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The Bret Easton Ellis meets the press routine.
June 14, 2010 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Bret Easton Ellis's new novel, Imperial Bedrooms, a follow-up to his 1985 debut Less Than Zero, will be released tomorrow. In the anticipatory run-up, Ellis reviews have been popping up everywhere: Vice, Movieline, The Times, New York Magazine, The LA Times. In each interview, Ellis answers the door barefoot, offers the interviewer a Coke, and shows them his kitchen. LA Times writer Carolyn Kellogg noticed that Ellis is giving the same interview every time.
posted by shakespeherian (85 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cool. More doped up rich kids to hate.
posted by jonmc at 8:02 AM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


He's also writing the same book every time.
posted by dortmunder at 8:05 AM on June 14, 2010 [28 favorites]


Carolyn Kellogg: "There’s nothing wrong with what Ellis has done, but seeing how much of his interview was said elsewhere reinforced the idea I had upon leaving: that whoever Bret Easton Ellis is, I had only seen a shadow of him. And I can’t help but wish there were something more authentic about this process. That Ellis was actually answering questions, rather than performing the skit starring this rehearsed version of himself."

When has Bret Easton Ellis not done this? Does she think that this is some new inauthentic version of a previously authentic Bret?
posted by blucevalo at 8:05 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe he's making fun of the inbred subnormals who usually conduct these author interviews and their inane questions?
posted by atrazine at 8:06 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


So ask him off script questions. I used to ask musicians things like, "What did you have for breakfast?" or "Which of you is the worst driver." It got better responses than, "Whop are your musical influences?" and "Why did you pick up the guitar?"

If you got the same interview as everyone else you were asking the wrong questions.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:09 AM on June 14, 2010 [17 favorites]


I would indeed like a Coke, thank you.
posted by Theta States at 8:09 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


But we're still waiting for a sequel to Zero Effect. Get on it, Jake Kasdan!
posted by Iridic at 8:09 AM on June 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


The logical denoument is that it was not even B.E. himself in the interviews but an actor hired for the occaision. You know, like JT Leroy...
posted by From Bklyn at 8:10 AM on June 14, 2010


Are small cans of Coke the Next Big Thing? Is Mexican Coke in glass bottles not cool any more?
posted by fixedgear at 8:10 AM on June 14, 2010


I really couldn't care about what Bret Easton Ellis has to say. I care about what he has to write.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 8:11 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ellis Costello! Am looking forward to reading this book, for some inexplicable reason.
posted by chavenet at 8:14 AM on June 14, 2010


I'm surprised he lets them into his home at all.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:14 AM on June 14, 2010


The Rules Of Attraction is a much, much better movie than book, how often does that happen?
posted by The Whelk at 8:16 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe they should ask different questions? Dare I- maybe they should ask better questions.

I'm a tiny speck of a gnat in the literary world, but I do interviews. And 9 out of 10 interviews ask me the same thing. Where do you get your ideas? is the #1 most asked. #2 is What is one thing you haven't been asked that you want to answer?

Do five interviews in a row like that, and you're ready to cliff yourself. The fact that he made a ritual performance out of this cracks me up.
posted by headspace at 8:17 AM on June 14, 2010 [14 favorites]


Noting that the incidental details are the same is kind of inane--if he's doing the interviews at his apartment, of course he's going to be wearing what he usually wears around his home (as if most of us would wear lounging pants one day and a smoking jacket the next) and have what he usually has in the fridge as a refreshment. Ditto for the questions, and noting that someone who thinks that he writes like Chandler isn't really so much like Chandler? Holy shit, stop the presses. But I'm glad that Carolyn Kellogg can admit that she isn't up to the task of doing an interview that's substantially different from that of every other hack interviewer out there, I guess.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:22 AM on June 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh and as someone who does get interviewed sometimes - an original an unexpected question is a DELIGHT.
posted by The Whelk at 8:23 AM on June 14, 2010


The fact that he made a ritual performance out of this cracks me up.

Yeah I maybe should have put a [more inside] or something but this post isn't an irate callout so much as a bwahahahaha. It's like satirical performance art.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:24 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the last link:

There’s nothing wrong with what Ellis has done, but seeing how much of his interview was said elsewhere reinforced the idea I had upon leaving: that whoever Bret Easton Ellis is, I had only seen a shadow of him.

