Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero

3.9 149
by Bret Easton Ellis
     
 

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Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980's, this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait
of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, in a
world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money a place devoid of feeling or
hope.

Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern

Overview

Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980's, this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait
of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, in a
world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money a place devoid of feeling or
hope.

Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college and re-enters a landscape of
limitless privilege and absolute moral entropy, where everyone drives Porches, dines at Spago,
and snorts mountains of cocaine. He tries to renew feelings for his girlfriend, Blair, and for his
best friend from high school, Julian, who is careering into hustling and heroin. Clay's holiday
turns into a dizzying spiral of desperation that takes him through the relentless parties in glitzy
mansions, seedy bars, and underground rock clubs and also into the seamy world of L.A. after dark.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140109276
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/19/1987
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles. This is the first thing I hear when I come back to the city. Blair picks me up from LAX and mutters this under her breath as her car drives up the onramp. She says, "People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles." Though that sentence shouldn't bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. Nothing else seems to matter. Not the fact that I'm eighteen and it's December and the ride on the plane had been rough and the couple from Santa Barbara, who were sitting across from me in first class, had gotten pretty drunk. Not the mud that had splattered the 1egs of my jeans, which felt kind of cold and loose, earlier that day at an airport in New Hampshire. Not the stain on the arm of the wrinkled, damp shirt I wear, a shirt which had looked fresh and clean this morning. Not the tear on the neck of my gray argyle vest, which seems vaguely more eastern than before, especially next to Blair's clean tight jeans and her pale-blue T-shirt. All of this seems irrelevant next to that one sentence. It seems easier to hear that people are afraid to merge rather than "I'm pretty sure Muriel is anorexic" or the singer on the radio crying out about magnetic waves. Nothing else seems to matter to me but those ten words. Not the warm winds, which seem to propel the car down the empty asphalt freeway, or the faded smell of marijuana which still faintly permeates Blair's car. All it comes down to is that I'm a boy coming home for a month and meeting someone whom I haven't seen for four months and people are afraid to merge.

Blair drives off the freeway and comes to a red light. A heavy gust of wind rocks the car for a momentand Blair smiles and says something about maybe putting the top up and turns to a different radio station. Coming to my house, Blair has to stop the car since there are these five workmen lifting the remains of palm trees that have fallen during the winds and placing the leaves and pieces of dead bark in a big red truck, and Blair smiles again. She stops at my house and the gate's open and I get out of the car, surprised to feel how dry and hot it is. I stand there for a pretty long time and Blair, after helping me lift the suitcases out of the trunk, grins at me and asks, "What's wrong?" and I say, "Nothing," and Blair says, "You look pale," and I shrug and we say goodbye and she gets into her car and drives away.

Nobody's home. The air conditioner is on and the house smells like pine. There's a note on the kitchen table that tells me that my mother and sisters are out, Christmas shopping. From where I'm standing I can see the dog lying by the pool, breathing heavily, asleep, its fur ruffled by the wind. I walk upstairs, past the new maid, who smiles at me and seems to understand who I am, and past my sisters' rooms, which still both look the same, only with different GQ cutouts pasted on the wall, and enter my room and see that it hasn't changed. The walls are still white; the records are still in place; the television hasn't been moved; the venetian blinds are still open, just as I had left them. It looks like my mother and the new maid, or maybe the old maid, cleaned out my closet while I was gone. There's a pile of comic books on my desk with a note on top of them that reads, "Do you still want these?"; also a message that Julian called and a card that says "Fuck Christmas" on it. I open it and it says "Let's Fuck Christmas Together" on the inside, an invitation to Blair's Christmas party. I put the card down and notice that it's beginning to get really cold in my room.

I take my shoes off and lie on the bed and feel my brow to see if I have a fever. I think I do. And with my hand on my forehead I look up with caution at the poster encased in glass that hangs on the wall above my bed, but it hasn't changed either. It's the promotional poster for an old Elvis Costello record. Elvis looks past me, with this wry, ironic smile on his lips, staring out the window. The word "Trust" hovering over his head, and his sunglasses, one lens red, the other blue, pushed down past the ridge of his nose so that you can see his eyes, which are slightly off center. The eyes don't look at me, though. They only look at whoever's standing by the window, but I'm too tired to get up and stand by the window.

I pick up the phone and call Julian, amazed that I actually can remember his number, but there's no answer. I sit up, and through the venetian blinds I can see the palm trees shaking wildly, actually bending, in the hot winds, and then I stare back at the poster and then turn away and then look back again at the smile and the mocking eyes, the red and blue glasses, and I can still hear people are afraid to merge and I try to get over the sentence, blank it out. I turn on MTV and tell myself I could get over it and go to sleep if I had some Valium and then I think about Muriel and feel a little sick as the videos begin to flash by.

Meet the Author

Bret Easton Ellis is the author of four novels and a collection of stories, which have been translated into twenty-seven languages. He divides his time between Los Angeles and New York City.

