Bret Easton Ellis returns to the library with ‘The Shards’

(by Alessandra Baldini) (ANSA) – NEW YORK, JAN 19 – Los Angeles, 1981: Kim Carnes’ ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ is on the radio, ‘The Shining’ has just come out at the cinema and all the kids are wearing Wayfarers . Bret, 17, still not declared gay at the beginning of the last year of high school, was left alone for months in his parents’ house on Mulholland Drive. This is the premise of ‘The Shards’, the first novel in 13 years by Bret Easton Ellis, in which the almost sixty-year-old American writer dissolves the boundaries between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy. The elements of the novel – an ‘autofiction’ as defined by US critics – which the writer of ‘American Psycho’ released with a bi-weekly podcast even before it was released in bookstores, are those that made it popular in the past: a murder , music, cocaine, Valium, obscene wealth, famous brand names, cults, rebellious teenagers and parents who neglect them. The plot, set in autumn 1981, involves a group of students from Buckley, an exclusive Californian prep school inspired by the one with the same name attended by the author: Bret, an aspiring writer, is engaged to Debbie Schaffer (the daughter of a wealthy producer who has justified doubts about his boyfriend’s relationship with mates Ryan Vaughn and Matt Kellner) and is friends with another couple, Susan Reynolds and Thom Wright.

Bret is writing a novel and at one point he comes to Debbie’s father with a proposal for a film adaptation: ‘A boy, his friends, young people in LA, sexy, a bit bi, drugs, someone is killed, there’ It’s a hunt, violence and blood, a mystery that the boy solves or maybe not.

I prefer the dark end but if I want I can have a happy ending, it can be negotiated”.

The Bret who writes the novel introduces two more characters, a mysterious new high school student named Robert Mallory and a serial killer nicknamed ‘the Trawler’. Matt disappears, Bret suspects Robert and fears he is the Trawler. In terms of content, ‘The Shards’ is in line with ‘Meno di Zero’ (the debut novel at the age of just 21 when he was still in college), in terms of length (600 pages) it is similar to ‘American Psycho’, the saga of psychopathic banker Patrick Bateman who in 1991 made its author famous all over the world. Ellis worked on it for 40 years: “I was going to write it in 1982. I had started ‘Less Than Zero’ and ‘The Shards’ took over, but not for long,” explained the writer: “All the elements were there and I would cycle back to it every eight years or after I’d finished a book.” It took the pandemic and the initial isolation of the lockdown to bring the novel to maturity.