LESS THAN ZERO - Literature of the 1980s

LESS THAN ZERO
GENRE: EXISTENTIAL COMING OF
AGE TALE
“The 1980s Catcher in the Rye”
Coming of Age Conventions
Transition Time
(awkward “in between”
stage)
Romantic
Relationships
Existential Choices
(dilemmas regarding
morality and identity)

“Transition”
Catcher in the Rye
Less Than Zero
Holden returns to NYC for 48
hours of debauchery after
flunking out of prep school.
During his first year of college,
Clay travels from New
Hampshire to Los Angeles
for winter vacation.
“Love”
Catcher in the Rye
Holden waivers between
adult sexuality and
childhood asexuality.
Less Than Zero
Clay waivers between
rekindling the relationship
with Blair (his high school
girlfriend) and having sex
with everyone (girls, guys,
complete strangers, etc.)
“Existential Choices”
Catcher in the Rye
Holden is repulsed by the
phoniness of the adult
world, but he slowly
realizes he must eventually
grow up and become a
part of that world.
Less Than Zero
Clay’s crux is whether he
should remain in LA to
live in a world without
morals and boundaries, or
return to college.
WHAT IS EXISTENTIALISM?



WE MAKE OURSELVES
WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OURSELVES
THERE ARE NO EXCUSES
EXISTENTIAL SPECTRUM
_____________________________________
NIHILISM
TRANSCENDENTALISM
Life is meaningless and absurd
Everything is chaotic and random
No belief in God, fate, good or evil
Everything is interconnected
Everything happens for a reason
Belief in a higher purpose/power
“THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS”
METAPHOR
To what extent are the characters responsible
for their own lives, and to what extent is their
environment—Los Angeles—to blame?
LESS THAN ZERO
STYLE: POST-MODERN
MINIMALISM
“The medium is the message”
Postmodern Literature
Postmodern Lit. was all about getting
away from the illusion of literature.
FRAGMENTED
PARADOXICAL
MAKING FUN OF
“MEANING”

Postmodern Minimalism
•
•
•
•
•
“Slice of life” stories
Realistic instead of
flowery
Economy with words
(no fluff)
“No ideas but in
things”– W.C.W.
Shortest short story
ever: “For sale: baby
shoes, never used.”
–Ernest Hemingway
Structure of Less than Zero

No chapters

No conventional narrative story formula

No distinct character development

No definitive climax

No cohesive, linear plot (flashbacks occur)
Diction of Less Than Zero

Conversational, colloquial, crude language
“’You’re so full of shit,’ Trent calls out…’Oh Trent, suck my dick,’ Rip yells”
(112).

Unsophisticated but not illiterate
“Trent and Daniel are standing by Trent’s B.M.W. and Trent’s pulling out the
Cliff Notes to As I Lay Dying out of the glove compartment…” (22).

Written in the present tense
“I sit at the bar at La Scala Boutique for most of this time, bored out of my mind,
smoking, drinking red wine” (23).
Paratactical Sentence Structure

Hypotactical Sentences (that/which clauses)
“Lindsay gets up and says that he spots his dealer, which surprises me”

Paratactical Sentences (flat, no
differentiation)
“Lindsay gets up and says that he spots his dealer and has to go talk to
her.”
Perspective

Minimal description; mostly dialogue

The minimal description focuses on brand
names, labels, clothing, and band names

Narration is deadpan, matter of fact,
robotic
Characters

Characters seem interchangeable,
forgettable, hard to keep straight
(intertextually and metatextually)

Some characters contribute nothing to the
plot

Many characters are bisexual (no sexual
specificity)
Bret Easton Ellis: Genius or…
Douche?
I MET BRET!
Introducing…Cat Easton Ellis
THE END
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