Dr. Alex E. Blazer

Department of English & Rhetoric

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville, GA 31061

alex.blazer@gcsu.edu

alexeblazer.com

 

"Slide down the surface of things":

Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama and the Terror of Narcissistic Abjection"

 

The novels of Bret Easton Ellis follow the exploits of disaffected young adults through college and into the real world. Less than Zero and The Rules of Attraction reveal the wasteland of intoxicated sexuality that college students traverse as they become alienated from the world that seeks to consume them. American Psycho shows the mind of a young Wall Street executive being psychotically leveled by his name brand consumer culture in which goods are god and people are things to collected and killed. Ellis’ last novel, Glamorama (1998), follows another deteriorating psyche, this one belonging to a New York fashion model, a minor character from The Rules of Attraction, now a minor celebrity who is nonetheless part of the New York scene of glamorous glitterati. Victor’s mind is utterly consumed by the pursuit of media hype—as "it" boy of the month, he’s opening a club and vying for a part in Flatliners II. The narcissistic quest becomes not only an obsession but also the cause of his breakdown as the novel devolves into paranoid multinational terrorism conspiracies and behind the scenes filmwork. Victor is pursued and persuaded by the elusive figure of Palakon, who asks him to seek out former schoolmate Jamie Fields, who turns out to be a double (perhaps triple) agent in a former male model’s terrorism organization. The former model enlists current models to bomb fashionable and political venues in Europe because models are highly manipulable and have the perfect cover. While infiltrating this group, Victor is also acting in two rival films, one American and one French; the films script his fate. The novel mediates body image into bodily fragmentation—the beautiful body of a Calvin Klein advertisement is supplanted by a body blown to bits by a bomb. The body is a thing to be viewed, devoured, and destroyed (all in the same breath), most notably for the spectacle of film. However, the ultimate goal of terrorism is more psychological than physical, and the psychological regression of Victor’s character embodies terrorism at its canniest best. Glamorama affirms that the media is the most radical terrorist of all because it destroys the mind and then the body from the inside out as it creates a generation of homicidal narcissists at best or abject schizophrenics at worst.

 

This abstract summarizes my presentation, "‘Slide down the surface of things’: Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama and the Terror of Narcissistic Abjection," Central New York Conference on Language and Literature, Cortland, NY, October 30, 2004.