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Literature / Glamorama

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"The better you look, the more you see."

"Basically everyone was a sociopath... and all the girls' hair was chignoned."

Glamorama is a 1998 novel by Bret Easton Ellis.

If someone wanted to be glib about the plot of Glamorama, they could say, "It's like the movie Zoolander, but played straight." But they'd only be about 25% correct.

Glamorama stars Victor, the mostly absent Europe-roaming boyfriend of Lauren's in The Rules of Attraction, as a somewhat vapid and completely solipsistic fashion model. He's risen to a level of fame and fortune; at the beginning of the novel, he's opening an extremely chic nightclub that promises to garner a large celebrity turnout. Victor is dating supermodel Chloe Byrnes while banging Alison Poole (who is dating the nightclub owner and Victor's business partner/boss) while doing a ton of drugs and chugging a ton of booze. Then Victor meets the strange and vague F. Fred Palakon, a man who offers him $300,000 to track down a former classmate of his, Jamie Fields. Victor takes the job and eventually finds Jamie and before he fully realizes it, he is waist-deep in the bizarre and violent happenings of an international terrorist group made up entirely of fashion models.

The book is a pitch-black Satire of celebrity culture with a dollop of Gorn and side of Meta Fiction. It embraces several Ellis hallmarks (drugs and booze galore, disaffection, meaningless sex), but offers some departures from the usual Ellis fare.

This novel provides examples of:

  • The '90s: Much like in American Psycho, much emphasis is put on the fashion, music, the protagonist's use of Totally Radical and other cultural aspects of the time period Glamorama takes place in. In fact, the reader can deduce that the novel takes place in 1996, as Bobby Hughes' final terrorist act occurs on November 15, Friday which falls precisely on year 1996.
  • Action Survivor: Victor Ward is an air-headed model who had absolutely no idea what he was getting into. Almost every time he's in a dangerous situation he's completely unable to defend himself.
  • And I Must Scream: There are quite a few shocking scenes that are this. And they're usually in a Gorn context.
  • Arc Words: "Let's slide down the surface of things."
    • "It's what you don't know that matters most."
  • A Threesome Is Hot: In one point, Victor, Bobby and Jamie have very graphically described and at times acrobatic sex. Bobby and Victor both penetrate each other and though Victor has thrown around some homophobic slurs, he certainly seems to enjoy it.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Par for the course for Ellis, but here it's taken to its logical extreme, with villains being a group models who moonlight as terrorists.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Well of course!
  • The Cameo:
  • Catchphrase:
    • Victor's is, "The better you look, the more you see." It's likely that he doesn't even know what that means.
    • He uses "Spare me!" very liberally.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Patrick Bateman, the Villain Protagonist from American Psycho exists in the same universe as Christian Bale, the actor who plays the film adaptation version of Bateman in Real Life.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Victor's knowledge of song lengths makes a return near the end of the book.
  • City of Spies: It seems like it at times.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Bobby Hughes is probably the strongest example.
  • The Ditz: Basically everyone, but especially Victor.
  • Fashion Show: It is about models after all.
  • Fetch Quest: This is where the plot seems to be going, but then it takes a hard turn.
  • Gainax Ending
  • Gorn: Yep. Though not as prevalent as it was in American Psycho, it's still there in force. An especially brutal example is the death of Chloe.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Unlike Ellis' other works, Glamorama has no chapter names, and chapters are numbered backwards, possibly to symbolise the countdown of a bomb.
  • Meaningful Name: Victor is a case of an Ironic Name, as he is, more often than not, a loser underdog who's used and abused by the higher powers.
    • F. Fred Palakon is a reference to G. Gordon Liddy, one of the culprits behind the Watergate scandal, hinting at Palakon's deceptive nature.
  • Meta Fiction: An interesting example. It doesn't rear it's head until roughly halfway through the book, but Victor eventually starts conversing with the "director" and "crew" of the events that are unfolding. Some people argue that this indicates that Victor is a schizophrenic.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Oh, Victor.
  • Unreliable Narrator: In a way, Victor is an accidental case of this. The reader is able to pick up on events and meanings of things in the story that Victor is too air-headed or conceited to detect (at least at first). The way he views what's going on around him at times differs from what the reader can parse out.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Bobby Hughes impersonates a woman named Marina and gives him a blowjob while dressed as her on the cruise-liner as a way to steal an sensitive object from Victor. But considering the bisexual threesome that Bobby, Victor and Jamie engage in later...
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: The true motive for Bobby Hughes' and his group's actions are never elaborated on.
  • The 'Verse: Victor himself was a supporting character in The Rules of Attraction. Also appearing are: Lauren and Bertrand from the same book. Jamie is technically a Ellisverse character as she was indeed mentioned by Victor as a former girlfriend in The Rules of Attraction. Alison Poole is also the main character of Story Of My Life, a novel by Jay McInerney, and also appears in American Psycho.
  • Western Terrorists: They're a group of international fashion models, but their goals are somewhat unclear.