White by Brett Easton Ellis
Having once been “brattishly in touch with his own epoch”, Bret Easton Ellis (b.1964) has morphed into a grumpy old man, said David Sexton in the London Evening Standard. In these “freewheeling” essays, the author of American Psycho takes aim at “Generation Wuss” (aka millennials), lambasting them for everything from their cry-baby tendencies to their intolerance of opposing points of view. A central theme is “disdain” for digital culture, which Ellis attacks on multiple fronts (despite himself being a prolific tweeter): for polarising opinion into ever-hardening tribes; for diminishing sex by making it too available; and for forcing everyone to have identical reactions to art, or risk being “tagged a racist or misogynist”. While these pieces can be entertaining – Ellis remains an “eloquent and contrary” writer – there is something unedifying about the spectacle of a former enfant terrible “overcome with nostalgia for his own youth”.
It’s easy to see Ellis as a much-reduced figure who hasn’t written a good novel in years, said Tom Shone in The Sunday Times. But the “real shocker” about these essays is that they’re actually pretty “good” – especially those in which Ellis recalls his youth as a latchkey kid in 1970s California, living in a world without “parental filters or, for that matter, parents”. Ellis wears his identity as an early Gen X member with pride, describing himself as part of the “most pessimistic and ironic generation” ever, said Anna Leszkiewicz in The Guardian. And he wants us to believe that today’s “PC, thought-police culture” has been responsible for “ruining the world”. But while he appears to think that this is a daring viewpoint, the reality is that it’s “reactionary and boring”. These pieces have “all the sound, fury and insignificance of a misguided rant posted at 3am”.