Six Degrees of Separation: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

The Story According to Amazon

Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s, Less than Zero has become a timeless classic. This coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age. They live in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money in a place devoid of feeling or hope.

Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college and re-enters a landscape of limitless privilege and absolute moral entropy, where everyone drives Porches, dines at Spago, and snorts mountains of cocaine. He tries to renew feelings for his girlfriend, Blair, and for his best friend from high school, Julian, who is careering into hustling and heroin. Clay’s holiday turns into a dizzying spiral of desperation that takes him through the relentless parties in glitzy mansions, seedy bars, and underground rock clubs and also into the seamy world of L.A. after dark. Link

My Chain

I haven’t read this book, but was in college from 1980–1984 so I’m very familiar with the era. But since the L.A. Times called it an “Updated Catcher in the Rye….” I’ll start with that.


Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger


Next another novel about the destructive qualities of excess, The Great Gatsby.


John O’Hara immediately came to mind after reading the blurb on Less Than Zero, but the problem was choosing which of his books to include. I decided Pal Joey was the seediest.


Vile Bodies is one of Evelyn Waugh’s best-known books, but it’s portrayal of the 1920’s Bright Young Things hasn’t stood up well to the test of time. (My review). But decadence is decadence.


The Bright Young Things learned decadence from their parents–the Edwardians or late Victorians.  The Shooting Party is a good illustration of that society. Senseless slaughter of birds raised only to be killed, corridor creeping to other beds and a class system so rigid that no one could be truly happy. The Shooting Party. The film is also excellent.


When the Bright Young Things who survived the 20’s became dreary husbands and wives they escaped their deteriorating standard of living at, what else? House parties like this one, written by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes, it had the same look, the same cadence as Downton, but it is Downton’s evil twin. Gosford Park.


You can read more about Six Degrees of Separation HERE. You can see all of November’s chains HERE.



6 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

  1. Love your 1920s angle.

    Coincidentally, I’ve just finished reading My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff – have you read it? I really loved it (being a Salinger fan is not a pre-requisite and in fact, Rakoff hadn’t read any Salinger when she started working for the agency that represented him).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I loved your chain. Love your reason for choosing the O’Hara – it being “the seediest”. And then moving onto decadence. You really took the tone/setting of the starting point and ran with it, didn’t you!

    Liked by 1 person

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