I've read a number of Ellis's books and can't help but feel he's already revealed far more of his true self (whatever that is) than most novelists will ever give me; and he's generally done so compellingly, without undermining his only real duty, which is the telling of an engaging narrative.

I expect nothing more from him.
posted by philip-random at 8:26 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whereas before I answer the door for anyone I put on shoes and move the fridge into the living room.
posted by creasy boy at 8:26 AM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've got a lot of sympathy with an author who gives a similar interview each time. To begin with, the physical details - jeans, bare feet, small Coke cans - could very easily just be how he dresses and stocks his fridge all the time because, well, he likes small Coke cans and feels comfortable in jeans and bare feet. If that's the case it's a bit much to expect him to go shopping and dress differently each time an interviewer comes by.

But on saying the same things in interviews ... I've been interviewed about novels I've written, and I tend to say the same things as well. I'm just not famous enough that it's been worth anyone's time to catch me at it. I'm not Bret Easton Ellis, so if Carolyn Kellogg is right his reasons may be entirely different from mine, but here are mine:

1. You tend to get asked similar questions each time. Or at least I did. It's hard to come up with a different answer to the same question.

2. You tend to get asked about your main areas of interest. Those don't change from interview to interview, and neither do your basic opinions about them.

3. If you're asked a question that flummoxes you - and that can happen; interviewers can ask questions about the writing process that presuppose so much about you that you'd have to spend half an hour correcting those presuppositions before you could get down to answering it, and probably look rude in the process and get written up as a jerk - your brain can freeze. The easiest way to cover for this is to say something that's at least vaguely relevant to their question and you feel you can say fluently, which means you can end up repeating something you've said elsewhere to cover the fact that you're stuck.

4. It's not unusual for interviewers to ask you pretty broad questions - broad enough that they don't trigger any new thoughts in your head, because it's usually specific stuff that gets you thinking - then sit back in silence while you talk, then go 'Mm-hm,' when it looks like you've finished, pause for a bit and then go in with a new, equally broad question. Basically, being interviewed can feel like you're being asked to produce copy that they can shape rather than like you're having a conversation. Again, under those circumstances it's easy to start babbling, and the easiest kind of babble is to say something similar to what you've said previously because it'll at least be semi-articulate babble.

I don't say any of this to run down interviewers; they do a good job, considering the problems of the process. Interviewing is a weird social situation: you have to have a conversation that covers a lot of personal information and/or intellectual opinions, which is to say, the kind of conversation you'd normally only have with an intimate - but it's a one-way street and takes place between two strangers who may or may not click with each other but have to have the conversation anyway. (And who very possibly are intimidated by each other: no interviewer likes to get shot down by a subject, and no subject likes to be stitched up by an interviewer. I'd guess that the fear of each situation only increases with an author's fame: the interviewer fears meeting a star-sized ego, and the subject fears an interviewer who wants to bring down the big quarry.) That puts authors and interviewers in an equally pressured position; getting a genuine rapport going is quite remarkable in such conditions, and very probably a rare experience on both sides.

The odds of seeing more than 'a shadow' of anybody you interview just aren't very high: it doesn't seem reasonable to expect a good view of someone's real self in such an artificial social setting. But it seems unfair to blame the author for this; it's just how people act in odd situations. Seeming 'rehearsed' doesn't necessarily mean a cynical ploy to conceal your identity; it could just as easily be an attempt to please under difficult circumstances. Candid views of a real self aren't easy to whip out on demand, and a subject who produces an adequate performance is, I'd say, doing about as much as can be expected.
posted by Kit W at 8:27 AM on June 14, 2010 [12 favorites]


The Rules Of Attraction is a much, much better movie than book, how often does that happen?

The nudity is actually visible?

/has not seen movie
/read book, enjoyed hating on stupid artsy-fartsy rich brats
posted by jonmc at 8:28 AM on June 14, 2010


So ask him off script questions. I used to ask musicians things like, "What did you have for breakfast?" or "Which of you is the worst driver." It got better responses than, "Whop are your musical influences?" and "Why did you pick up the guitar?"

I had a friend back in my campus radio days who always kicked off his interviews with the same question: what kind of car do you drive?

It always worked. 90 percent of the time the interviewee grokked that this wasn't going to be a typical "tell us about your new album" style of interview and got interested. 10 percent of the time, he got a boring, self-important, dismissive answer and proceeded to approach the witness as hostile. These were the fun ones.
posted by philip-random at 8:33 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


BUTT magazine used to have a standard "So when was the last time you had sex?" question
posted by The Whelk at 8:34 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


He's also writing the same book every time.

