Bret Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero, published in 1985, made its 21-year-old author an instant celebrity. It followed an 18-year-old called Clay as he returned from college to spend the Christmas break with his family in LA. The plot of the novel follows him and his friends as they aimlessly criss-cross the city in cars, moving from party to party, strung out on booze and Valium and dope and loveless sex. Clay is haunted by a billboard that promises, or invites, with the words ‘Disappear Here’. Images of violence and exploitation abound, but the characters pay as much or as little attention to them as they do to the video clips, clothing brands and advertising hoardings that surround them.
Ellis’s later American Psycho used this disjunction between an obsession with surface and the yawning moral void to explore a rich, disturbing and often very funny vein of satire. In hindsight, Less than Zero seems glazed and haphazard by comparison, striving to maintain its dead tone while delivering