A sequel to Less Than Zero (1985).
Twenty-five years ago, Ellis made his popular debut with a slim novel that took its title from an Elvis Costello song. It concerned drug-addled young hipsters in Los Angeles and was widely perceived as the West Coast equivalent of Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney’s novel about drug-addled young professionals in Manhattan. Ellis’s sequel takes its name from a later Elvis Costello album, and the young hipsters have gotten older. Some of them continue to lust after young flesh, though that flesh—like drugs and talent—is just another commodity in Hollywood, which may seem like a seller’s market to those peddling their wares but may be more of a buyer’s market, where supply (particularly for attractive young flesh) exceeds demand. Narrator Clay has become a bicoastal screenwriter, recently returned to Los Angeles from New York. He is either paranoid or the target of a great conspiracy. Or maybe he’s part of that great conspiracy. In any event, the narrative meanders from party to party, where Clay encounters seemingly random characters, some of whom he knew in the first novel, until the randomness starts to tighten into a web. A young actress seems attracted to him, or what passes for attraction between a supplicant and someone who might do her career some good. But who holds the power here? And just what kind of guy is our narrator, anyway? “This isn’t a script,” warns his boyhood friend, Julian, who is also somehow connected with the actress. “It’s not going to add up. Not everything’s going to come together in the third act.” This warning might be better directed toward the reader, who must determine whether another character’s insight that “everything’s an illusion” is profundity or cliché. The novel is short, elliptical and sketchy—even jumpy—but it feels like it takes forever to end.
Don’t hold your breath for act three.