Have you read Lunar Park? I'm going to assume no, because it was really, really different than anything else he's written and really pretty amazing.

Now to go RTFA.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:34 AM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, in light of Lunar Park, this is awesome: "There’s nothing wrong with what Ellis has done, but seeing how much of his interview was said elsewhere reinforced the idea I had upon leaving: that whoever Bret Easton Ellis is, I had only seen a shadow of him. And I can’t help but wish there were something more authentic about this process. That Ellis was actually answering questions, rather than performing the skit starring this rehearsed version of himself."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:36 AM on June 14, 2010


This ought not to be a surprise. American Psycho, Glamorama, and, to a lesser extent Less Than Zero were about how people take attractive surface details for granted and will ignore any dysfunction underneath for that shallow illusion. People want the shiny, they don't actually want to know. The genesis for that commonly recurring theme might be Ellis' father, a reported malignant narcissist of the first water. I have not checked, but Ellis himself was supposed to have been rather fetching in decades past, with that kind of physical beauty which causes many people to suspend most rational judgment. Fame may have become a kind of substitute for that, the appeal of youth transmuted into the appeal of celebrity.

The same questions give the same answers, but to consciously affect verbatim responses ... this little ritual (the shabby oracle, viewed through smoke, doling out rote answers) might be a passive goad, a phurba left on the interview desk like a letter opener. Will the journalist have the courage (and frustration) to pick it up and cut through delusion and distraction?

No, probably not.
posted by adipocere at 8:40 AM on June 14, 2010 [5 favorites]



The Rules Of Attraction is a much, much better movie than book, how often does that happen?


Isn't it a common cliche that good books tend to make bad movies and vice versa? "Touch of Evil" and all that? Not universal, of course, but not uncommon.

But the real question is, how does a book translate to Musical Theatre?
posted by IndigoJones at 8:40 AM on June 14, 2010


This whole idea that an author owes a reader/critic/interviewer any authentic information about their own life/inspiration/ideas/etc is a load of bullshit invented by decontructionists and semiotics dweebs (is that a word?). Good for him for playing that game any way he wants.
posted by spicynuts at 8:47 AM on June 14, 2010


The same questions give the same answers, but to consciously affect verbatim responses ... this little ritual (the shabby oracle, viewed through smoke, doling out rote answers) might be a passive goad, a phurba left on the interview desk like a letter opener.

Yeah ... but it might also just be that Kellogg is choosing to interpret similar responses to similar situations as a performative ritual rather than just the coincidental result of the basic facts that 1) Most people have their little habits when they're at home, and 2) Ask the same question, get the same answer.

Kellogg isn't a scientist doing a set of methodology studies. She's a writer trying to find something interesting to say. 'He's putting it on' is a more interesting thing to say than 'Man, does that guy ever wear shoes?' I'm in no position to say whether she's right or wrong in her implications, but she's definitely not a disinterested observer. This is entertainment journalism: you're supposed to be amusing, not objective.
posted by Kit W at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2010


Yeah ... but it might also just be that Kellogg is choosing to interpret similar responses to similar situations as a performative ritual rather than just the coincidental result of the basic facts that 1) Most people have their little habits when they're at home, and 2) Ask the same question, get the same answer.

Yeah, the bit about the coke cans struck me that way. Why assume that someone is setting journalists up for a joke rather than that they were like, hey, nifty, little coke cans, at the supermarket? And don't you offer soda or something to people who visit you?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:55 AM on June 14, 2010


Ellis was barefoot, immaculately pedicured. His shirt was Canali, his suit Armani, his tie Louis Vuitton with the monogrammed initials BEE. Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" played from his Bose wall-mounted speakers. He offered me a Coke with a sardonic smile, and I knew at once that we were going to be cutting up some lines.
posted by naju at 8:56 AM on June 14, 2010 [12 favorites]


The Rules Of Attraction is a much, much better movie than book, how often does that happen?

That would be a great question to ask.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:00 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


This whole idea that an author owes a reader/critic/interviewer any authentic information about their own life/inspiration/ideas/etc is a load of bullshit invented by decontructionists and semiotics dweebs (is that a word?).

Or just a kind of entitlement: 'I'm interested in this person so they ought to reveal their private selves to me.' Which I think predates deconstructionism by a long, long way. Some people just think they're owed answers to all their questions.

