Review Imperial Badrooms

Rabu, 24 Oktober 2012

Imperial Bedrooms

Bret Easton Ellis’s debut, Less Than Zero, is one of the signal novels of the last thirty years, and he now follows those infamous teenagers into an even more desperate middle age.

Clay, a successful screenwriter, has returned from New York to Los Angeles to help cast his new movie, and he’s soon drifting through a long-familiar circle. Blair, his former girlfriend, is married to Trent, an influential manager who’s still a bisexual philanderer, and their Beverly Hills parties attract various levels of fame, fortune and power. Then there’s Clay’s childhood friend Julian, a recovering addict, and their old dealer, Rip, face-lifted beyond recognition and seemingly even more sinister than in his notorious past.

But Clay’s own demons emerge once he meets a gorgeous young actress determined to win a role in his movie. And when his life careens completely out of control, he has no choice but to plumb the darkest recesses of his character and come to terms with his proclivity for betrayal.

Picador 2010

Indah: 743 – 2012
Mengambil setting dua puluh lima tahun setelah Less Than Zero, di novel ini para remaja Beverly Hills yang hidup tanpa tanggung jawab telah tumbuh dewasa dan yah... hidup mereka mengalami peningkatan (atau penurunan?) dari masa mudanya.
Julian, yang tentunya tidak mati OD seperti di filmnya, sudah alih profesi dari gigolo menjadi germo. Escort service-nya terdiri dari para calon aktor dan aktris yang banyak luntang-lantung di Beverly Hills sambil mencari kesempatan untuk mendapatkan audisi dan ketenaran yang mereka dambakan. Blair, mantan pacar Clay, menikah dengan Trent, si mantan model yang kini jadi manajer artis di Hollywood. Rip, pemasok narkoba yang gemar menyekap gadis di bawah umur di apartemennya, jadi semacam kingpin. Dan Clay...
Selain telah menjadi penulis yang naskah-naskahnya telah diangkat jadi film, Clay masih tetap useless jerk seperti waktu remaja. Lupakan tokoh Clay yang diperankan Andrew McCarthy, pemuda sok suci yang berusaha menolong sahabatnya yang tenggelam dalam kenistaan narkoba dan prostitusi. Clay si penulis naskah tipe orang yang memanfaatkan posisinya untuk menjebak aktris yang menginginkan peran dalam film yang ditulisnya, ke dalam pelukan dan ranjangnya. Hidupnya mulai rumit waktu ia terobsesi pada aktris muda bernama Rain Turner. Aktris yang bersedia melakukan apa saja buatnya demi mendapat sedikit dialog itu ternyata punya hubungan dengan beberapa teman lamanya. Rain rupanya salah satu pelacur (plus kekasih Julian), pernah berhubungan dengan Trent, dan guess what, Rip juga terobsesi dengannya hingga ingin menyingkirkan Julian yang menjadi penghalang. Lupakan Clay yang diperankan Andrew McCarthy, karena ketimbang menyelamatkan Julian, di novel ini ia malah bekerja sama dengan Rip untuk membunuh Julian. Sepertinya Julian lebih baik mati OD saja waktu masih remaja, daripada mati dengan 159 luka tusukan dari 3 pisau yang berbeda waktu sudah separo baya...
Ya, Clay, si "aku" dalam novel Ellis ini, bukanlah tokoh utama yang manis. Tidak selugu dan sebaik yang digambarkan versi film Less Than Zero. Bahkan Clay versi novel Less Than Zero pun rasanya masih lebih mending daripada Clay versi terkini yang kalau toh dibunuh tanpa kubur pun kita takkan jatuh simpati.
Novel ini dibuka dengan cara yang unik. Tokoh Clay mengeluhkan novel Less Than Zero, karena meski pengarangnya menyebutnya fiksi dan mengubah beberapa detail, tapi nama-namanya tidak diubah, sehingga novel itu membongkar kehidupan pribadinya dan teman-temannya. Tokoh Clay juga mengeluhkan versi film Less Than Zero, yang ditontonnya bersama Trent dan Julian di bioskop. Jelas Ellis menyelipkan pendapat pribadinya di sini:
"The movie was very different from the book in that there was nothing from the book in the movie. The book was blunt and had an honesty about it, whereas the movie was just a beautiful lie. In the movie I was played by an actor who actually looked more like me than the character the author portrayed in the book. I also suddenly became the movie's moral compass, spouting AA jargon, castigating everyone's drug use and trying to save Julian. Julian became the sentimentalized version of himself, acted by a talented, sad-faced clown..."
Hm, seandainya tokoh Julian tidak dibikin mati OD (untuk mengingatkan penonton akan bahaya narkoba?) di versi filmnya, akan adakah film Imperial Bedrooms, dengan Robert Downey Jr kembali memerankan tokoh yang sama, hanya saja di sini kematiannya lebih mengesankan? Um... 159 lubang tikaman di tempat yang tidak mematikan sehingga mati kehabisan darah... A cool way to die for Tony Stark and Sherlock Holmes!

