Back from a 2 week trip to Toronto and Miami. While I was away a young guy living on my street was stabbed to death walking home one night. There is a heart-breaking tree half-way down the road, bound up with flowers and messages. It make me cold and sad each time I walk past it.
As with everything, it gets woven into a tissue of other thoughts and impressions. My thoughts about America. My thoughts about Canada. Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. New loves. Sudden deaths.
Bret Easton Ellis is a genius.
Despite the vituperation poured on American Psycho when it was published in 1991, he is without doubt the most significant American writer of the last 20 years. American Psycho is a horrifying masterpiece underpinned by a horrified morality. It’s Swift on steroids. Lulling the reader into the same nitrogen-chilled detached irony that spawns the monstrous Patrick Bateman. It’s studded with hideously beautiful poetry. Glamorama, which came out 7 years later, was more lose around the seams (a quality I enjoy) but no less brilliant. Now comes Lunar Park.
I’d say it wasn’t as great as the last 2 books. It strikes me as a companion piece. But it’s brilliant nonetheless. In vintage Ellis style it’s an unthinkable hybrid: part memoir, part Steven King. It splits out of its own seams by constantly referring to “Bret Easton Ellis” as a real person, even as you suspect that the ‘biography’ you’re being fed is not quite accurate. Even checking the facts on the Internet leads you to several bogus site Ellis has had constructed to continue the fiction of the book. The eerie web movie that features in the book is even viewable on the lunarpark.com website.
It’s a bundle of incommensurate shards which splinter under the polished surface of his prose and provoke the reader considerably. It’s too well written to be a joke. Its themes of fathers and sons and memory and trauma are too heady to be reduced to cynical ashes. Although, it’s a page-long meditation on ashes over water that closes the book so memorably. As Ellis says somewhere in the book, the one thing he can do is write a great ending.
Brokeback Mountain. It was interesting seeing the movie in the US where it seems to have unleashed a powerful underswell of liberality under the conservative crust represented by Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Despite all the hysterical right-wing screeching about a “gay plot” in Hollywood, most people I met loved the movie because it’s a great movie. People just seemed to ignore the screeching and watch the film.
It’s a heartbreaking love story. And having just read the Proulx short story, I like the movie more and more. Proulx is delightfully unsentimental about her characters. They realize the sad fixity of the society they live where if you can’t fix it you just have to stand it. No frills. In the book, Ennis’ quality of “one who worked with livestock” makes him simply acquainted with the “blood, milk and baby shit” of life.
But I do differ from those who see this as a breakthrough gay movie. It’s wonderful that a movie with 2 gay characters so handsomely performed can sweep up so many Golden Globes and (presumably) Oscars, but please don’t tell me how comforting it is to see gay men portrayed as “normal”. The humans in this film are tragic not normal. Their love is stymied. The end up dead or alone. These are not positive attributes of gay life and it’s a masochistic gay man that claims these tragic figures as role models.
This is not to belittle the breath-taking beauty and sadness of the film. I swoon just seeing Jake Gyllenhall – let alone seeing him in love and broken-hearted. But I’m alarmed by the number of emails I get from men claiming the film as an emotional template for their lives. Othello is a great play but not a good way to conduct your love life.