Which ... nah. People owe you as much personal information as they feel like divulging, writers or not.
posted by Kit W at 9:01 AM on June 14, 2010


i see this a preemptive strike at interviewers -- unpredictable questions and thoughtfully considered answers to come. cross your fingers.
posted by Hammond Rye at 9:05 AM on June 14, 2010


I don't see how this is different than what would happen if you compared any set of interviews of any author about the same book.

In each interview, Ellis answers the door barefoot, offers the interviewer a Coke, and shows them his kitchen.

Not really. The Vice interview was over the phone. The Movieline interview is "over drinks at Soho House in Los Angeles." The Los Angeles Times interview is in his home office, with no mention of Coke or bare feet.

Even Kellogg's blog post, the interviews aren't always the same. Sometimes he offers coffee, sometimes a Coke. Sometimes he's wearing a hoodie, sometimes a polo shirt. I'm shocked--shocked!--at his aberrant behavior of dressing casually in his own home, showing visitors around the apartment, and offering them refreshments.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:08 AM on June 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


The Rules Of Attraction is a much, much better movie than book, how often does that happen?

What? You crazy, Whelk.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:09 AM on June 14, 2010


Dance fight at dawn sevenyearlurk.

Bring your monkey knife.
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking as someone who has been both interviewer and interviewee, I don't think interviewers often know just how similar their questions are to each other, partly because (outside of round robin interviews) they don't have much of an opportunity to compare notes. I also don't think people realize just how quickly and answer becomes a rote answer -- it's really easy just to do the mental cut-and-paste after you've been asked essentially the same question from five different people in a row.

As an interviewer I try to ask questions that get the information I want but come about it at a slightly different angle, because a) then you get the spontaneous, interesting answer rather than the pat answer, and b) that opens the door to more interesting followups and c) your interview subject is (usually) grateful to be mentally stimulated and you have a more engaged interview subject and thus a better interview. One thing I don't recommend, however, is the apparently random sort of question (the "if you were a tree, what tree would you be") variety, because often that signals that the interview is about the interviewer, not the interviewee, and also because they are in their way as lazy as the "where do you get your ideas?" sorts of questions.

As an interviewee I've gotten to the point where I tell interviewers to ask better or at least different questions, because I've already answered the question they're asking a couple of dozen times and I'm bored with it. Some interviewers get annoyed with this, but others get the hint and dig a little deeper and as a result they get a better interview out of it. I don't tend to answer the "what kind of tree" questions unless they are directly a consequence of the interview conversation because I find them annoying and stupid.
posted by jscalzi at 9:16 AM on June 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


History repeats the old conceits, the glib replies, the same defeats.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:18 AM on June 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


At least he's riffing on different Elvis Costello titles each time.
posted by ardgedee at 9:18 AM on June 14, 2010


Bret Easton Ellis? I seriously thought he was dead, but now I realize that was just my subconscious reaction to reading "Glamorama." Christian Bale holding the book for me in the nude couldn't make me read this new piece of... writing.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 9:21 AM on June 14, 2010


Author trolls media; media cries.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:23 AM on June 14, 2010


The Rules Of Attraction is a much, much better movie than book, how often does that happen?

Anytime Ryan Philippe's sculpted-by-God-Himself naked ass is on-screen.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:27 AM on June 14, 2010


Christian Bale holding the book for me in the nude couldn't make me read this new piece of... writing would make me very happy thanks.

FTFM.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:31 AM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


If someone were to visit my house (which they don't, because I'm a hermit and unpopular), they'd find me in a t-shirt and shorts, barefoot. I'd invite them in and offer them a beverage, because that's the hospitality code I was raised with.

If they were here to ask me about some specific (completed) project I was working on, I'd answer their questions as best I could.

If more than one person came to my house to ask me about this (completed) project, my answers to their questions probably wouldn't vary.

Furthermore, if it were a project I were actively promoting, I'd have a very specific point of view about it that I would want to communicate to people.

