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PODCAST: Bret Easton Ellis on "Imperial Bedrooms" [MP3]

 

Author Bret Easton Ellis didn't ask to be turned into a hot, sexy myth.  But he's not exactly complaining about it, either.

"It's so interesting to see how the myth takes over," he told a Brattle Theatre audience, in response to a question about  how it felt to be  "young and hot" when he first tasted literary success. "I'm constantly amused by it, this myth of Bret Easton Ellis."

Then he added, slyly: "So yeah, it was really fun. I had a really good time being hot and young and sexy. It was awesome. I loved it."

Ellis hit the Brattle as part of a tour to promote his new novel, Imperial Bedrooms (which Carrie Battan reviewed in this week's Phoenix). He read an excerpt form the novel, then answered questions about his writing process, the film adaptations of his previous books, and the stardom that came with his career.

Ellis was only 21 when he published his first novel, Less Than Zero, in 1985. When it started to gain popularity, he was still finishing up his studies at Bennington College in Vermont. From then on, he was tagged as a member of the so-called literary "Brat Pack" of the 1980s, which included novelist Jay McInerney, among others.

"Everyone likes to think that I was hanging out with Jay McInerney, and we were doing tons of blow all the time, and that we were passing out at night clubs,"  Ellis explained, trying to set the record straight about the persona that has been attached to him. "And I might have been doing all that, but it was with my friends. It wasn't with Jay McInerney. "

Imperial Bedrooms is a sequel to Less Than Zero that finds the characters 25 years removed from the events of Ellis's debut novel. The Less Than Zero character Clay steps in as the narrator for Imperial Bedrooms, and, in a meta sleight of hand, Clay criticizes the way he was portrayed in Less Than Zero. Ellis said that Imperial Bedrooms is the "real Clay's' attempt to make a claim for himself."     

Ellis said that his narrator's backlash against popularized versions of his story stems from Ellis's own dissatisfaction with film adaptations of his books, a subject he spoke a good deal about at the Brattle.

Audience members also peppered Ellis with questions about his M.O. as a writer, and Ellis set all joking aside when asked where he draws inspiration from:

"Pain," Ellis says. "That's where the inspiration comes from. My own pain. A lot of it stems from confusion and being upset by something and trying to figure out why I am upset by this, and why is this bothering me, and why I'm obsessed with it."

To get more glimpses into Ellis's psyche, check out our podcast, in which he talks about the misguided novel he wrote at age 14, the writers that have influenced his style over the years, and his chilling first encounter with Christian Bale before the making of the American Psycho movie.

DOWNLOAD: Bret Easton Ellis, on "Imperial Bedrooms" [MP3]


Recorded live at the Brattle Theatre, on June 24, 2010, courtesy of the Harvard Book Store; if you enjoyed this listening to this talk, check out the Harvard Book Store's calendar of upcoming events. To subscribe to our podcast, paste this RSS feed into your podcatcher or feed-reader of choice, or bookmark http://thephoenix.com/podcast.

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