So we wanted to kick off our new monthly Grazia Book Club with a bang, and boy, did we ever. On Friday night we hosted a very special audience with one of the most influential and provocative authors around – Bret Easton Ellis; the man who wrote American Psycho.
Ellis became an instant star when, in 1985, aged just 21, he released Less Than Zero, and he has been challenging readers ever since. Now he’s back (after a break of 5 years since the publication of his most recent book Lunar Park) with Imperial Bedrooms, the follow-up to his debut novel, which revisits the narrator, Clay, who is now – like the author – a 40-something screenwriter living in LA.
Interviewed by Guardian columnist Decca Aitkenhead, in front of 180 Grazia readers at Waterstones on Kensington High Street, Ellis claimed he was “shocked that Less than Zero still continues to connect with people.” Yet after re-reading the book a few years ago, he found himself wondering what had happened to that cast of characters.
Once thing’s for sure, as Aitkenhead observed, those characters “haven’t got any nicer..[they're] monstrously dark and alienated …What is it about depravity that fascinates you?”
But the author claimed “I really do like all my narrators. I find things about them all that I empathize with. His [the narrator, Clay’s] actions are depraved… but depravity is interesting. “
Ellis is nothing if not a provocateur “If I am a misogynist does it make me less interesting as an author?” he mused aloud at one point “I think most men are [misogynists]. I think most men have complicated feelings about women and their sexuality and it drives them a bit nuts. And I think a kind of misogyny appears.”
Expanding on the point he said “[But] so what if someone's like a homophobe? Or someone is a racist…well, those are specific. That’s much more specific: homophobia or racism…I don’t know...it just seems like there’s so many more women than there are gay people or like, black people in this country…"
At other times he seemed keen to distance himself from his characters and their actions. Of writing the novel’s most graphically violent and shocking passage, he said “it’s just writing.those passages don’t give me a deep dark thrill any more than passages about sex arouse me…”
Despite claiming to be “totally hungov er” from his celebrity-studded book launch the night before, the allegedly reformed former hellraiser requested tequila in the Green Room, rather than the champagne that was being enjoyed by Grazia’s readers – prompting him to marvel, somewhat hypocritically, throughout the night “Brits can really drink… “.
He was also amused to see cupcakes being served at the event; “a cupcake plays a bad role in the book...there are cupcakes laced with something awful in them...I have a feeling noone is going to eat the rest of those cupcakes now!”. And the cake theme continued when a besotted Grazia reader arrived with a home-baked cake for her favourite author - complete with icing depicting the cover design of Imperial Bedrooms.
Looking dapper in a black suit and thick glasses, the man behind the shocking writing and incendiary statements turned out to be very very funny and irresistibly charming, particularly during the extended Q+A session with the audience, and the meet-and-greet book signing. And as we observed the author continuously scanning the room throughout the event, staring intently into each and every face, we wonder if any of our readers might be appearing in one of Ellis’s next novels sometime soon...?
Check back on Grazia Daily later this week to watch the video from the event.
Grazia will be hosting a live webchat about Imperial Bedrooms right here on Grazia Daily on Monday, August 2nd at 1pm, for those who would like to discuss the book.
Buy the hardback edition of Imperial Bedrooms for £12.99 (£4 off RRP) and free shipping from Waterstones here.
We’ll be announcing the author for our August event in Grazia in the next couple of weeks.
by Angela Buttolph