I'm not sure exactly was expected of Ellis. Should he have crafted a unique outfit and shtick for each interviewer? Maybe this interviewer would have been more satisfied by interviewing Lady Gaga.
posted by Pants McCracky at 9:45 AM on June 14, 2010


Dude seriously if you're not going to comp me drinks, call your dealer and feed me rails all night then take me to a secret sex club celebrity orgy then don't bother wasting my time, okay, LA Times, hello?
posted by The Straightener at 9:53 AM on June 14, 2010


Listen, you'll have to excuse me. I have a lunch meeting with Cliff Huxtable at the Four Seasons in 20 minutes.
posted by xod at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2010


dirtynumbangelboy - you are thinking of Ian Somerhalder who gets not one but two make-out scenes.
posted by The Whelk at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2010


Kellogg says something interesting in her own comment thread:

As for whether or not writers should be good interview subjects: a) since they’re wordsmiths, so they have a head start on say, musicians; b) they’ve got to be alone to work, so that puts them several social-skill steps behind, say, musicians; c) whether or not the work should stand on its own, talking about the work in interviews is one way to try to reach readers, which most writers find worthwhile.

Which rather seem to miss the point. Because:

a) 'Wordsmith'? Writing and speaking are two completely different activities. Plenty of people are good at one but not the other.

b) Being capable of functioning in solitude means you can't cope with company? What the hey? Interviewers have to 'be alone to work' when they write their interviews up; does that mean they have no social skills either? (And if they are, who can blame the writers for not opening up to them?)

c) Yeah, you want to promote your work. Doesn't mean you can think of an utterly unique answer on the fly every time somebody asks you a question. You do your best; "Surely you want to promote your work"' doesn't have to mean "Dance for me, monkey!"

It's the word 'should' that makes me edgy. Being a "good interview subject" isn't an obligation. Interviews depend on the interviewer as much as the interviewee, but even leaving that aside, there's no 'should' about it; some people just are and some people just aren't.

Promoting your work isn't part of your job. That's what agents and publicity departments are there to do, and that's why they get a share of the profits. Your job is to write the darn book. If you're a "good interview subject" that's an added bonus, like looking pretty in author photos or having a past that makes for good headlines ('Former Elvis Impersonator Turns Novelist!!!' or whatever).

Interviewers, on the other hand ... well, as Kellogg says: "as a reporter, I have to tell a story that we’re all telling." And that's tough: you're trying to stand out in a crowded field where unique copy is hard to come by. But that's not the writer's problem, and it really seems a bit unprofessional to blame them for not making that job easier.
posted by Kit W at 10:10 AM on June 14, 2010


But isn't this what happens with most promotional interviews anyway? When Leonardo DiCaprio has a new movie coming out and he sits down first with Entertainment Tonight, then with People, Jay Leno, and David Letterman, doesn't he say essentially the same shit each time? And don't the interviewers play along? And yeah, DiCaprio is a name brand actor while Ellis is a writer, but if you're honest about it, I think you'll have to concede that there's not much difference between the two in the eyes of the media.
posted by Clay201 at 10:19 AM on June 14, 2010


I'm surprised he lets them into his home at all.

I'm enjoying the idea that it wasn't even his home, but an apartment he'd rented and staged solely for the purpose of giving interviews.
posted by shiny blue object at 10:22 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two years ago, Mefi taught me about how delightful it can be to get a question that catches the interviewee off guard (and by implication, demonstrated how dull answering the same eight questions over and over again can be).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:29 AM on June 14, 2010


I'm enjoying the idea that it wasn't even his home, but an apartment he'd rented and staged solely for the purpose of giving interviews.

And later on the dismembered corpses of various missing middle-ground journos are found neatly arranged in the big freezer ensconced in the second bedroom.
posted by philip-random at 10:32 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


dirtynumbangelboy - you are thinking of Ian Somerhalder who gets not one but two make-out scenes.

I assure you sir I am... wait.

I was thinking of Cruel Intentions. Doh.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:35 AM on June 14, 2010


On the flip side of the "Mundane questions asked over and over" there's the Bret Easton Ellis' interview on Brass Eye:

Chris Morris: Who says Americans can’t write books? My school teacher for one did, but she was wrong and she’s dead now, and as if to dance on her grave, this American is all book. His name is Bret Easton Ellis, he’s from New York. Now I want you to imagine a book over six feet tall that looks like a man, then imagine that that book takes you aside, throws open its arms, and sprays words all over your face. It makes you laugh, it makes you cringe with raw satire like guts.
Is all this chopper-out-and-slash routine just a big ‘love me’ thing?

Bret Easton Ellis: No, not at all. The book—

Chris Morris: Could be, that incessant brandishing of your chopper in our face saying ‘love me, love me my chopper, I’m slashing all over the place.’

Bret Easton Ellis: Well, yeah. What I’m motivated by as a writer — or as a satirist I think — are things in society that annoy me.

...


