Obits and pieces

12 02 2010

Recently we were encouraged to write an obituary for a living person of our choice. I used the opportunity to pay tribute to one of the best authors alive today, Bret Easton Ellis. Here is what I would have to say about the great man if he died today.

IN HIS 1987 novel The Rules of Attraction, Bret Easton Ellis wrote: “You will never know me.”

Now, after his mysterious death, the 45-year-old Californian author leaves behind more questions than answers.

And an unexplained passing, prompting wide-reaching explanations from a multitude of friends and acquaintances, is surely the way he would have wanted to go.

Forever an enigma, Ellis rocked up on the literary scene in a wash of overpriced denim and exuberant metaphor.

A cocktail of sex, drugs and hyperbole made his debut novel Less Than Zero an instant hit, while the rushed Brat-Pack film adaptation only served to demonstrate the unreplicable quality of his prose.

No one could explain the secret to Ellis’ writing.

Blending pity and envy, his portraits of privileged existence allow readers a glimpse of something they will never be part of.

Yet, far from offering simple escapism, Ellis has consistently shocked and disgusted his audiences to the point that a snapshot is all they could feel comfortable with.

The gaps between his later novels, often as long as five years, were punctuated by speculation about his private life.

By dealing with the vulnerability of celebrity in Glamorama and developing a fictionalised self in Lunar Park, many felt they were being invited to probe into the existence of a surprisingly secretive individual.

The truth is far more intriguing.

Ellis at a Lunar Park book signing

Just like his characters, Ellis invited reverence and revulsion in equal measure.

And his semi-autobiographical novel Lunar Park only added to the aura of mystery set up by the morally-ambiguous American Psycho and Ellis’ own morally-ambiguous existence.

The overlap between his life and work, culminating in their disturbing convergence in Lunar Park, will leave fans holding out hope that his death is just a plot-device, or even a valuable sub-plot in a much larger and hitherto unread story.

Publishers Knopf have not yet announced whether they will release Ellis’ final novel, Imperial Bedrooms, which was set to hit bookshelves in May.

All that is known of the work, a long-awaited sequel to Less Than Zero, is its opening line: “They had made a movie about us.”

Surely the mystery of Bret Easton Ellis’ life will be unravelled on the silver screen.

He would surely hate the commodification of his life, but secretly love the attention.

*Disclaimer: My details of Ellis’ death and the future publication of Imperial Bedrooms are fictionalised this article was just written as an exercise.