June 16, 2010 / 11:17 PM / 7 years ago

Author Ellis takes "Less Than Zero" past the '80s

NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Less Than Zero" author Bret Easton Ellis is sick of being seen as the poster boy for 1980s narcissism.

In 1985, Ellis was propelled to stardom when he was just 21 years-old and still a college student after his crisply-written tale of a spoiled ambivalence and materialism within his generation of kids became a huge hit and spawned a cult-hit movie starring Robert Downey Jr and Andrew McCarthy.

His newest novel "Imperial Bedrooms" has just been published in the United States, and features the same characters at a time when the 1980s are back in vogue.

"I don't feel like I am the '80s spokesperson," Ellis, now 46, told Reuters in an interview.

Critics may have felt his most famous book and others, such as "American Psycho" were about the 1980s, but Ellis insists otherwise. "They were actually about myself."

Still, Ellis noted that a return to the '80s in pop culture -- as evidenced in the current movie remakes of the "A-Team" and "The Karate Kid" to the latest fashion styles -- could bode well for drawing readers back to check out the mid-life events of his "Less Than Zero" characters Clay, Blair and Julian.

"The people who came of age in the '80s are now controlling the culture, and I think that is why you see a lot of '80s influences everywhere," he said.

Nevertheless, the attraction puzzles him. "I don't why that decade seems to resonate with people," he said.

HOLLYWOOD AND HUSTLERS

Like "Less Than Zero," "Imperial Bedrooms" is still minimalist and finds his protagonist Clay, like Ellis, now a screenwriter and in his 40s.

But like the old days, Clay -- not Ellis -- snorts cocaine, enjoys disillusioned sex with both genders and cynically reflects on copious Hollywood parties and an alienated, empty existence.

The book is darker than its predecessor in what Ellis called the "exploitation" of ambitious young actors in Hollywood, and it brings in hustlers and gangland killers who, Ellis said, were inspired by detective writer Raymond Chandler.

"It is exploitation, I do think it is about people using each other," he said. "In Hollywood that is how it works."

The Boston Herald called Ellis' seventh novel "stunning" but "unlikely to generate the attention and controversy of 'Less Than Zero' or Ellis' 'American Psycho,'" about a serial killer in New York.

The Village Voice said "Imperial Bedrooms" was a "quicker, more controlled fire than its predecessor."

Ellis said he was not aiming to capitalize on the success of "Less Than Zero" but after his last novel, "Lunar Park" he went back to read his debut book for the first time in years and, he said, the character of Clay "haunted" him.

But in turning out a sequel, Ellis insisted he is not pandering to his early fans.

"The expectations of readers who love 'Less Than Zero' -- I didn't take them into consideration," he said.

Editing by Mark Egan and Bob Tourtellotte

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