I think it’s somehow already been two years since I wrote an essay here about my weirdly intense connection to Bret Easton Ellis’s work and it’s been only a few months since I wrote a review of his latest book, White, and only a few days since I recorded a podcast in which I mentioned how his own podcast was starting to bother me for being too navel-gazy and almost impossible to get through.
But now, yesterday, I was listening to the latest episode of his podcast while driving to work and I was reluctant to put it on at first but was then quickly spellbound when Ellis started talking, both coyly and at length, about how finally, after years of on-and-off outlining, he’s consumed by work on a new novel. That he’s finally stepping away from the lucrative-but-hopeless world of screenwriting where, for the past ten years, he’s been buttering his bread by writing, as he puts it, thousands and thousands of pages for film scripts, an entire TV series that was never produced, and treatment upon treatment of one thing or another—in the same way that Gore Vidal stepped away from the literary world in the 1950s with a plan to work in television for exactly ten years, earning a fortune that he would responsibly invest, and then quit television and work exclusively for himself, on novels, for the rest of his life. (Which, lucky for all, is exactly what he did.)
I’m psyched beyond measure for Ellis’s new book—excited to read it, sure, but given the literary world’s standard pace of production (watch a publisher’s hair flutter as glaciers zoom past) its release might be five or six years away; mostly I’m excited because it feels like a vindication of something. Ever since I was fourteen I’ve had this passionate dedication to Ellis’s work, and his are the books I’ve probably re-visited more than any other’s, but he’s always had this kind of icy attitude about his own work when he’s being interviewed. And so I find myself tryna rein in this enthusiasm about his work that exceeds his own. My enthusiasm feels normal (if a bit boyish) when I’m alone, but downright stalkerish when contrasted against his own demeanor.
And so what’s kinda glorious about Ellis’s monologue in the recent podcast is that he doesn’t seem to be talking about just taking a quick hiatus from screenwriting in order to focus on the novel; it almost sounds like he’s finally had it with Hollywood, with the meetings on meetings and uptight producers who give nonsensical notes and who pretend to know more about the craft than he does.
It sounds like a renunciation.
And, as an idealistic bookrat, it feels to me like we, on the Team of Letters, have reclaimed a star player. Even if that star player is only rebounding after an ugly breakup, it’s cool to have him around.