This last week I read Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis. I'm normally a fan of Ellis - I find him funny, and I find his protagonists incredibly sad and touching (particularly Patrick Bateman of American Psycho and Victor of Glamorama) and I don't mind the sex and violence ( more about how I seem to identify more with male protagonists in another entry ). But I'm a little disappointed in Lunar Park. I think this is because the protagonist of Lunar Park is Bret Easton Ellis himself, and that ruins the charm for me.
Obviously, the protagonist isn't actually Ellis - it's Ellis in the same way that Philip Roth is the protagonist in The Plot Against America or Operation Shylock - but the thing that made Ellis's protagonist's tolerable, even sympathic to me, was that they were ever so slightly exaggerated to make his point. They were not real. Their vacuousness and blank affects were part of what made them interesting and intriguing. But when the author puts himself in that role, makes himself that empty and blank, there's a cognitive dissonance. How can the person who is actually creating this book be so ... well, so stupid? How can a "real" person be so self-destructive and then expect the reader to care? By making his protagonist himself, Ellis sucked all the fun out of the bok for me and left me only with the writing.
Which is a little problematic on its own. I read somewhere that the misuse of language in the novel is intentional, as sort of a meta-commentary on the novel (because normally, Ellis's language is very precise), but if it was, it wasn't obvious enough to be clear. I felt, before I read that the mistakes were intentional, that Ellis's editor had been falling down on the job.
That's not to say that the book sucked, because it didn't. I was entertained by it, and legitimately scared by it, and parts of it were really heart wrenching. But it wasn't up to par with his best work, I don't think, and it didn't hang together the way it should have. I'd give it a B-/C+.
Also, this weekend, I went to see Children of Men, starring Clive Owen (Don't worry - I won't spoil it.). I haven't read the book yet, because I find it easier to go from movie to book than from book to movie. My own imagination can easily replace the images of a movie with the often more complete images I see when I read. But once I've read something, I don't like to mess up my own version of the universe with a movie unless I didn't really care about the book or it's been a long time since I read it. And this is a really long digression ... moving on!
So CoM was good. It starts by setting up all of the elements you see in the trailer, and you settle in, thinking you know where this movie is heading. And then BAM! (literally, BAM!) the whole movie takes a turn and suddenly you don't know where it's going to go or how it's going to end up. I will not tell you what happens, but I will say that, with 5 minutes left in the movie, it could have had at least two very distinct endings, both of which would have worked perfectly in keeping with the story. That's very rare, for something to be set up and executed that well, and I recommend that you go see it. Incidentally, what's the deal with the renaissance in Mexican film this year? Children of Men, Babel, Pan's Labryinth? Mexico has got it going on at the moment. Viva!