Literature / Less Than Zero

Disappear Here

Bret Easton Ellis' first novel. Less Than Zero was written when Ellis was 19 and was published in 1985. It was loosely adapted into a film in 1987.

Clay, the protagonist, is a bisexual college student back home in L.A. for the winter break. He comes from a pretty rich family and during the course of the novel, goes to a lot of parties, has a lot of one-night stands and does a lot of drugs. The story itself is a fairly frightening take on the amorality of the 1980s party scene.

Provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The '80s: Bret Easton Ellis' writing style generally incorporates a lot of pop culture, and this novel is no exception. Every paragraph just screams Eighties! Eighties! Eighties!!! from the parachute pants to the Ataris.
  • Adults Are Useless: Nobody's parents seem to pay attention to anything going on.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Julian's pimp and dealer.
  • Arc Words: Disappear Here.
  • Bi the Way: Clay.
  • Black and Gray Morality: While Clay does a lot of questionable and downright illegal stuff, he's nowhere near as bad as most of the people around him. The host of one of the many, many parties buys a Snuff Film and screens it to all the partygoers while sporting an obvious erection. People stand around Clay's anorexic friend Muriel while she shoots up and take numerous pictures. A pair of drug dealers rape a twelve-year-old because they can't see any reason not to. Julian's pimp forces Clay to watch as Julian prostitutes himself to a client... It goes on and on.
  • Chained to a Bed: Clay's dealer has a twelve year old girl tied to a bed. His dealer also drugs her and uses her as a sex slave...
  • Character Overlap: Clay is also a minor character in The Rules of Attraction.
  • Crapsack World
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The point of the book, really.
  • From Bad to Worse: Boy howdy. The book starts off somewhat pessimistically already, with Clay estranged from all the people around him, especially his sorta-girlfriend and best friend. And it just keeps going downhill.
  • Hookers and Blow: Played with; there's lots of sexual promiscuity but almost no prostitutes are shown servicing anyone (Julian notwithstanding). There are certainly plenty of drugs though— not just cocaine but heroin, meth, Quaaludes, animal tranquilizers...
  • No Name Given: Most characters (including Clay) are only known by their first names.
  • Parental Obliviousness
  • Plenty of Blondes: Practically much every white character is tan and blond(e), as befitting the Southern California stereotype. A few who favor a punk look have differently-colored hair, and none of the (very few) non-white characters are described as blonds.
  • Safety in Indifference: Clay.
    "I don't want to care. If I care about things, it'll just be worse, it'll just be another thing to worry about. It's less painful if I don't care."
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Many of the characters.
  • Sex Slave: A twelve year old girl.
  • Sick and Wrong: Clay's feelings about the Snuff Film and the twelve year old girl.
  • Snuff Film: Clay sees one being shown off at a party.
  • There Are No Adults
  • Titled After the Song: This book and its sequel are both named after Elvis Costello songs.
  • Unnamed Parent: Clay's parents are not named (neither are his two sisters).
  • Wild Teen Party
  • Your Cheating Heart: Neither Clay nor Blair have been faithful to the other during the school year.