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Less Than Zero 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 147 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bret Easton Ellis writes this coming of age book with unrelenting grit and down-right graphic accounts of teenage life for the privledged LA-ites. Easton Ellis follows Clay, a socialite who slowly recognizes the reality he faces with his drug-laced friends, Julian and Blair. At times shocking, Clay becomes more engrossed in this over-indulgent world when he comes back home for Christmas break. It is difficult not to get the feeling that non of these characters actually care about one another unless they can provide them with more drugs or cruder forms of entertainment. Although you will see a tranformation in Clay from beginning to end, you will grind your teeth at his blatant inaction in serious situations. Easton Ellis' writing sytle is genius: Clay's narrative changes with his use and non-use of drugs, and his fleeting memories of Julian in earlier years are crushing. This is an incredible debut novel from Bret Easton Ellis. I look forward to the 'in-the-works' follow-up to Less Than Zero.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I do not recommend this book! I read American Psycho first and hated it, but I thought I'd give the author another chance and read Less Than Zero. It is just as bad! The self-absorbed L.A. socialite characters at all are not interesting-- I don't care if he means to be cynical; it's not ironic, it's just shallow! This book is very predictable in its plot and its syntax. It reads like a soap opera, dropping names of movie stars and fancy restaurants, while following different characters through their trials with drugs, casual sex, bisexuality, insane materialism, more drugs, and prostitution. The violence and sex Ellis uses to glamorize his characters doesn't bring any more interest to this book, but rather, just another reason for me to throw up my hands in disgust.
Marnee801 More than 1 year ago
If you like to read about pathetic rich teenagers getting high then this is a good book. Otherwise it was awful! It has a lot of drug use, sex, and a raping of 12 year old girl. The book is fairly short but it took me forever to finish it because I just couldn't stay interested. If you really want to read this book, I suggest you borrow it from your local library.
Nichole Stark More than 1 year ago
after reading so many great reviews I thought this book was going to be something amazing. I was sorely disappointed. I couldnt get over the odd writing style, lack of detail, and bland one dimensional characters. The stories were obsured and were surely only there for shock value, but lacking in detail or emotion. This left me feeling bored rather than shocked. The only description of characters you ever get are that they are blonde and tan. Everyone. I cannot put into words how annoying I found this. there was no real story that I could get from this book either. No character growth, no plot. It was just a flat, boring read about young adults who are all blonde, tan, bisexual, and so devoid of emotion or thoufht that you might as well call them robots.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My friend first handed me 'Less Than Zero' and said something around the lines of 'it's good, I think you'll like it.' I had never read anything by Ellis before so I figured I'd take a step into the unknown. If I had known that this book was going to eat away all of my time I would have squared off my all of my affairs before I began reading. Though Ellis is proclaimde trite and overbearing I believe that his style of writing puts great emphsis on what the character is thinking rather than what Ellis himself was thinking. This dark and twisted tale of LA in the 80's not only enthralls the reader, but thrashes him around unforgivingly. An amazing piece of work, especially considering he wrote it when he was 18, some of my good friends are 18, I just can't imagine going to B&N and seeing one of their books on the shelf, its just wild.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I come from the same background that the protagonist Clay comes from (granted, in New York, not LA...) and yet I find his portrayal to be very cynical and missing many important details. The story is a bit exaggerated and I can barely imagine the apathy shown by the character. I feel no sympathy for him as a person.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable. Dark. Ellis' archetypes can be seen developing here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great!  Less Than Zero offers a look into the LA party scene in the 1980's. The book is not easy to wrap your head around but if you take the time to get to know the characters and their lives, the book is easier to understand. Less Than Zero is a disturbing look into the reality of the LA party scene. The documentarian esque writing pulls you in within the first page and carries you to the last word. Ellis is a great writer and his use of imagery and your imagination is the key to understanding this book. The book contains a "Sofia Coppola movie quality in writing". Her movies a normally bland and seem to have no life until you dig deeper into the characters and find out who they truly are. This book is exactly that and it's a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first time I read this book, I agreed with most of the one and two star ratings. I thought it was odd and depressing and I had no idea what to think when I finished. When I read it the second time, I realized it was one of my favorite books. Clay isn't as difficult to relate to as some reviewers claim because at some point, you will feel this jaded or someone who's supposed to support you (like Clay's psychiatrist) will let you down. If you read this book and didn't like it, I urge to you wait a month, a year or what have you and read it again. It will be worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not yet finished with the book but am thoroughly enjoying. Bret's attention to detail mirrors that of American Psycho, my all-time favorite book. The reader is submerged, and drowns in the emptiness of our protagonist, Clay, and watches him drown as well. His life is a hollow shell, filled with overabundant drug use and meaningless sex. His friends carry equal parts fake skin and careless personality. This book is nihilism in every sense of the word and BEE is by far my favorite author.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ellis has created with his books a excellent satire of the 1980's. If you lived through them you would understand his books. That means if you were under 15during the 80's you will not get what he is protraying. If you were over 25 you won't get it. Ellis is one of the most orginal and distinctive voices of my generation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ragdoll21 More than 1 year ago
I'm indifferent about the book, I was kinda confussed alittle when it would jump to past experince. But for it being his first noval and he wrote it when he was 19 I can understand the writting of it. Love the Movie but don't get the book and movie as the same thing. The charater are the same but the movie went with a different approch from the story. overall I'm only rating 3 stars, I just wish there were more feelings towards the main charater.
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