Tag Archives: Bret Easton Ellis

The Completist

Dear readers, when I’m not busy being totally amped for the final season of the best thing I’ve ever seen on television (Breaking Bad),  or musing on how Louis C.K. is modeling himself as his generation’s Woody Allen, I’m generally thinking about the big issues. Like being a completist. (Full disclosure, I totally thought I was making up a word, but it’s real! Thanks, research databases.) Sounds fairly infinite and frightening, but I’m not referring to obsessive collection, instead the joy of comprehensiveness. I’m talking about books, friends. This post is about going the distance, in which your hero talks of completing an author’s entire bibliography.

That said, I don’t think there are not many authors for which I can claim this to be true, as the authors’ I enjoy most are prolific. I hadn’t even thought this concept as being possible until I picked up Glamorama, a seemingly random book by Bret Easton Ellis that I realized would complete my reading of him – he’s only written novels and been a prolific twitter presence, to my knowledge. Ellis is a strange author to be “complete” with, sometimes brilliant, sometimes grating, most times droll. What draws me back to him repeatedly is that his novels often exist within the same existing universe – jaded, desensitized, “LA” characters you can’t help but be fascinated by, if only for their removal from their surroundings. I never know if it’s satire or just how Ellis may really be, but it doesn’t stop me from turning the pages. Reading Glamorama did allow me to realize that keeping up with contemporary authors is easier than I had previously thought – with the days of letter writing unfortunately gone, the sheer amount available on authors has dwindled. I’m currently complete, and keeping up with the work of Franzen, Eugenides, Eggers, Hornby, Frey and Vlautin, to mention a few. As long as they don’t all drop books at the same time, I should be able to continue growing with them, without fear that they will start releasing their pen pal adventures, or too many collections of essays on birding (I’m looking at you, J Franz).

It’s the pesky older (i.e.: dead) authors that are difficult. How do Bukowski, Bolaño and Vonnegut keep releasing things from beyond the grave? My count is that I have read twenty-five by Buk (counting poetry collections and correspondences) and twenty by Kurt, and I don’t even know how many books keep getting found and translated by Bolaño in order to keep up. I have no sense of whether I am complete or not! Salinger, however, I have no qualms with. It’s easy when the guy stopped publishing for most of his life (on top of that I fully believe he did not leave anything behind – if there’s anyone who burned his work it’s him).  I will never be done reading Franny and Zooey, and revisiting the misadventures of the Glass family in any form. It feels complete.
So what say you, constant companion? Do you have any authors or artists you can’t get enough of? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Post below in comments for interactive fun!

– Tony

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The College Novel

I’ve long thought college life to be a great subject for fiction writing, but until recently I never knew that there is a recognized “college novel” genre. It was first brought to my attention two weeks ago when a library patron asked me for an old book called The College Novel in America by John O. Lyons. Unfortunately, after she pried it from my hands she checked it out, so I can’t tell you much more about it. However, I found a recent reference work on the subject at neighboring Hillman Library called The American College Novel by John E. Kramer, and I can tell you about that one and some of the hidden treasures it reveals.

Kramer provides annotations for 648 American college novels divided into two sections: student-centered and staff-centered. Some student-centered titles include End Zone by Don Delillo; The Paragon by Jon Knowles; Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis; Big U by Neal Stephenson; Continuing Education by Dorothy Weil; and Hippies by Peter Jedick. In the staff-centered category you’ll find The Human Stain by Philip Roth; The Temptation to Do Good by Peter Ferdinand Drucker; Straight Man by Richard Russo; Japanese by Spring by Ishmael Reed; Intimate Enemies by Caryl Rivers; Unholy Loves by Joyce Carol Oates; and Breakers by Martin Walser.

If you don’t want to sift through 648 books to decide where to begin your college novel reading, no worries, Kramer provides a top 50 recommendation list that includes Fanshawe by Nathaniel Hawthorne; The Women’s Room by Marilyn French; Fall Quarter by Weldon Kees; Rookery Blues by Jon Hassler; The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy; A Friend in Power by Carlos Baker; Stepping Westward by Malcolm Bradbury; and Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon.

Kramer also supplies an index that allows you to find titles based on a character’s staff position at their respective college setting, and yes, there are some that include librarians and archivists as main characters. Four to be exact: Alamo House by Sarah Bird; Lusts by Clark Blaise; The Devil in Texas by Wolf Mankowitz; and The Archivist by Martha Cooley.

Anglophiles, fear not: There is another book I stumbled across here at CLP called The English University Novelby Mortimer Robinson Proctor, that features critical interpretations of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Angus Wilson’s Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Nightand many more.

–Wes

PS. You might have noticed that some of the titles in this post weren’t linked to the catalog. That’s because those titles aren’t available within our library system and will need to be obtained through our Interlibrary Loan service. Unfortunately, Interlibrary Loan was drastically affected by this year’s state budget cuts to library services, resulting in less access to materials by patrons, and increased costs to deliver those materials. Let’s not forget that in 2010 we need to sustain our advocacy efforts to ensure an increase in library funding in next year’s state budget.

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