I’ve just finished Lunar Park
. I waited seven years and devoured it in a week and a half. I’ve read the negative reviews, which for some reason seem to shock people every time, as if Ellis’ previous work had been lavished with critical praise. I’ve heard people talk about how they wanted to tear out the first chapter in disgust, but how the Stephen King-like elements made them happier. I’ve read it be described as the worst book someone’s ever read, and that person was not Victoria Beckham. There’s a lot swimming around in my head, so let me try to break this down. If it makes no sense, I apologize.
I think there’s an interesting development in these last three books and since so much of Ellis’ work is interconnected, be it by locations or people, I guess it should come as no surprise. American Psycho
is a book entirely shrouded in darkness, no matter the distractions, be they a dissertation on Phil Collins or anything else. (The key flaw of Mary Harron’s film is that it misses the darkness inside the satire. It’s too tame, too coy, for it to truly work. But it’s still the best thing anyone’s ever done with an Ellis book.) There is no exit, even if it’s all in his head, the thoughts in his head are enough. It’s also, as Ellis has stated numerous times, about his father, a dark and abusive man, never satisfied, never able to connect with anyone.
Then, comes Glamorama
, the story of a dumb kid thrust into fame, unable to handle it, who falls into a diabolical terrorism plot that his father is involved with, in order to replace him with another man that looks just like him that will behave more in line with his father’s wishes. The darkest element of this dark twist is that only because of his son’s fame will the plot work, so as much as he is dissatisfied with his son, he is drawn to and in need of his fame for it all to work. It ends with the lost son (under the watchful eye of his father’s cronies), eyeing the painting of a mountain, yearning for more, promising that his life can contain more than “specks.”
And now comes Lunar Park
, Ellis’ inside-out memoir cum horror story, where the ghost is his father, himself, and his fictional son (who exists and, at the same time, does not…see, also, everyone else). He escapes to the suburbs, as a response to his decadence, as so many “adults” do, and he tries to be a better father than his father was to him. He doesn’t succeed, but knows he hasn’t, knows he hasn’t done better than his father and it kills him inside (the hope it seems that Ellis has for his father…you always want the person that hurt you to regret it, even if just a little, so that it gnaws at them).
But the trick Ellis pulls is masterful, because the book is less about himself or his own fictional problems (they all implode on themselves as they were just as much hallucinations as the many ghosts and monsters) and more about his own yearning to forgive his father (who becomes his character) and for his father to be a better man. (By no coincidence, Ellis father’s name is Robert and his son’s name is Robby.) For them to say “I love you” to each other at a dinner where they never said it and where Ellis remembers wishing he had. The man who wanted us to slide down the surface of things, has now asked us to dig through the layers of self, to see ourselves as the pieces of many others, to face up to being the man you swore you’d never become and to attempt to forge ahead and be better, make the choices he never made, and not be in a situation where your lost son can say only a few words to you in a McDonald’s in Sherman Oaks before leaving, not so much wanting to be around you for too long, but wanting you to only know that he’s alright so you can go back to only worrying about yourself.
He's haunted. His house is haunted. His past and present are haunted. He has to face the monster (his father) or end up becoming the monster, if he hasn't already.