Bret Easton Ellis

American Author

Bret Easton Ellis is an American Novelist, screenwriter, and director. He is an acclaimed writer whose works have become a modern classic in American literature. From ‘Less Than Zero’ to ‘American Psycho,’ his satirical approach and use of intense narration to describe brutal scenes depicting violence have made many people tag his works as misogynistic. However, others have claimed his novels to be incredible in every literal sense.

Life Facts

  • Bret Easton Ellis was born on March 7, 1964.
  • Bret stated that his father was abusive.
  • While still at college, Bret published his first novel ‘Less Than Zero.’
  • For many years Bret refused to state his sexuality., claiming it was best to keep the audience in the dark. However, he came out as gay in 2012.
  • Most of Ellis’s works feature California as the setting.

Interesting Facts

  • Bret showed interest in becoming the screenplay writer for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ However, he never got the role.
  • Though he claimed his acclaimed novel character Patrick Bateman was based on his abusive father, Bret came forward and stated he made the character after himself.
  • Bret shares many of his characters in different stories.
  • Bret wrote ‘Lunar Park’ in honor of his lover Michael Wade Kaplan, who died before he completed the novel.

Famous Books by Bret Easton Ellis

‘American Psycho’ is Bret’s third novel. It is a satirical book that follows the life of a New York Investment Banker, Patrick Bateman. Living in a world of excessive materialism and vanity, Bateman struggles with his identity and humanity. With no avenue to express himself, he starts killing people.

After killing a colleague, Paul Owen, he becomes a serial killer ending the lives of many men, women, and even a child. Amid a police chase and intense panic, Patrick calls his lawyer Harold Carnes and leaves a message confessing his crimes. He starts eating the bodies of his victims and drinking his urine. When he meets his lawyer, he learns that Paul Owen, whom he thought he killed, is alive and had dinner with Harold in London.

‘The Shards’ is a 2023 autofiction novel published by Alfred A. Knopf. It tells the story of Bret, a seventeen-year-old high school senior at Buckley Prep School. When Robert Mallory, a new student, arrives, Bret finds a new obsession with him. He also obsesses over a serial killer called the Trawler, who seems to be targeting him and his friends. As time passes, Bret spirals into paranoia as his unhealthy obsession with Mallory and the Trawler leads him to isolation.

‘Less Than Zero’ is Bret’s first novel. Published by Simon & Schuster while Ellis was at Bennington College, the book follows the lives of Clay, a young college student who has returned to Los Angeles, and his friends. Written in the first-person narrative, Clay explains the alienation that came from the toxic culture around him.

After getting back with his ex-girlfriend Blair and friends, he indulges in drugs, parties, and one-night stands with men and women. As time passes, he gets disillusioned with his life and tries tracking his old friend, Julian. After meeting him, Clay borrows Julian a large sum of money and later learns he is a heroin addict into prostitution.

‘The Rules of Attraction’ is Bret’s second novel. It is a black comedy satirical book about spoiled, rowdy, and promiscuous Camden College students Sean Bateman, Lauren Hynde, and Paul Denton. With Lauren’s boyfriend Victor out of Camden in Europe, she gets into a love triangle with Sean Bateman and Paul Denton.

Early Life and Career

Bret Eston Ellis was born on March 7, 1964, to Robert Martin Ellis and Dale Ellis, a wealthy property developer and homemaker. Born to a privileged family, Bret was raised in Sherman Oaks in San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles. He attended The Buckley School, and in 1982, his parents divorced when he was about to leave high school. Though he came from a well-off family, his father was an abusive alcoholic.
After high school, Bret attended Bennington College in Vermont, where he met Jonathan Lethem and Donna Tartt, who would later become acclaimed writers.
While at college, Bret completed a novel he had been working on for many years, ‘Less Than Zero.’ It rose to success but garnered controversy. Easton became friends with fellow Brat Pack Writer Jay McInerney. In 1987, the novel was loosely adapted into a 20th Century Fox Film of the same name. It starred Andrew McCarthy, James Spader, Robert Downey Jr., and Jami Gertz.
In 1991, Ellis releasedAmerican Psycho,’ a novel that brought controversy for its violence and objectification of women. In 2000, the movie adaptation created by Lions Gate Films and directed by Mary Harron catapulted the novel to greater heights. Starring Christian Bale, Jared Leto, and other actors, it became a hit, making the novel Bret’s magnum opus.
After ‘American Psycho,’ Bret released ‘The Informers.’ Four years after ‘Glamorama’ got published. He wrote a screenplay for ‘The Rules of Attraction,’ but it never got used as the film was never made. Ellis diverted from satire into metafictional writing.
In 2005, he published ‘Lunar Park,’ a pseudo-memoir of his life. After finding little success in screenplay writing and directing, Bret focused on his books. In 2010, he released ‘Imperial Bedrooms,’ a sequel to ‘Less Than Zero.’
When an adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey got greenlighted, he expressed interest in writing the screenplay. However, the role went to Kelly Marcel, Mark Bomback, and Patrick Marber. In many interviews, Bret claimed he got inspired by authors like Ernest Hemingway, Joan Didion, and Don DeLillo.

Personal Life

In 2002, Bret Easton Ellis got asked about his sexuality, and he stated he identified neither as a straight nor gay man. Citing artistic reasons, he kept he claimed to have indeterminate sexuality. However, in 2012 he came out as gay. He also admitted to creating Patrick Bateman, the controversial character of ‘American Psycho’ after himself. He had initially claimed to get inspiration for the character from his abusive father but stated he claimed so because he was scared of the criticism he would receive.

Literature by Bret Easton Ellis

Explore literature by Bret Easton Ellis below, created by the team at Book Analysis.