Scathing Book Reviews of Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis is a book that is as emblematic of the 1980s, just like the Bridges of Madison County is emblematic of the 1990s. OK, not “just like” it, but they’re definitely two sides of the same coin. They also share in common an obscure author with 3 names, who wrote two hit books, saw a book made into a movie and then found their early success hard to repeat.

Just think about it – Robert James Waller Bret Easton Ellis One is famous for what his critics would call sentimental pap. The other is famous for what his critics would call nihilistic pap.

I feel like I need Bret Easton Ellis’ stuff just to relive a little 80’s nostalgia, but perhaps it’d be more fulfilling to watch the Robert Downey Jr. version of the Less than Zero movieinstead, which has quite an 80’s cast. James Spader AND Robert Downey AND Andrew McCarthy AND Jami Gertz? I feel strangely compelled to rent it. Anyway, these Scathing Book Reviews of Less than Zero would prefer to give it Less than Zero stars:

208 pages of aimless drivel. About 3 over worked metaphors that stick through a vapid juvenile vocabulary like the ribs of a starved street dog.


Somehow I never noticed that the city I live in is populated entirely by blond-haired coke freaks. Thank you, Bret Easton Ellis. You’ve really opened my eyes….

…and from the same review:

This book makes Jay McInerney’s “Bright Lights, Big City” (which shares much in common with the present tome) seem like Dostoevsky.


Less than Zero is less than bad. It’s tenth-generation derivative California noir by a silly trust-fund amateur with great connections and no talent… It’s Didion writ dumb, Chandler without corpses–unless you count the readers.


I ordered this book from Amazon, after seeing such comments as “the Catcher in the Rye” for this generation. Who are they kidding? Ellis is a one-note writer, who can’t even play his one note well.


It’s not a book; it’s words on a page, and even more they’re the wrong words awkwardly strung together.

…and some harshness for Andrew McCarthy:

Rarely does a movie improve upon a story told in a book; especially when the movie stars people like Andrew McCarthy.


If this is supposed to be literature, I’d hate to see what bad prose is like.

…and finally a review that makes me wonder if Less than Zero’s alternate title should have been “A Night in the Life of Tucker Max”:

Maybe i’m missing the point, but the entire book consists of this: I went to a club, snorted some coke, went to another club, snorted some coke, went home and slept, snorted some coke.

3 Responses

  1. i loved this book.
    subtlety is an art,
    learn it.

  2. Sierra, you’re giving me this advice at a site named “Scathing Book Reviews”? Think about it…

  3. These reviews are amusing — and they all share a remarkable inability to process themes in anything but broad strokes.

    For me, Less Than Zero is, if nothing else, a telling snapshot of Ellis’ nascent vision as a author. It’s told from a less than confident footing, true, barely capable of looking at the horrors Ellis so capably inhabits later in his career, and is all the more important for it.

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