Faculty and Staff’s Favorite Banned Books: Part 4

Alex Magalli, Administrative Assistant at the Law Review, writes about “The Societally Crass yet Brilliant Works of Bret Easton Ellis”

They say the Dutch Masters painted with more than 60 unique shades of black. Similarly, Bret Easton Ellis has at least that many tones of vile. And like those Dutch guys who could make their work pop regardless of the subject, Ellis’s prose explodes off the page. American Psycho’s businessmen comparing business cards is taut-wire fear; Rules of Attraction’s parties are cyclones of misguided indulgence. There are thousands of good writers and hundreds of great writers and dozens of legendary writers, but rifling words off the page so as to make the reader set the book down and whisper “that’s good” is praise that only a handful of writers can claim (Higgins; Proulx; DeLillo; Bolaño; Nabokov; a few others).  If there is such a thing as writing with jazz (and there is), then Ellis writes with grunge.

Given how rare the talent of sizzling words is, should we call it a shame that it comes from a writer determined to dip his pen in ink that’s part blood, part drug detritus, and part better unknown? No. We need it. Literature is humanity, and humanity gets ugly sometimes. American Psycho, Rules of Attraction, Less Than Zero, Glamorama: all challenged, frequently banned, undeniably poignant dissections of the seamy and unmentionable.  Sex, drugs, rock & roll, nihilism, obsessive material capitalism. Banning Ellis’s works doesn’t even require explanation:  put it on the high shelf, hide it from the kids. Yet the man’s genius for character and form and, yes, Shock Value, cannot be denied, nor the pleasure of devouring his work. Ellis humanizes complex depravity, and gives insight into why the depraved deserve portrayal as well as the saintly. Ellis shows us that some Holden Caulfieds don’t drape themselves in nostalgia and self-doubt, they choose a road paved in vice and vulgarity. But that’s life, humanity, and we need to acknowledge it.

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1 Response to Faculty and Staff’s Favorite Banned Books: Part 4

  1. SBlaz says:

    This is a wonderful piece of writing in itself – great review!

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