Chris Morris: Now, you’ve stuck with the old chapter format thing. Why was that?

Bret Easton Ellis: What do you mean, like going backwards?

Chris Morris: In terms of sub-dividing the book into separate chapters.

Bret Easton Ellis: You know what? That’s something I can’t really explain or verbalise. I know when I begin writing a book — and I plan the book for quite a long time and I know a lot of the things that are going to happen in the book. One of them this time was the way the chapters were spaced out.

Chris Morris: Do you know how many chapters there are going to be?

Bret Easton Ellis: I have a pretty clear idea, yes, I do.

Chris Morris: It does expose you to the accusation that it is all chapter, no book.

Bret Easton Ellis: …um…

Chris Morris: Where are you going to go with this chapter thing?

Bret Easton Ellis: …um…
posted by Challahtronix at 10:36 AM on June 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


Jesus Christ that interviewer is a fucking moron douchebag donkeyfucking waste of genetic material.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:43 AM on June 14, 2010


It'll be okay, dirtynumbangelboy. Here, have a Coke.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:45 AM on June 14, 2010


WHERE ARE YOUR SOCKS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAN
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:48 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


The tiny cans of soda seem to be the only thing even remotely unusual about this scenario. But if you had 12 interviews scheduled tomorrow, and you planned to offer each interviewer a can of soda because you're polite, and one for yourself because you get parched, I think tiny cans are the obvious answer. Your other options being:

1. Swimming in fluids and constantly having to ask for bathroom breaks after drinking 12 normal-sized cans of soda.

2. Opening a normal-size can for each interview, but wasting half of it.

3. Offering each interviewer a can of soda, then explaining "That's okay, I'm still working on the can I opened for the guy who was just here."

Mini-cans just seem like the practical solution. Which surprises me only in so far as Ellis never struck me as a practical sort of guy.
posted by ErikaB at 10:49 AM on June 14, 2010


This reminds me of when people are shocked to find out talk show interviews are less than 100% spontaneous. That they practiced beforehand, and that they're going to work in the plug for the guy's new movie. That it's not just Dave and his good buddy Tom Cruise having a casual chat.

Because it's work. They're there for work. Bret Easton-Ellis isn't doing 100 press interviews because he has some stuff he really wants to say to the public- he's doing them because it's part of his job to promote his new book.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:08 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


At the risk of self-linking, I interviewed BEE some years ago and found him to be a thoughtful and cliche-defying guy. So I'm not sure what Carolyn Kellogg is really complaining about.
posted by ed at 11:28 AM on June 14, 2010


At the risk of self-linking, I interviewed BEE some years ago and found him to be a thoughtful and cliche-defying guy. So I'm not sure what Carolyn Kellogg is really complaining about.

On preview: Oh, crap. We really do all have the same experience of Bret Eason Ellis! He's like a tape caught in a loop, and the only thing that changes is the viewer!
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:42 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ that interviewer is a fucking moron douchebag donkeyfucking waste of genetic material.

I'm going to assume you don't know who Chris Morris is. If you don't, you should probably search for Brass Eye on youtube -- start with the Cake episode.
posted by empath at 12:05 PM on June 14, 2010


I too interviewed BEE some years ago and found him to be a "thoughtful and cliche-defying guy". Nor am I sure what Carolyn Kellogg is really complaining about. I was offered a tonic water in a small bottle. Then we made out.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:14 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rules of Attraction the movie is a more concrete version of the book, which is samples of misery, subjectively written, just to give you a feel for the population of the fictional Camden, (which is also the setting for Donna Tartt's The Secret History). The book is the story of a wretched liberal arts school, seen through human eyes. The film focuses more on the characters and presenting a linear story, but for the book ... which is more accurate, Sean's terse descriptions of banal activities with Paul, or Paul's lustful, possibly false tales? We don't know and that makes many people uncomfortable. The movie nails things down, and some find that satisfying. The film is also a bit more light than the book. Much of this is carried by Paul. Ian Somerhalder's frantic outfit selection is hilarious, as well as his interaction with his friend Richard Diiiick. His annoyance at having to deal with a freshman suicide attempt made him more amusing and less sympathetic. Sean and Lauren's meeting (especially as the split screens merge in the film) gives you a moment of hope that just isn't there in the book.

