I haven’t read any other books by Bret Ellis after his American Psycho (1991) and I thought I’d give Lunar Park a go. Written in 2006 it follows the life of the author post his literary success into a life of debauchery and then domestic bliss.
“I had dreamed of something so different from what reality was now offering up, but that dream had been a blind man’s vision. That dream was a miracle. The morning was fading. And I remembered yet again that I was a tourist here.”
At first, I thought it was an auto-biography (no, I did not read any reviews before I got started) and I was surprised to see elements of the supernatural sneak in from the middle of the book. There’s a haunted doll, a lot of uneasiness in the house where he lives with his wife and two children and weird emails that keep coming through at 2:40 AM from the bank of his father.
There’s a lot of the plot revolving around the father-son relationship, the first one between Bret and his dad and then between Bret and his son Robert.
After the 70% mark, I was truly and utterly confused. The plot kept on jumping from one idea to the other and the same unreliable narrator I’ve spotted in American Psycho is back! Some of the events that happen in the book are hearsay or only confirmed by another party and not by the person itself. There is a disassociation between the narrator and the writer inside the narrator who seems to appear at odd points and give hints on how the plot should go forward or indicate that something weird is going on.
I wouldn’t say this is a bad book but it ain’t good either. It’s a satire of Hollywood and an ode to decadence, a constant stream of drug-induced visions and not even the kids are safe from this: all of the progeny seem to be heavily medicated to the legal limits. (PS: they could have used some of Mr. Ellis’ work to write the scripts to BoJack Horseman!)
The good parts:
The references to the effects that American Psycho had had on the Americans (leading up to the book being banned in 11 states). The first chapter of this book is a brilliant satiric synopsis of Ellis’ entire career. Sharply written and bitingly acerbic, it’s a must-read for any Ellis fan.
“The murders and torture were in fact fantasies fueled by [Patrick Bateman’s] rage and fury about how life in America was structured and how this had – no matter the size of his wealth – trapped him. The fantasies were an escape. This was the book’s thesis. It was about society and manners and mores, and not about cutting up women. How could anyone who read the book not see this?”
The bad parts:
Ellis seems to be unable to make up his mind as to what the book’s story is about – it starts off depicting his earlier life (sex, drugs, booze, more sex and drugs) before it drifts over into an alcoholic trying to bond with his son, then suddenly things are possessed, the house is haunted, there is someone abducting young boys, a serial killer is on the loose, his marriage is falling apart, his son hates him, he’s being stalked, and then the monsters arrive.
A writer’s physical life is basically one of stasis, and to combat this constraint, an opposite world and another self have to be constructed daily. …the half world of a writer’s life encourages pain and drama, and defeat is good for art: if it was day we made it night, if it was love we made it hate, serenity becomes chaos, kindness became viciousness, God became the devil, a daughter became a whore.