Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

G ama

(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Vacuous celebrities singing “We all live in a yellow limousine.” Then again, it was meant to be a satire.

The author of American Psycho and Less Than Zero this is set in and satirizes the 1990s, specifically celebrity culture and consumerism.

It features models-turned-terrorists. A character remarks, “basically, everyone was a sociopath…and all the girls’ hair was chignoned.” The novel plays upon the conspiracy thriller conceit of someone “behind all the awful events”, to dramatize the revelation of a world of random horror.

Ellis drops names in Glamorama so often that Entertainment Weekly describes “Nary a sentence… escapes without a cameo from someone famous, quasi-famous, or formerly famous. In fact, in some sentences, Ellis cuts out those pesky nouns and verbs and simply lists celebrities.” Namedropping and commoditization have a depersonalizing effect (a world reduced to “sheen and brands”); as the reviewer for The Harvard Crimson observes, “When Victor undergoes a transformation to a law student, we know he is different because he now wears a Brooks Brothers suit and drinks Diet Coke. London and Paris become nothing more than a different collection of recognizable proper nouns (Notting Hill and Irvine Welsh in the first case; Chez Georges and Yves Saint Laurent in the second).”

Victor Ward, a model with perfect abs who exists in magazines and gossip columns and whose life resembles an ultra-hip movie, is living with one beautiful model and having an affair with another. He is the novel’s lead character who lives by his catchphrase mantra “the better you look, the more you see”. As Harvard Crimson observes, “His lifestyle is the extreme of everything the current culture worships: he can’t avoid thinking in brand names and image and speaks with lines from pop songs. As narrator, “Victor’s perceptions” sum up “[the glamor world’s] disconnection from what the rest of us consider “real life”… [where] Everything he sees is a brand name.” CNN speculates when Victor begins speaking to the novel’s “film crew” (one of its literary devices), that this could mean that the character is schizophrenic. Victor comes across “oddly homophobic for a member of the pansexual New York fashion scene”; when his gay assistant accuses “I know for a fact you’ve had sex with guys in the past”, he retorts that he did “the whole hip bi thing for about three hours back in college”.

Fred Palakon first appears a quarter of the way into the novel, when he offers to pay Victor $300,000 to track down his former Camden classmate Jamie Fields, a double-agent working in the terrorist organisation with which Victor becomes involved.

The author said he is comfortable to be thought of as homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual and that he enjoys playing with his persona, identifying variously as gay, straight, and bisexual to different people over the years.

Of this book, he said ‘It’s definitely the book that I can tell—I don’t know if other people can tell but I can tell as a writer–-is probably the most divisive that I’ve written. It has an equal number of detractors as it does fans. It doesn’t really hold true with the other books. It was the one that took the longest to write, and the one that seemed the most important at the time. It’s an unwieldy book… I like it.’

G ama 2Quotations:

“Yoki Nakamuri was approved for this floor,” Peyton says.
“Oh yeah?” I ask. “Approved by who?”
“Approved by, well, moi,” Peyton says.
“Who the fuck is Moi?” I ask. “I have no fucking idea who this Moi is, baby.”
“I’m Moi,” Peyton says, nodding. “Moi is, um, French.”

“The mannequin springs grotesquely to life in the freezing room, screeching, arching its body up, again and again, lifting itself off the examination table, tendons in its neck straining, and purple foam starts pouring out of its anus, which also has a wire, larger, thicker, inserted into it…there is, I’m noticing, no camera crew around.”

“‘But Bobby I’m not…political,’ I blurt out vaguely.
‘Everyone is, Victor,’ Bobby says, turning away again. ‘It’s something you can’t help.’…
…’We’re killing civilians,’ I whisper.
‘Twenty-five thousand homicides were committed in our country last year, Victor.’
‘But…I didn’t commit any of them, Bobby’
Bobby smiles patiently, making his way back to where I’m sitting. I look at him hopefully.
‘Is it so much better to be uninvolved, Victor?’
‘Yes,’ I whisper. ‘I think it is.’
‘Everyone’s involved,’ he whispers back. ‘That’s something you need to know.'”