David: Do not read this book. It's about despicable people doing despicable things. In other words, it's about being human in the most essential sense of the term. You will not like it because you have to like the characters you read about. Or because it's too dull or cold or passe. Or because it's misanthropic or misogynistic. It's really none of these things, but you'll think it is and say it is and you'll be angry and spiteful and write another tired anti-Ellis review. Another tired anti-postmodernism review.
Save your time. There are many great books you'll not have time to read during your too-short life. Let this be one of them. This, and White Noise maybe. And Jonathan Safran Foer.
Clutch desperately to the past. To the literature and music and films of your parents and their parents, and so on. They've said everything that needs to be said. And they've invented all the worthwhile ways of saying it. Now let's just sit back in our tufted wingbacks and regard it, complacently, religiously.
The remainder, after all -- our contribution to the conversation -- is only decadence, gimmickry, and superficiality.
How disgusting we are. How pathetically, beautifully, wonderfully disgusting. T.S. Eliot said so, I think. In a manner of speaking.

Eve: What I've learned from this book is that Bret Easton Ellis has totally lost it. I didn't want to believe it - I thought American Psycho was brilliant. I kinda sorta got Lunar Park. But this book seems, to me, a serious cry for help. I have NO idea why he turned Clay into Bret/Bateman, and I don't wanna know. The book had none of the brilliance of Less Than Zero, and towards the end, the violent sex just seemed to be written for shock value. OK, Mr. Ellis - I get it. You're crazy.

Caris: Some Asshole
1234 Some Street
Somewhere, AZ 85119
Jay McInerney
222 Whereveryoulive St
Probably, CA 90210
Dear Mr. McInerney,
I’m writing you today about a horrendous pile of shit you wrote in 2006 called The Good Life. In that book, you chronicled a few days in the life of some middle-aged guy in the wake of the 9/11 disaster. Your book sucked and, in all likelihood, continues to suck.
In 1984, you wrote a book called Bright Lights, Big City. It was not a bad book. It wasn’t really good, but it showed promise. Representing a starting point, that book gave a hint about where you were going. It seemed to me that you knew your characters and you knew your subject matter. That was why I was so surprised with The Good Life. I was looking forward to seeing you improve upon what you did with your first book. I wanted to see where your coke-fueled, self-obsessed characters ended up.
But you messed things up. You turned it into a romance of sorts. And a boring one at that. You should have stopped.
I’m sure you’re aware of the work of Bret Easton Ellis. You and he were lumped together in the eighties and hailed as key members of the “Brat Pack,” a core group of young writers who were changing things. And I’m sure you’re aware that Mr. Ellis has just written a new book entitled Imperial Bedrooms.
In this new work, Ellis revisits Less Than Zero, his first book. That was the one that was so like your own first novel. It was good. Better than yours.
As it turns out, this new book is better than yours, too. Ellis has aged, but in a good way. He revisits his old characters, something I wish you had done. He shows how they grow, but still remain stagnant. Situations change, but, really, people don’t.
Don’t worry, though. It wasn’t perfect. As a matter of fact, I think Less Than Zero was the more powerful book (I’m not even mentioning yours anymore because they’re not even in the same ballpark). Ellis did some weird shit. That’s become his problem. Ever since American Psycho, his shit’s been fucked up. In this interview where he sounded like a total tool, Ellis revealed that he intended to make this one a Raymond Chandler type mystery. It starts out like Less Than Zero, but then follows his vision perfectly.
Here’s the problem: he’s already done this. In Glamorama and American Psycho, he already incorporates these elements. He has some hidden feature, like double agent fashion models or the question of what is real, that he pretends to give you clues about. They’re not very revealing because his big shockers aren’t really all that shocking. The characters are more fucked up than a plot could ever be. Patrick Bateman, for example, is more disturbing than his despicable acts. His books are all about their characters.
So, in that way, it didn’t work. Not only did he follow that same sort of formula, he also added that mental degradation he pounded into the ground with American Psycho. Of course, he did the same thing with Lunar Park and Glamorama, but not really to the same degree. It’s cool and all, but it gets kind of old. If the point he’s trying to make is that every narrator is unreliable, he’s succeeded. If he’s trying to do something new, he’s pulled a McInerney.
What I really, really liked was the melding of fiction and reality. He did this in Lunar Park as well, but I don’t think it could ever get old. It adds to the voyeuristic quality all of his books have. How much of Clay is actually Bret? It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to confess your own sins through the development of mostly fictional, mostly awful human beings.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that you should try again. Do what Ellis has done, but learn from his mistakes. Don’t get all stupid simply for style, but bring back your older stuff.
Some Asshole