Dr. Alex E. Blazer

Department of English & Rhetoric

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville, GA 31061

alex.blazer@gcsu.edu

alexeblazer.com

 

"You’re not a fictional character, are you, Mr. Ellis?":

Bret Easton Ellis’s Involution from Intertextuality

into Textuality in Lunar Park

 

Bret Easton Ellis's fiction has always been characterized by an expanding intertextuality, as a minor character in one book takes a major role in another like a relay race of protagonists.[1] However, last year's Lunar Park (2005) changes the rules of his fictional world, as Ellis composes a memoir of his own psyche stalked by his seminal character, American Psycho’s (1991) Patrick Bateman. In this latest effort, Ellis's universe neither expands nor contracts; it turns self-reflexively inward. Part (ersatz) memoir, part metafiction, and part ghost story, Lunar Park constitutes neither evolution nor revolution; it is a work of involution, of intricate and inward construction that strips the typical Ellis novel to its bare bones: the author (Ellis) confronting the negative space at the heart of his personal existence and our cultural condition that demands composition (in this case, Patrick Bateman). In his previous novels, Ellis mediated both his personal agons of college, drugs, and sexuality and our postmodern culture’s condition of consumerism, celebrity, and terrorism by moving from autobiographical stand-ins like Clay and Sean to representative everymen like Patrick and Victor. In his current novel, Ellis mediates both himself and his culture in a tale that pits his own persona against his primary character, Patrick Bateman, who comes to represent not only a reaper somehow responsible for taking the author's father and son but also Ellis's original muse. In American Psycho Bateman was the horrific specter of postmodernity, the ghost within the image-conscious and consumer-driven machine; in Lunar Park, he becomes the paternal and generative wound at the heart of author’s psyche which must be exercised and exorcized. Bateman paradoxically begets and is begotten by Ellis's traumatic inhalation. Literature opens a space in which the author can and must mediate his psyche's agons through pure textuality: rather than creating a labyrinth of intertextual substitutes, the author effectively enters into his own textuality. In the case of Lunar Park, Ellis-as-author creates a dialectic between the self-reflexive author-as-character and the self-reflective character-as-character. The metafictional struggle between Ellis and Bateman circumscribes the psycho-existential mandate of writing.

 

1 At the end of Less Than Zero (1985), the vacationing Clay goes back east to Camden college, where he delivers one monologue in the college sex and party novel The Rules of Attraction (1987), which is dominated by the triumvirate of Sean Bateman, Lauren Hynde, and Paul Denton. Sean's brother Patrick, who delivered one monologue in Rules, takes over narrative (and serial killer) duties in American Psycho (1991). Tim Price of the interrelated short story collection The Informers (1994) may be Psycho's Timothy Price. Even if The Informers' Bruce is not the same bomb-building Bruce from Glamorama (1998), Victor, who was once Lauren Hynde's Europe-touring boyfriend in Rules, traverses Manhattan, the Atlantic, and Europe while narrating in a state of terrorized psychosis, and even has a fling with Lauren along the way.

 

This abstract summarizes my presentation, "'You’re not a fictional character, are you, Mr. Ellis?': Bret Easton Ellis’s Involution from Intertextuality into Textuality in Lunar Park." The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900, Louisville, KY, February 22, 2007.