G ama 3Specks—specks all over the third panel, see?—no, that one—the second one up from the floor and I wanted to point this out to someone yesterday but a photo shoot intervened and Yaki Nakamari or whatever the hell the designer’s name is—a master craftsman not—mistook me for someone else so I couldn’t register the complaint, but, gentlemen—and ladies—there they are: specks, annoying, tiny specks, and they don’t look accidental but like they were somehow done by a machine—so I don’t want a lot of description, just the story, streamlined, no frills, the lowdown: who, what, where, when and don’t leave out why, though I’m getting the distinct impression by the looks on your sorry faces that why won’t get answered—now, come on, goddamnit, what’s the story?

We’ll slide down the surface of things…

‘As a general rule you shouldn’t expect too much from people darling,’ and then I kiss her on the cheek.

‘I just had my makeup done, so you can’t make me cry.’

She staggers over to the bathroom door and grabs the edge of it to balance herself and blood starts running down her legs in thin rivulets and when she lifts up the robe we both can see her underwear soaked with blood and she pulls it off, panicking, and suddenly a huge gush of blood expels itself from beneath the robe, splashing all over the bathroom floor.

She gasps, a thick noise comes out of her throat and she doubles over, grabbing her stomach, then she screams. Looking surprised and still clutching her stomach, she vomits will staggering backwards, collapsing onto the bathroom floor. There are strands of tissue hanging out of her.

I’m Christian Bale”, Russel, says, taking [her hand].
“Oh right,” she says. “Yeah, I thought I recognized you. You’re the actor.

The stars are real.
The future is that mountain.

“The better you look, the more you see.”
“Baby, when you were young and your heart was an open book, you used to say live and let live. You know you did, you know you did, you know you did.”
“At first she was so inexpressive and indifferent that I wanted to know more about her. I envied that blankness – it was the opposite of helplessness or damage or craving or suffering or shame. But she was never really happy and already, in a matter of days, she had reached a stage in our relationship where she no longer really cared about me or any thoughts or ideas I might have had.”
“What? Did we end up hating each other? Did we end up the way we thought we always knew would? Did I end up wearing khakis because of that fucking ad?”
“Baby, Andy once said that beauty is a sign of intelligence.’
She turns slowly to look at me. ‘Who, Victor? Who? Andy who?’ She coughs, blowing her nose. ‘Andy Kaufman? Andy Griffith? Who in the hell told you this? Andy Rooney?’
‘Warhol,’ I say softly, hurt. ‘Baby…”
“How is your father?” she asks disinterestedly.
“A contrivance,” I mutter. “A plot device.”

“The Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash into Me” played over the montage, not that the lyrics had anything to do with the images the song was played over but it was “haunting”, it was “moody”, it was “summing things up”, it gave the footage an “emotional resonance” that I guess we were incapable of capturing ourselves. At first my feelings were basically so what? But then I suggested other music: “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails, but I was told that the rights were sky-high and that the song was “too ominous” for this sequence; Nada Surf’s “Popular” had “too many minor chords”, it didn’t fit the “mood of the piece,” it was – again – “too ominous.” When I told them I seriously did not think things could get any more fucking ominous than they already were, I was told, “Things get very much more ominous, Victor,” and then I was left alone.”
“Everything suddenly seems displaced, subtle gradations erase borders, but it’s more forceful than that.”
“Café Flore is packed, shimmering, every table filled. Bentley notices this with a grim satisfaction but Bentley feels lost. He’s still haunted by the movie Grease and obsessed with legs that he always felt were too skinny though no one else did and it never hampered his modeling career and he’s still not over a boy he met at a Styx concert in 1979 in a stadium somewhere in the Midwest, outside a town he has not been back to since he left it at eighteen, and that boy’s name was Cal, who pretended to be straight even though he initially fell for Bentley’s looks but Cal knew Bentley was emotionally crippled and the fact that Bentley didn’t believe in heaven didn’t make him more endearing so Cal drifted off and inevitably became head of programming at HBO for a year or two. Bentley sits down, already miked, and lights a cigarette. Next to them Japanese tourists study maps, occasionally snap photos. This is the establishing shot.”

“when you were young and your heart was an open book you used to say live and let live.”

“We all live in a yellow limousine,” Baxter sing-laughs. -A yellow limousine,”

We’ll slide down the surface of things . . .

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