Bret Easton Ellis, cult author since he published less than zero at the age of 21 and, above all, since he launched the controversy American PsychoGo back to the novel. With an autofictional and monumental work in every way. the destruction (Random House), six hundred pages starring a 17-year-old teenager named exactly like him who lives his last year in a privileged institute in 1981.
A year that will change him forever, with the music of Blondie and Ultravox as the soundtrack to a string of sexual and sentimental encounters and disagreements, although he doesn’t understand it at the time. Of struggles for friendship disguised as indifference. And, above all, the possibility that the handsome new boy in the class is a serial killer, whom the police call the Trawler. Desire, sex, macabre murders, paranoia, music, pain and, despite self-deception, love, are mixed in an intrigue that is already one of the novels of the year.
What relationship does he have with his character, with Bret? Have you needed to write a crime novel to talk about yourself, your adolescence?
Yes. They are inextricably linked. Part of the crime story has to do with it being a novel about the loss of innocence. A story about corruption, corruption in the transition from childhood to adulthood. The crimes are a metaphor for that. They always have been. It was already going to be in 1982, the initial moment, because at that age I felt magically turning, through a series of traumas, from a teenage boy with his adolescent desires to a kind of hardened alienated adult, and that’s going to be load.
That said, a lot of the things that happen to me were real. Unrequited love, not being happy in school, parental alcoholism, parental divorce, my homosexuality, these are all very real. And then there are many aspects of my life in Los Angeles at the time that I thread into the plot: there were cults everywhere, and they scared me, there were serial killers everywhere, and they scared me too, dead bodies lying on the exits of the freeways, serial killers working in tandem, like the Stranglers on the Hill. And they seemed to have their own narrative, just like me as a beginning writer.
In your official narrative you had a girlfriend.
At 17 I was fabulous, creating a lot of things… and pretending to be the boyfriend of a girl who was ultra-popular and in love with me. It was a lie. I have never been in trouble for being gay as a child or in my teens. I didn’t give a damn. But at 17, I did care. I thought: I’m in love with my best friend, he’s straight and nothing is ever going to happen. The world is not open to me! I’m going to try, get a girlfriend, get through this year… and it didn’t work. So the criminal plot is the metaphor of the entire novel. The murder of Robert Mallory is the murder of someone I could never have and who he was obsessed with and who he wanted. He was representative of men. Of the 97% that gay men can never have. The world is reduced to 3% for our desires, while heterosexual men have 97% of women in front of them. I can accept it now, but at 17 it seemed terrible and unfair.
“Today some would think that that room is what defined my life, that they raped me. Put your 2022 version, and it doesn’t work”
In the novel, Bret has sexual relations with his girlfriend’s father, Terry Schaffer, a film producer.
In some of the scenes in the book my Terry Schaffer looks a lot like my girlfriend’s father at the time and in others like another producer I knew. That producer took me to Trumps for lunch and took me to the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he proceeded to give me a blowjob because I thought he was going to produce a movie of me at 17. At the 17!
He has written to me, he liked the novel. I ran into it a couple of times in the 90s. It didn’t bother me at all. What really bothered me then was that Ryan Vaughn didn’t reciprocate. That was my trauma. That hurt me more than anything. What happened in that hotel room didn’t hurt me. I thought: ‘Well, that’s how adults are, you’re an idiot for thinking otherwise!’ What hurt me is that I thought someone loved me. And not. That messed me up, not a blowjob in a hotel room.
Now that would be reversed. Some would think that that room is what defined their life, that they raped me. And that was in 1981. Everybody wants to put their pain and their 2022 version on it and it doesn’t work. I was talking to a woman my age who wanted to be an actress in the ’80s when she was 18, 19, and she said, ‘God, if only I knew I could give that producer a blowjob and get the part instead of two months of auditions and not get it, I would have done it’. But that’s Generation X and our reaction to things. Now you tell a millennial and they melt. Gender roles, patriarchy, the patriarchy! God!
“I would far rather live in 1981, even as a closet teen, than be a teenager now”
Is ‘Los destrozos’ born of nostalgia?
