By: Bret Easton Ellis
Published by: Vintage Knopf
This is the first Bret Easton Ellis novel (collection of short stories) I’ve read where I’ve really had to ponder, “Why am I reading this?”
Ellis is notorious for writing filthy, apathetic characters who “just want to watch the world burn.” But Patrick Bateman in American Psycho was like a modern Alice travelling down the rabbit hole, making his own rules… and leaving us wondering if any of it is real. And Rules of the Attraction explored hateful, spiteful characters but they were yearning for something pure; they showed humility in their submission to others.
The Informers is a collection of the same assholes, but without enough time to be redeemable or interesting.
In the first few stories, the narration is from different parents, but just from a prose perspective, they still sound like Ellis’ children and teens. It can be argued that that’s the point, but when the adults are successful business persons, it just seems unlikely, so I equate it to Ellis’ weakness as a writer.
Of the 13 short stories, 4 I would recommend and I would actually encourage people not to read the others, not even to satiate mild curiousity.
The “Good” Ones
In the Islands
This short story is from the perspective of Les Price (the father of Tim Price from American Psycho). Given, my review of American Psycho and my enjoyment of Tim, I found this one to be most insightful; mostly on a back story level than a literary one.
The story is starts with Les yelling at his ex-wife on Tim’s behalf. They’re going away to Hawaii, I think, but Tim doesn’t want to go. Of course, Tim ends up obliging and he’s not the twerp you’d expect, he’s embarrassed of his father–especially when he starts hitting on Tim’s girlfriend.
As far as backstory, this story adds much to Tim Price’s character.
First, there’s the name: Les Price or Price, Les. In American Psycho they refer to Tim as “Priceless” and he never responds to this proudly, and even before reading The Informers I always got the impression that Tim hated the nickname, since it was usually used to calm him down. It makes sense now, because Tim’s dad is an unforgivable asshole, so of course Tim would hate to be associated with him.
What I like about this story is its blunt honesty. It’s the story of a burnt out rock star who travels to Japan–per his concert contract. He has long-since split from his former band and is out on his solo career. Outside of that, this is simply a humorous venture.
Letters from L.A.
This is the talent of Ellis. This chapter is written in epistolary format, letters from Anne to–presumably–Sean (Bateman). This is a girl who, as you might expect, was far more into him than he was into her. She writes over the course of several months and has, not one, reply from Sean. Her desperation teeters from begging to aloofness; sometimes she’ll vaguely imply that she’s being sexually deviant, but will redact it within the letter or in the following one. She vows to never write to him again unless there’s a response, but then writes, apologizing for her absence.
It’s the insecurity of the girl that is so captivating, she’s clearly innocent, and we want her to move on from Sean–to take the hint–but she won’t. She holds on because she has no one else and believes that Sean understands her–and he does, we all do, but she can’t see past that because she doesn’t want to face facts that he considered her a hook-up.
The Secrets of Summer
This one makes the list because the narrating character is a vampire. Metaphorical or not, I got the impression Ellis was getting tired of his own style and decided to breakaway with some fantasy. I leave it on the list of “good” ones because it was a welcome reprieve.
Outside of those 4, wherein 2 encroach on his previous works, the stories are just bland, vicious, and unnecessary.
As I said, Patrick Bateman and his lifestyle is interesting and his frustration with the world is worked out through murder. Sean, Paul, and Lauren are all the same vile creatures, but they want to escape from that through love–there’s very few things more beautiful than that. It’s people getting what they want and people not getting what they want. And as deeply flawed as all of them are, I cared. There was a level of self-awareness that gets explored due to the text’s longevity. In a short story however, the most insight you get is from a rock star who suddenly says to himself, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have broken up the band? Maybe I should’ve tried harder to be a father?’ but alas, curtain’s up and the show must go on.
The Informers are disinteresting stories told by bad people; they are laments and complaints akin to the stuff you’d find in a 14yo’s journal. Rich kids, living off trust funds, but they’re not classy like in Gossip Girl, they’re trash; and they’re not redeemable, nor are they relatable like Holden Caulfield.
Take the example of The Fifth Wheel, which is about a car wash attendant who allows his buddy of his (from 5 years ago) to stay at his home while he watches the “friend” kidnap a child. The “friend” beats the kid and starves him for a week. Then the car wash attendant stabs the kid to death because his friend tells him to.
What would you gain from this? Nothing. Why was it written? Best, I can figure is an exercise in what not to do.
In a day and age where most people don’t take the time to read, and the ones that do are hoisted above in an elitist circle, it makes me upset that I wasted any time with this book.
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