Category: clean


You have classics such as Carlos Castaneda “The teachings of Don Juan”, you have William S. Borroughs “Naked Lunch” and then there are Kathy Acker “Blood and guts in highschool” and tons of people who tried to jump the bandwagon. In the 90’s we have Irvine Welsh who is not just the “Trainspotting” but also the author of “Acid House”… But probably one of the more unknown ones, there is an 80’s novel by the back then still unknown American author Bret Easton Ellis. He wrote this novel at age 21 and it’s called “Less than zero”. Later on, it was made a movie with Robert Downey Jr. who himself quite often struggled with being on and off drugs.
I want to talk about this book since it was an eye opener for me. In many ways.

Back then when it came out, I was still at school when it came out. But as soon as I lived in Ireland I would make sure to read it.
I actually first read the book and then saw the film.
The whole book is a good sized package. It includes so many good streaks about modern western society that you cannot even say it is purely a drugs book because it would not be true.

Ellis lets us into the heart of American culture. Their obsessions, the silence within families that asphyxiating silence, and the pure hedonism of a youth centered culture.

It is still an easy read and a fast paced novel. At the end of the day, you see a group of friends shaken and faced with being part of a system that is pretty glamorous on the outside but sometimes proves to be a pitfall, and allows for more and more people to stumble, fall and not get back up again.

The part of Julian who is the heroic anti hero, the guy whose life falls spectacularly apart is so heavy that sometimes you keep asking yourself how Downey Jr was able to carry this off with such lightness and with such ease and charme.

Anyone who is wondering about the term spoilt brat, brat generation or generation x should read up on Ellis. He wrote for the generation x. For some Ellis is THE generation x author. The generation x covers the between 1965 -1975 born ones. It is a narrow generation but neither before nor after did we find ourselves inmidst a maelstrom of cultural decadence, affluence, and the feeling that everything would be possible some day not too far away, and these kids lived by it and through it. Let’s face it… My generation, we were growing up in absolute affluence, and the sometimes insane feeling that anything was possible. As long as you had the money to buy it, hire it or do it.

In gold digger terms: Boomtown years. The years of 1985 until 1999 more or less. I would make the cut here. You could argue and include 2000 but there was already the sign of an decreasing economy so I would just go as far and include 1999. In any case, 9-11 was the already a totally different era.

I will expand on the historic dimension and also on the impact of politics, terrorism and education another time since it would somehow make this article expand too much, but the crucial point is this: we – our generation – took the drugs because… Just because.  We simply could. It was a juvenile try out. It was somehow recreational. Like people do wellness or yoga. Speed, acid and pot were the yoga and bling bling of the mid-late 80’s and throughout the 90’s.  The money was there. Jobs were plenty. People were well off. Cold war had ended. There was no imminent war with anyone except for the gulf war. Everyone was relatively rich in the 80’s and beginning 90’s. So… The brat generation was born. Douglas Coupland called us generation x. But I find brat generation much more apt cos ours was the first ever generation after ww2 that was totally free in terms of freedom of speech, had received good education, was not forced to make do, but was rather encouraged to spend more time studying, and this would pay off, and still even students had plenty of money and other amenities through their parents, through society and the way the world was in. The basic word that comes to mind would be squander.

The funny thing is… 2000 was already the end of the dot com area and the high fly dreams of many many people.

So, just in case you should also belong to the generation x or brat pack, go out and read “Less than zero” and you will understand many things, looking into the rear mirror so to speak.

Plus it is a fast book that gets you hooked from the first moment. One thing I very much liked about Ellis and his style was that his stories sound like reality. These people are pretty much all out there. The situations too.

Julian is a true anti-hero, a lost boy, a kind and very weak character. Even though someone should protect him, he finds himself on a trip, caught in a downward spiral and we become voyeuristic witnesses of what he has to go through. The end is something very un-american and that is why I like so much about this book.

This is one of these books that you read, then put it aside, pick it up again and re-read it.
It is a very good novel about friendship, decadence, power and power abuse, drugs and the  principle “the show must go on”.

If you are afraid of reading a “drug book”, take it easy. “Less than Zero” is a read that shows and combines drugs, social decline and misery, but it is not as outspoken as others books earlier mentioned.

