The Mirror Crackd

Lunar Park fails to reflect a believable Bret Easton Ellis story

His real interests are in showing how the past—his father, his books—haunts the present, but since Ellis' talent is essentially to take a serious theme and pulp it down till it screams bloody murder in your face, Lunar Park can't help but borrow every trick in the book (and the movies) to pump some juice into his story. So we're treated to an evil doll named Terby; an anonymously e-mailed video Ellis receives featuring the actual death of Ellis' father; a series of grisly copycat murders based on American Psycho; a McMansion that mysteriously metamorphoses into Ellis' boyhood home; a number of adolescent boys who disappear without a trace, including Ellis' son; and a cream-colored 450 SL Mercedes, sometimes driven by the ghost of his father and sometimes by a guy who thinks he's Patrick Bateman. Periodically, whole pages of Ellis' prose will be written in one-sentence paragraphs that beg us to read them as high suspense. All of the bizarro events, however, that supposedly show how Ellis is literally being haunted by the past can be easily explained as his fantasies and hallucinations (fear-induced, drug-induced), and so while the novel gets pretty inventive with the violence toward the end, we know it's only Ellis imagining it. Not only that, but since Ellis has never exactly been a master of character, we have a hard time caring about anybody—which gives the reader some painful moments when Ellis pours on the sentiment and the moralizing. At the end, he's practically begging to be loved, which is a no-win situation for a narcissist, not to mention a no-win situation for a novel.

LUNAR PARK BY BRET EASTON ELLIS; KNOPF. HARD COVER, 320 PAGES, $24.95.

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