the nightstand in the middle of the night, everywhere the subliminal hum of menace, while the surgically-altered Rip brings his lips close to the ear and whispers in a voice so quiet as to almost be swallowed by the surrounding emptiness: Descansado. Relax.(Photo © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)
Ellis, Bret Easton
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