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The Haunting of Bret Easton Ellis

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For all the hedonism in his novels, Ellis is a moralist. We talk about how people have misconstrued his satiric violence as gleeful wallowing, his bleakness as nihilism, rather than injury. “Not being able to find meaning can be just as powerful as finding meaning,” he says. “Numbness is a feeling. Being numbed by something is a feeling. That’s like people who argue against Minimalism, who reject Warhol, whatever. It’s something that a lot of people just don’t … grasp, or can’t emotionally connect to. If there’s a power to it, it’s … I don’t know. Well, it’s a cumulative sense of horror.” Then he stops. “I can’t talk about my books that way.”

He has another cigarette, and shifts around in his chair. The sun has started to go down, and the room, once awash in California light, is darkening; it’s almost eight. I ask him about the dead boy who haunts Clay’s apartment—this apartment—in Imperial Bedrooms. “It’s almost an essay question,” he responds. “For me to answer it would be like, Oh, is it his youth? Is it Clay’s youth haunting him? Blah blah blah.” He pauses. “To start talking about it, to me, is not productive.”


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