The Rules of Attraction
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Literature
Release Date: September 1st 1987
Page Count: 283
The Rules of Attraction is one of those stories that makes you feel slightly uneasy while reading it. It had the feel of both A Clockwork Orange and Trainspotting in the sense that it is so over the top and risqué. The Rules of Attraction is unlike anything that I have ever read before.
I had never read anything from Bret Easton Ellis before, although American Psycho has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time now. I came across The Rules of Attraction at a local thrift shop and I recognized the authors name which helped in my decision to pick it up.
The Rules of Attraction tells the intersecting stories of three prominent characters (Sean Bateman, Lauren Hyde & Paul Denton) as they experience their college years in the 1980’s. The story is told by jumping back and forth between short vignettes that showcase each of these characters perspectives. Every now and then, a minor character tells their story from their perspective through their own little mini vignette.
It is definitely no secret that the 80’s were a wild decade, but holy shit does this story ever make that time period sound completely over the top and insane. I have always been slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to experience the 80’s, mainly because the music during that decade contains some of my favourite songs and artists of all time. After reading The Rules of Attraction however, I’m wondering if I would have ever been able to survive going to college during this era.
I loved the idea of hearing the different character’s perspectives, especially when they were describing the same scenes. Rather than have the exact same scene play out repeatedly, each character is so fucked up on either drugs, alcohol or something in between, that their stories are all completely different. For example, when Sean believes that Lauren is in love with him, only to jump to her perspective to find out she just likes to have him around to keep her company while waiting for her “boyfriend” to return from Europe. It’s moments like these that actually make this story more realistic and believable. No two people are going to have the exact same interpretation of a moment. Everyone experiences things differently. I’m still unsure if the relationship between Paul and Sean ever even happened. Not knowing the definite outcome is something that might drive some readers nuts. Hell, it usually drives me nuts, but for whatever reason, it worked perfectly within this story.
The characters were all unique from one another. While a lot of their drug and relationship habits were similar, each character had their own individual voice. I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed Lauren’s moments. I found her a little annoying and not that interesting. There was just something about her that I wasn’t very fond of. I felt a little indifferent when it came to Sean. He started out interesting, but as the story went on he started to feel a little redundant. Paul however, was my absolute favourite. He felt real and relatable. While he seemed the most sane out of the three main characters, I think it may be possible that he was the most insane. Like I mentioned earlier, I still can’t tell if his relationship with Sean ever even really happened.
In terms of the minor character vignettes, I could have done without a lot of them. The random French paragraphs from Bertrand’s perspective felt out of place. I understood bits of it here and there, but I wasn’t about to go google translate the whole thing. The one vignette that I think was rather awesome and beneficial was that of Patrick, Sean’s older brother. Yes…Patrick as in Patrick Bateman…as in THE Patrick Bateman featured in Bret Easton Ellis’ later novel, American Psycho. I didn’t even realize the two books were connected, regardless of how minor, until I put two and two together and realized that the two characters shared the same last name.
One of the main characteristics about The Rules of Attraction that made it so unique was the fact that each character perspective was told using a different writing style. Sean felt very chaotic, Lauren felt very quick and to the point while Paul felt the most sophisticated. The writing was very quick and extremely fast paced to start, however, it kept that steady rhythm throughout the entire novel which started to get old. It was so fast-paced the entire time that there was no peak in the story.
When I first opened my copy of The Rules of Attraction, I thought I was missing a page as the first opening paragraph starts mid-sentence. Once I reached the end of the novel, the same things happens again except it ended mid-sentence. Once again, this is something that might piss off a lot of readers, but I found it to be quite memorable and unique. It felt to me as though this represented the idea that we as the reader are just witnessing a little snippet of these character’s lives. We jumped in and we jumped out, just like that.
I did enjoy The Rules of Attraction for the most part. It was definitely unlike anything I have ever read before. I enjoyed the quick and fast-paced nature of the writing. I’m really eager to read my copy of American Psycho as soon as possible. I’m curious to know if it will make any connections to the Rules of Attraction or if it is even told in the same writing style. If you are looking for something slightly fucked up and over the top, I would say that The Rules of Attraction is definitely for you.