I hate to say pandemic lockdown, I hate to say covid. But I also wonder if it hadn’t happened and my other projects had gone ahead, I would have written Los destrozos. I have a 130-meter apartment that I share with my boyfriend, we couldn’t go out, see our friends, and I ended up on the Internet, where I never am. And I thought, ‘My God, 1981 was so fucking much better than 2021.’ I started looking for colleagues from that time, and I couldn’t find them, to listen to music from that time, and I recovered the summary for ‘Los destrozos’ that I had written 30 years ago. And that week I experienced a wave of nostalgia and I remembered what the problem had been: it was narrated by an 18-year-old boy and I saw that he must have been 56, that he had to look back at that moment. And when I got that it was a flood, I wrote the book very quickly and it’s been cathartic.
Do you feel that the problems you experienced as a teenager have changed today?
There has been a 5,500% increase in teen suicides since 1981. I think those times were better? Yeah. I didn’t know any medicated kids, there weren’t any school shootings. You could say what you wanted, the freedom we had to express ourselves and be us. I think there is a huge, horrendous difference. Yes, you can be gay on a high school team today, but compared to all the crap out there today… I’m sorry. Take being gay as your identity? It didn’t occur to us. I had a bad year at 17, when I wanted to be someone else. And that is what I wanted to write about here. Is it better today? No. I’m very nostalgic because I’ve realized that I would far rather live in 1981, even as a closet teen, than be, even in a million years, a kid or teenager now.
“The identity of each one has become the problem. Your victimhood, your pain has become your badge of honor”
What has happened from Generation X to Z?
There is no freedom. It has been completely blocked. The identity of each one has become the problem. Your victimhood, your pain has become your badge of honor. It’s something we never think about. In terms of what you can and can’t say, the epidemic of violence and suicide and overdose is a nightmare today. In the eighties we grew up in Eden compared to where kids grow up now. I don’t envy them.
I don’t know if it’s the horrors of social media, if they’re medicated to the point of being in some kind of stupor, the sensitivity, the fragility, the 5,000% increase in suicides, the shootings… I don’t know what it is. . Probably the internet has something to do with it, there is fear, the statistics of crimes and theft or abuse of children have not changed since we were children and we went to class alone but now it is on the internet and you can go in circles for those news that make you feel that it is an epidemic. Now you can be arrested for letting a child go to class alone. My sister and I did.
In 1981 Reagan has just started his revolution but he barely mentions him in the book.
He was too privileged. Why would I be interested in politics? What did it have to do with me? How could it affect me, help me, save me? Thus was born my indifference to politics. And as my boyfriend tells me, don’t vote, nobody wants your vote, let me vote because I don’t have money and I have many social concerns. You don’t care so don’t vote. I think he’s right. Even though I got into a lot of trouble trying to understand why people voted for Trump when I wrote White. I became a traitor. You couldn’t do that. Now I’m out, I don’t even watch the news. We live in a scary country, where 92% of the population, and that includes the right and left wing, do not trust the media. It causes fear.
“The canon can be dismantled, it’s white and old, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Dickens, who had an 18-year-old mistress. oh, God!”
Trump is a candidate again, why are you voting for him?
Yes, come back, as crazy as it sounds. He is what he appears to be. People likes it. He’s strong, he doesn’t act like a bureaucrat. And then something has happened to the left of my country that makes even people like my partner, who was a wild socialist, now understand Trump and hate the left and feel that they are the real problem now. It’s amazing to have seen him go from an angry anti-Trump socialist to considering voting for him.
What do you think has happened to the left?
It is a cultural question. And the culture that has been perpetrated against the country in recent years in the name of progressivism is a nightmare for free expression. You cannot live under that authoritarian rule of language, with jokes cancelled, shows destroyed because they are considered racist by liberal groups even without having been written yet, murals torn down, that’s all. And to think that everyone is a fucking wimp and can’t deal with what’s being said because someone else can’t hear it is ridiculous.
The canon can be dismantled, it is white and old, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Dickens, who had an 18-year-old mistress. Oh God! In the end you wonder who cares anymore, maybe we should get rid of them. maybe Huckleberry Finn It shouldn’t be the biggest American high school novel because it has the word black in it when it’s used in every hip-hop and rap song published in the past year. Where we are?