Should “Less Than Zero” be too lame and too boring, too harmless for you, try “Naked Lunch” instead.
Having said that, I do not find it lame or boring in any way, it is subtle. I really prefer “Less Than Zero” to “Naked Lunch”.

In case, you are interested in the urban novel, try and read Jay McInerney. “Bright Lights, Big City”. Here we have a sweet case of love, heartbreak and obsession. The coke he is snorting, the affect that the drugs have on him and the constant partying is a sideline but it is like it is an antagonist of the story-teller. Another generation x novel.

I must admit I have been lagging behind with everything. I was tied up with things, organizing stuff, tearing myself up with wanting too much at one given time, I tried to do many things at a time and got caught up with the some areas that made me think things over and over since I kind of have the tendency to overload easily since I cannot say no. No seems to be the one word, I have not learnt in years, and not after learning so many foreign languages. No does not stick with me. Therefore, I had forced myself to go and override my own emergency signals, like not getting enough sleep, being erratic, being highly strung, being a bit like as if was on drugs, which I wasn’t but then again it does not matter. Basically, I had to summer-clean my mind (too late to call it spring-cleaning now), admit that I made a mistake in my conception of someone, still I don’t need to beat myself up about it but … relax, calm down, get some fresh air and sit back and enjoy the simple things again. Now, I reckon, the worst is over. Writing can begin again.

So, what about today. Jun 21st, summer solstice, does it mean anything to me? Um, yes and no. There you go. Opting for the ambiguous answer… almost always. 😉 I guess a lot of semi-sciences want this day to be special since it marks the longest period of sunlight in the northern hemisphere, and hence the shortest night as well, whereas in the southern hemisphere it is all reversed, it happens vice versa, shortest day and longest night.

For me it is somewhat special in the way that I think, woah, shit, and now the days are slowly getting shorter again even though we haven’t even reached the peak of the real summer heat. But then again, I guess we all know that summer is not an endless period of time. As a child, it feels like and it also seems like an unlimited, endless amount of afternoons: it is like a huge adventure coming your way. You could spend these afternoons in the park with your friends, sitting in the shade of a tree, or riding a bike, or playing football, going for a swim, playing hide and seek, or reading hundreds of books, or collecting things or whatever tickles your fancy… And then, after the first weeks, you get bored, you start to roam about, when you’ve met up with all of your friends, you suddenly feel weird, you look at the calendar, and think, my god, and it is still roughly one month or even one month and a half to go…

When you grow up, this feeling of unlimited time of having time on your hands often gets lost. But guess what? There is a chance to recuperate it. I am serious. You may just try to think again like when you were 10 or 11. You think of all the nice things you might want to do and just simply do them, not thinking about tomorrow. And then you may just spend one whole afternoon watching something, some silly little animal or merely hiding in a tree, sitting still, so no-one may find you. That people might think that you’ve gone lost and they start to run around, and you just sit there, maybe musing, maybe sniggering a little too… watching the bright blue sky above you, not a cloud to watch. Just bright blue skies. Sometimes you wonder where the hours go when you really enjoy something you are doing but it does not matter when time flies, being yourself and being with you, hoping to take that crazy pace away.

Take away the rushing to and fro, forget about the have to’s, need to, the should have been’s and start to linger… Really, I mean it. Start lingering and you will see that your own spirit will return quickly. If you feel overwhelmed, or haven’t been so sure about a certain thing, the part of your heart, of your brain, of you, whatever name you got for it, where you need to make decisions, it will feel ready to unfold, to relax, and decompress like a deep-sea diver who needs to adjust the oxygene level bit by bit. Yes, it does help you get back to being yourself again and cos it makes you see things differently, more clearly.

I wish you guys all to have more of that wonderful magic and beautiful summer time that streches out before all of us.

When I, some hours later, had climbed down that tree and would sneak back home, you could bet that my smile went from one ear to the other. And even if my parents would be mad at me I would not tell them where the heck I had been.

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The more scratched my knees and elbows were, the more proud I would be that I had been coming through the wilderness and made it back home, to a bathtub, a bar of soap and scratchy towels. It had a weird sense of victory.

Wishing you a hypnotic summer, and one to remember!

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