Picks and Pans Review: The Rules of Attraction

updated 09/28/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/28/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Bret Easton Ellis

His first novel, Less Than Zero, caused a stir when it came out in 1985. That book was a grim depiction of California's affluent young, drug-soaked and sensation-satiated. Ellis' second novel is set at a small college in New Hampshire. The three main characters are Sean, Paul and Lauren. Paul wants Sean. Sean wants Lauren, and Lauren wants Victor, who has gone to Europe. These and several other students speak in the first person. They describe drunken parties, drugs, sex, shoplifting, pop music. "When the going gets tough, the tough go drinking" is their basic philosophy. They mention majors in drama, in literature, but their studies do not interest them. "I have only shown up in class," says Sean, "because I don't have any pot left." When Mary feels thwarted in love, she slits her wrists and dies. When Harry overdoses, Paul asks, "C.D. player conk out on him? Did they cancel Miami Vice?" These are not articulate kids. They are not nice. They are never thoughtful or giving. Sean habitually replies to most remarks with "Rock 'n' roll" or "Deal with it." Paul feels his entire world "is beginning to turn into an issue of Vanity Fair." These are sad, lost kids, depressed by the outrageous excesses of their lives. Ellis' writing is flat, unemotional and exceedingly effective. If college these days is like this, it's a miracle that anyone survives, much less graduates. (Simon and Schuster, $17.95)

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