“You Can’t Lie Anymore”: Bret Easton Ellis on The Talks
Acclaimed writer, Bret Easton Ellis, is the latest creative profiled and interviewed by online magazine, The Talks. Fed up with the way the public – or perhaps, the media – deal with his candor, Easton Ellis claims he is setting out to be viewed as a more authentic person; he is, by self-proclamation, “completely transparent”. The acclaimed author has always flirted with controversy, not least because of his refusal to sugar-coat taboo subjects (namely, drug-taking, violence and hyper-sexuality), something that rose up again recently due to a couple of highly-publicised drunken tweets. Check out an extract from the interview, below, and read the whole article here.
Mr. Ellis, have you ever seen a dead body?
Yes, certainly. Growing up in L.A. I have driven past car accidents with a dead body that had not been covered yet. I have seen a dead body, but I have never been brought to a dead body to see it. The first dead body I ever saw was at my school. A bus driver had a heart attack. He was dead and he was still sitting in the seat.
In your novels your write explicitly about violence and death. Is that something you are fond of?
I am very sensitive and a nasty, extreme piece of writing can upset me a lot.
Really? Then how can you write the way you do?
At first I am horrified and I am upset. But by the time I’ve written all the scenes and they’re all completed I am a cool technician. We are now twenty drafts from when I first imagined these images and these horrible scenes and I am numb by that time. I just want to arrange it in a way that I think makes sense in the movements of the novel. I am sad about a lot of what the book is about, because it is based on a lot of my own experience.
Can you tell me an example?
Like in terms of how confused the character is, for example Patrick Bateman. There is a part of me in him. I am not a serial killer or anything, but I was definitely an alienated person in society the same age as he was. And I really thought the society I was a part of was ridiculous and it was full of shit and everyone was awful – and yet I wanted to fit in. I was 23, 24, 25 when I was writing that book and I was extremely depressed with the idea of society and what society expects of you. When I saw all the things people expected you to have to be a happy or a successful man I just thought it was a bunch of bullshit. But I went along with it anyway.
You were a successful writer in your mid-twenties and depressed?
When you become well known the first year is really, really fun and then you spend the rest of your life humiliated or trying to avoid humiliation. Everyone is so nice to you in that first year and then they all want to see something different. They want to see you get fucked up a bit and they want to take you down. It’s just the nature of the world. You can deal with it or you can fight it. Whatever. Then I realized how – this sounds like such a cliché – empty it all is. There is nothing there. It’s an idea. It’s a concept. It’s not real.
After the success of American Psycho you were described as both the enfant terrible and the voice of your generation. Which description can you identify with more?
I am comfortable with both. You can call me anything you want. Just don’t call me fat. I was never writing to become the voice of a generation and I was never writing thinking that I was an enfant terrible. I was just writing what I wanted to write and it was other people who decided that I was or wasn’t those things. I don’t identify with either one.
Have you taken to Twitter to show people who you really are? It seems like you just write whatever is on your mind instead of carefully curating it.
I just have these random opinions about movies or bands or what I am listening to and they end up floating on my little Twitter page and that’s it. I just have this abstract notion that I have 350,000 followers. But what does that mean? I never tweet at people. I’m not a bully. I just have these thoughts. A lot of people do insult others. I get those tweets constantly where people are like, “You are a douche bag!” “You suck!” or “You haven’t been relevant in years!” I get those all the time. A hundred of them a day. I’ve never done that in my life.
Well, you definitely have insulted people before. You even apologized for saying that Kathryn Bigelow is really overrated because she’s “a very hot woman.”
I did apologize for the Kathryn Bigelow tweet because I had too many women who were friends of mine, and my mother, and my sisters, say: “You really have to understand what you’re doing and how it’s coming off. What did you mean by that?” It was a week of being kind of annoyed. And you don’t get to actually say anything in a tweet. You can’t. What can you say in 140 characters? It encourages you to make statements and be a provocative person without being nuanced.