Lunar Park (2005)
By: Julian on February 17, 2009  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
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Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 453
Bret Easton Ellis' most recent novel, Lunar Park, masquerades as autobiography: "and remember," the book's blurb concludes, "all of it really happened, every word is true."

It's hard to know how much of Lunar Park is actually true, at the very least in an allegorical sense: certainly not all of its tumultuous, crime-filled, depraved, supernatural, decadent 453 pages are pure fact. Most reviews suggest that the first 30 odd pages are as autobiographical as you can get, and the rest is a mix of murky metaphor and gonzo.

But what a ride Lunar Park is – and probably Ellis' best novel. Although be warned: you need to have read every Bret Easton Ellis novel, perhaps even twice each, to even remotely get where the author is at with this book.

The novel plays out like an autobiography – the central character is a writer named Bret Easton Ellis, whose canon includes a breakthrough first novel mostly written during a meth binge, Less than Zero, and culminated in the über-controversial tome American Psycho, which he is thoroughly haunted by as this novel unfolds. (With the author and the character sharing the same name, this might pose some confusion here: throughout this review, unless shown to be otherwise, the "Bret Easton Ellis" I will be referring to is the central character of Lunar Park).

Bret is married to Jayne Dennis, a popular actress, and they live with two children: one, eleven-year-old Robby, is theirs, and the other, six-year-old Sarah, is Bret's stepchild. Bret's lifestyle is as debauched as those of his characters – he's a drug addict and an alcoholic, has no problem sleeping around on his wife and has no emotional investment in his children or family. Most of this we can attribute to the fact that, by-and-large, Bret's an addled arsehole – but his demons include a broken relationship with his father and his meteoric rise to stardom. The downside of fame.

One day, Bret gets a knock on the door by one Detective Donald Kimball, who presents him the details of an American Psycho copycat murderer. Then, the author begins to be stalked by "Clayton", who dressed up as Patrick Bateman (American Psycho's antagonist) at a Halloween bash Bret and Jayne threw. Things get weirder from that point on.

In many respects, Lunar Park is very much like Glamorama as Ellis unfolds his plot. I can't give much more of it away, and we're already a good way into the novel with that above synposis. Character Ellis is Glamorama's Victor – an over-indulged; hedonistic; heroin, cocaine, vodka, Quaaludes, anything addict. And just when these descriptions veer into tedium, author Ellis sends something truly disturbing hurtling our way, something so foreign and violent towards the central character: in Glamorama, it was terorrism; in Lunar Park, it's the demonic supernatural. But to call Lunar Park a novel in the supernatural horror vein (even though parts of it are, and Ellis himself said he wanted to pay homage to Stephen King with his final hundred pages or so) would be doing it a disservice. Lunar Park is an intensely personal novel, not an exploration of typical Ellis themes but an exploration of the character Ellis himself – his fractured relationship with everyone he cares about (father, wife and children), his disturbed novels and the unconscious shame he feels about his party-boy lifestyle.

Nothing in the final third of the book is to be taken literally, and I feel it can be read in only two ways: the first, and least credible, is that it's drug and alcohol fuelled hallucination, and Bret Easton Ellis was losing his grip on reality. The second, and what I thought it meant, was as a metaphor for Ellis' life crumbling. In this part of the book, and adding verisimilitude, character Ellis splits into two personalities: that of the frosty, aloof "writer" and the passionate and very scared central character. Persevere through this, even if you feel Ellis is going off on inexplicable tangents. And it certainly repays re-readings.

Lunar Park's final chapter, titled "The Endings", is probably the most personal of the entire novel. Ellis makes reference to his own bisexuality (that, aside from chronicling gay and bisexual characters in the past, has never been overt – although he dedicates this book, alongside his father, to his recently deceased lover), and brings his fear of American Psycho copycat murders to a close. This latter point played a major and really interesting part in Lunar Park – Ellis, fuelled by vodka and cocaine, was convinced that the copycat murderer was actually a demon incarnate in human form that would live as long as Patrick Bateman lives, and he began to pen a novel in which Bateman was unceremoniously killed. The closure that Lunar Park's Ellis has with Robby in "The Endings" is perhaps indicative of his own wounded relationship with his father, one that we may infer never healed.

In a dollop of very funny Cormanesque propaganda mongering, Ellis' website features the 'Two Brets' on the homepage. Further melding fact and fiction is Jayne Dennis' "fansite", complete with Photoshopped red carpet shots and a fictional filmography.

Kitsch advertising aside, Lunar Park may well be Bret Easton Ellis' most accomplished book. His self-referencing is alternately hilarious and tragic (and he somehow never descends to self-parody), and there is a really terrifying yarn in amongst all of it; His ability as a storyteller can't be doubted. Although, that said, this entire review might be a crock of the proverbial, and it's just another Ellis yarn about the hyper-indulged falling from their perch. For all we know, Bret is laughing over a glass of Stoli at the pharmacy psychology being imparted worldwide towards him and his shattered existence. And that's the beauty of it. For Ellis fans, this is a must. For everyone else, become an Ellis fan, then read this superb novel.
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