An overlooked actor who made many appreciate the movie more was Theresa Wayman, of the band Warpaint, as Sean's secret admirer, suicide, and letter-writer, lurking in one scene after another. Watch the movie again, for her, and see her hope curdle into despair, looking on as Bateman, who is completely devoid of objective self-awareness or empathy, while he stomps through everyone else's lives. Each of the main characters in the film has invented relationships with one another (again, the preferable veneer), but she sums up all of them by looking on, silent. We only hear someone else read her words. And then she bleeds out into a bathtub for Lauren to find, a bookend to, well, losing your virginity to a townie (ick).

The book does your basic Ellis job: by the end of it you're confused, unhappy, and craving resolution. The movie is mostly faithful in the details, a little less in tone. It's certainly more satisfying in some ways, and stands on its own merits, but Ellis is not a guy who wants to deliver satisfaction or clear answers. So again, the interview.
posted by adipocere at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I do wish that I could read Ellis. But honestly, my reading experiences need not to be accompanied by a barf-bag and a mind-wipe to erase that horrid nihilistic awfulness

(caveat: only read parts of American Psycho (although remember vividly the fucking of the dismembered head) and some book set in California mostly that had this random vampire in it)
posted by angrycat at 12:31 PM on June 14, 2010


The Vice interview is a telephone transcript leading with a photograph of an empty-handed Ellis in shoes. That doggone Vice Magazine, always going against the grain.
posted by xod at 12:37 PM on June 14, 2010


I too interviewed BEE some years ago and found him to be a "thoughtful and cliche-defying guy". Nor am I sure what Carolyn Kellogg is really complaining about. I was offered a Smirnoff Ice and...
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:06 PM on June 14, 2010


and a Carl’s Jr. Hawaiian Teriyaki Six Dollar Burger. Quite possibly the best promotional burger that Carl Karcher Enterprises Inc. has produced. It is hard to know where to start in describing this culinary masterpiece. For starters the teriyaki sauce is amazing. I love to BBQ and I particularly love teriyaki sauce. I can honestly say that this sauce is easily one of the best I have ever tasted.
posted by xod at 1:08 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Where do you get your ideas?

A small mail-order company in Indiana.

/Douglas Adams
posted by sour cream at 1:29 PM on June 14, 2010


Where do you get your ideas?

Best answer I ever heard to that came from a film director. I think it was William Wyler.

"Well, the script's a good place to start."

(or something like that)
posted by philip-random at 1:53 PM on June 14, 2010


I get it that not everyone is good extempore, but there's still the question of attitude.

"I think I’m entering into this strange mood, which is about doing press. I’m sorry to lay this on you -- I’m becoming bored with my answers. The whole idea of getting attention for writing a book, I don’t know, I’m just kind of swamped....I would rather not do press, but I understand the contract between the writer and the publisher. I get it. They’re paying me for the book, and in order to, you know, make some money, they need the author of the book to go out there and make the book visible. It’s strange."

Oh, grow up! How about:

"I'm grateful and flattered that people are (still) interested in the work and in me, especially given the thousands of amazingly talented writers out there, some struggling for years to get recognized or even published. I have been amazingly lucky and I am truly happy to be able to do what I do. I really appreciate your taking the time to come out here to see me and would be happy to answer any of your questions. Drink?"

Doesn't seem to have grown up much in twenty five years.

(But what do I know? I'm not part of the Talent Crowd, I work for the Man.)
posted by IndigoJones at 2:15 PM on June 14, 2010


I'm going to assume you don't know who Chris Morris is.

I don't, but from the tenor of the interview I assumed he was a comedian of some sort.

I was trying to make a joke

I'll let myself out

posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:25 PM on June 14, 2010


offers the interviewer a Coke

I don't think I'm alone in reading this "Ellis offers the interview coke"'; I really don't think so.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:12 PM on June 14, 2010


Challahtronix: “On the flip side of the "Mundane questions asked over and over" there's the Bret Easton Ellis' interview on Brass Eye...”

That is sincerely the greatest piece of writing I've ever read that Bret Easton Ellis ever had anything to do with. Hilarious stuff. It's worth the price of admission just for the classic, absolutely perfect interview question: "Whose idea was it to use a typeface at all?"
posted by koeselitz at 3:36 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've done a lot of interviews back when I was a freelancer, and like Kit W and jscalzi, I agree that it takes a very particular skillset, and that's not all. It's very demanding to get a good interview - part luck, part personalities, part skill.

Without getting all egotistical about it, I actually prided myself on my interviewing ability, but this said my "ability" was mostly a willingness to do some proper research and being prepared to wing it or abandon a pain-staking "interview plan" if the interview took a more interesting turn during its course.

