Thursday, September 4, 2008

Less Than Less Than Zero

I wonder how the official, government-sanctioned, Canadian version of Less Than Zero would read. Bret Easton Ellis did such a terrific job of describing life in L.A. in the mid-'80s. What about life in Toronto in the late-2000s?

I have a feeling there'd be a white guy, an Oriental guy, a black guy, an East Indian guy, and a Native (Indian). Then there'd be a white girl, an Oriental girl, an East Indian girl, and a Native (Indian) girl. Don't even think about calling her a squaw.

And since this is a government-sanctioned book, everyone would be terribly optimistic. "You've got the future in the palm of your hand," one would say. "All you've got to do to get you through is understand."

More than likely they'd live in a loft on Queen West. And it'd have four bathrooms. Since this is fiction, there'd always be lots of hot water. I don't know...Who'd write something like that? Kyle Draymond? Michael Treuw? I don't get the feeling that there's any impetus right now to tell an honest, socially irresponsible story. Or maybe there is and no one'll publish it. I'd say that one is equally likely as the other.

I know there isn't much urban fiction being written in Canada, but our rural stuff is just as disaffected and bleak as Ellis's pan-Hollywood valley. In fact, it's probably worse. So where are our newish young people dying on farms? At what point did Canadian characters stop being self-destructive? The '80s? The '70s? When did we get so quirky? Wes Anderson, discussing Canadian literature, once said, "It's the influence for all my work. I love how no one is ever quite real, but is somehow real enough."

Ellis could've learned something from F.P. Grove or Sinclair Ross. You've got the soul-destroying nothingness of the farm; you've got the soul-destroying nothingness of bareback Hollywood. I'll take Hollywood, but the farm's a close second. If we're going to be moral and self-destructive, let's at least involve casual sex and drug abuse.

The Two Moral Crises of the Twenty-First-Century Man-Child
1: Can I do this for the rest of my life?
2: What did I miss?

I think the problem could be that I just know too many people who've committed suicide. I know one guy who got stuck in the safety netting at the Bloor Street Viaduct. He was freed by firefighters, thanked them, then walked in front of a truck. In his suicide note he blamed Domino's Pizza for always getting there twenty-nine minutes after he'd ordered.

I don't really believe in anything, which is why I'm wondering if there's a chapter after Ellis's novel that applies to us northerners. LTZ was published in 1985. Maybe there's a very slow ripple spreading across Canada. And now we're just starting to feel it in the centre of the universe--Toronto.

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