Review: The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis

title:  The Informers

author: Bret Easton Ellis

pages: 225

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-0679743248

buy it: Amazon

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  People who can handle trippy narration, nonlinear plot, and character studies.  Fans of Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, only weirder.  Fans of poetry and modern art.

In this seductive and chillingly nihilistic novel, Bret Easton Ellis, the author of American Psycho, returns to Los Angeles, the city whose moral badlands he portrayed unforgettably in Less Than Zero. This time is the early eighties. The characters go to the same schools and eat at the same restaurants. Their voices enfold us as seamlessly as those of DJs heard over a car radio. They have sex with the same boys and girls and buy from the same dealers. In short, they are connected in the only way people can be in that city.

Dirk sees his best friend killed in a desert car wreck, then rifles through his pockets for a last joint before the ambulance comes. Cheryl, a wannabe newscaster, chides her future stepdaughter, “You're tan but you don't look happy.” Jamie is a clubland carnivore with a taste for human blood. As rendered by Ellis, their interactions compose a chilling, fascinating, and outrageous descent into the abyss beneath L.A.'s gorgeous surfaces.

the basics
And so my love affair with Bret Easton Ellis continues. Shh, don't tell him.  The Informers is Less Than Zero if you add a bunch of characters, take away the plot, and make everyone really sad and vapid.  I know that doesn't sound good, but trust me.  If you like art pieces, you'll appreciate what Ellis is doing here.  It's nihilism at its best.  These aren't people with futures and plans and endgames.  They're drifting through life much like the reader drifts from scene to scene, soaking in one hazy snapshot before going to the other.  It's not always clear where, who, what you are.  It doesn't have to be.  More than telling a story, Ellis is painting a picture.  And he paints with a violent realism and a moral deadness that only he can master.

plot . ?
I don't even know what to rate this.  There really isn't a plot, per se.  Things happen.  People change.  Stories link together in odd ways that you'd never expect.  But it's much more like a collage than a filmstrip.  Each story has its own characters and setting.  You start in the middle and leave before the end.  Because this isn't a book about narrative.  It's a book about ennui.  Nihilism.  Stagnation.  The whole point is that no one is moving--and so no one goes anywhere.  If you want a story, read Less Than Zero.  

concept . 5/5
The collected short story idea isn't new, but this is more than that.  Like I said, it's collage.  It's like art film in book form.  Obviously that's a bit mind-boggling in a not-so-good way for many people, but it worked for me.  It was harder to read and to get into than a book with standard story form.  But it grabbed me anyway. It was like the poetry of urban decay, to get all fancy and hipsterish.  It is much more like reading free verse poetry than reading a book.  Or maybe watching a bunch of short films.  It fits the theme perfectly.

characters . 5/5
They're all so different and yet all with the same Ellisian core:  vapid, morally devoid, emotionally ambiguous. These are people drifting from drug to drug, bed to bed, looking for the next thrill because it's the only thing that reminds them they're alive.  They're decadence embodied.  They're likable, some of them, but you also want to strangle half of them and tell them to get away from Spago and go eat a burger.  They're caricatures, slightly, but you can still see real people in them.

style . 5/5
I can't get enough of Ellis' style.  It's the original gritty and raw.  Some of it is poetic, but in a sparse, minimalistic way.  Some of it is rambling and frenzied like an acid trip.  And it's all infused with a kind of tense boredom.  It makes you want to write, want to go do something, want to tear down walls.  Okay, I'm being dramatic.  But seriously.  Ellis is a master at painting a clear picture with the strangest, cleverest words.

mechanics . 5/5
Beautifully polished.  Nothing to complain about.

take home message
A nihilistic collage of 80's L.A., with a frightening relevance and timelessness.

Note: I purchased this copy.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

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