Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
I started this book with my usual doubts on whether I should be reading what purports to be a memoir without reading the author’s primary work. But this one had been recommended by the list, I do like memoirs, this one was available at the library and while American Psycho, Ellis’s most famous work, was also available I didn’t quite think I was up for its disturbing content.
Oh well, this one was disturbing too. I have a horror of anything in the horror genre and this had many scary events that one would have liked to attribute to the writer’s drug use. Most troubling for me was the presence of children amidst these spooky events. And in addition, from almost the get go, the writer doesn’t come across as someone likeable. About halfway through the book, I found myself tempted to abandon it and yet, hooked by the desire to know what happened in the end. I compromised by scanning through several unpleasant pages until I finished.
What I got from the book was the current mood of children, the yawning distance between parents and children. Do children really grow up into that? Something to steel oneself against.
The end left me unsettled, and it was only after I googled the novel that I realised what a postmodern masterpiece it is. I wonder if the reader’s experience would be very different if they had read detailed reviews of the book beforehand and knew some crucial facts. I suspect I might have been similarly impatient, just less afraid. Anyway, I think I can say that I have read one of Ellis’s works, that I am not going to ever read American Psycho and that I might read Less Than Zero, maybe.
My Dark Places by James Ellroy
This was not on the list but I remember reading about it somewhere and I saw it a couple of times in the library and thought about picking it up. It seemed a piece of the reading list so I decided to give it a go.
It’s also a disturbing memoir but one I managed to get through with less upheaval than Bret Easton Ellis’s. The premise is no less disturbing though. Ellroy, a famous writer of thrillers set in LA including LA Confidential and The Black Dahlia, sets out to solve a murder that has a deeply personal connection. His mother was murdered when he was a child. To say the event deeply influenced his life is an understatement.
You’d think he was bereaved. But it turns out he convinced himself he was indifferent. His parents were divorced and his father had been trying to get custody of him. His father had also poisoned his mind against his mother to the extent that her death came as a relief. Or so he convinced himself for years. His mother became a fantastic figure that ruled and fuelled his imagination for years.
Finally, he stopped running. He decided to back to sources and pair up with a detective to reopen the case. The book is a study of how a homicide investigation proceeds. I was impressed with the thoroughness, the tireless checking, the leaving no stone untouched. I am sure that there are cases that are bungled up, and Ellroy emphasises that his mother being a white woman made all the difference, but nevertheless she was not a high-profile victim. And still, way back in the 1950s, the cops cordoned off the scene, it was scrupulously photographed, forensic evidence was collected, every possible lead was pursued which included going to every restaurant in the area and just talking to people. (Contrast this with the Aarushi case.) The relentless chronicling of this process sometimes got monotonous and overwhelming but it gave one a sense of what actually went down. His insights on what motivates murder and the difference between male and female aggressors was also trenchant.
Again, I was reading a memoir without reading the primary work. Unlike in the case of Bret Easton Ellis though, I will be picking up either LA Confidential or The Black Dahlia soon.