Smoke's tips for getting a good interview:

1. Prep. posted by smoke at 6:17 PM on June 14, 2010 [35 favorites]


Ugh. I should have used many, many more hard and soft returns on that. Apologies, all.
posted by smoke at 6:18 PM on June 14, 2010


"As an author, Ellis has to talk about the book; what he may also be do is performing a role of as a certain version of Bret Easton Ellis."

I have to perform a role — a certain version of myself — when I'm doing interviews and, well, performances of my work. I'm not an extrovert, and the only way I can get up in front of a roomful of people is to step outside of myself just a little, and into that author character.

Best interview I had recently was a video one. The interviewer told me the questions he was going to ask beforehand, so I mentally prepared for them. Then he turned on the camera and simply asked, "Why?" And we were off.
posted by showmethecalvino at 8:02 PM on June 14, 2010


If the interview is not going well, or the subject is a douche, they will probably only want to stick to promoting whatever it is they're talking about.

JG: Right, but being as you seem to be so passionate about music, I was wondering about your ...
BB: (interrupts) Would you say that to Tom Petty?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:06 PM on June 14, 2010


...and a Poni Hoax mix of a Lady Gaga b-side is playing softly on the Sennheiser and I've just swallowed three Valium and the guy from Esquire is at the door so I - barefoot in fashionably distressed Rock & Republics, silk Ralph Lauren robe left open so he can see how fucking defined my abs are - let him in and show him down the hall and into the kitchen where a custom glass-walled refrigerator designed by Damien Hirst sits right in the middle of the floor. It's filled with tiny cans of Coke and, for some reason, a half-empty pouch of cat food, even though I don't have a cat. The guy from Esquire is already asking me questions in a bored monotone while he flicks through a pile of magazines with a dismayed look and the lighting, the smell of half-shark and formaldehyde, the feel of the erection pressing tightly against my thigh beneath expensive denim, the fact that the guy from Esquire manages the casually dishevelled look better than I ever will, the cat food, suddenly become too much and I begin to sweat, bile rising in my throat. The guy from Esquire looks at me, about to ask me what's wrong, and I lurch from the kitchen, groaning, vomit spraying out from between clenched teeth.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:52 PM on June 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Holy shit dahlia.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:13 PM on June 14, 2010


IndigoJones: Oh, grow up! How about:

"I'm grateful and flattered that people are (still) interested in the work and in me, especially given the thousands of amazingly talented writers out there, some struggling for years to get recognized or even published. I have been amazingly lucky and I am truly happy to be able to do what I do. I really appreciate your taking the time to come out here to see me and would be happy to answer any of your questions. Drink?"


Oh grow up yourself! A writer writes a book, it sells, that becomes their job. People don't read their books out of kindness, they read their books because they get something out of them. Interviewers don't interview them out of kindness; they do it because that's how they earn a living. You should be civil - which that quote was; reflective, but still perfectly polite, and actually giving the interviewer something more interesting than a standard set of cliches to work with - but are you really not allowed to acknowledge that sometimes you get tired doing the same thing over and over when it's not something you're necessarily good at or enjoy? Do the writers have to kowtow in gratitude for the rest of their lives?

Seriously. People can get incredibly cross with writers the minute a writer says anything other than 'Thank you I am not worthy' and talks about what the life is actually like. Isn't it more interesting to see what people really think than a permanent appeasement grin?
posted by Kit W at 3:26 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, grow up! How about:

So when we steal artists' work we tell them to care only about art and suggest if they care about getting paid for making books or movies or whatever they're vile shits who should stop making art, but when they explain the business of selling art is an inconvenience we call them vile shits for not spending their entire fucking life grovelling to whichever dickhead happens to be demanding their attention?

Can't fucking win.
posted by rodgerd at 3:46 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Worth pointing out that Less Than Zero is named after an Elvis Costello song (released eight years before the titular novel), whereas Imperial Bedrooms is probably named after the Elvis Costello album (released twenty-eight years before the titular novel), not the (quite frankly dry) unreleased track of the same name included in the Rhino reissue (released eight years before the titular novel)? If I had an interview with Mr. Easton Ellis, I would ask him about that!
posted by Football Bat at 6:11 PM on June 15, 2010


Or with Mr. Costello for that matter.
posted by Football Bat at 6:11 PM on June 15, 2010


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