cover image The Shards

The Shards

Bret Easton Ellis. Knopf, $30 (608p) ISBN 978-0-593-53560-8

Bret Easton Ellis, the narrator of this ponderous work of autofiction set in 1980s Los Angeles from bestseller Ellis, is a private school senior with literary ambitions who’s fascinated by books and movies; he has already started writing his first novel, Less Than Zero. But Ellis the grown-up author ups the ante in several ways: he depicts a lavish lifestyle fueled by money and privilege, explores his own fluid sexuality (and that of some of his friends), and adds a lurid story of home invasions and murders (one victim is a high school friend). In effect, he mashes up Less Than Zero with American Psycho. As Ellis explores the theme of lost innocence (“It was as if another world was announcing itself, painting the one we had all safely taken for granted into a darker color”), he often demonstrates his skill as a storyteller, but this book feels like two disparate novels—an overly detailed, fictionalized memoir and a high gothic serial killer thriller—that never come together meaningfully or believably. This is not the place to start for those new to Ellis, nor will genre fans find much to like. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM Partners. (Jan.)