Continuing our look at some of the best new and classic LGBT books available on Audible.com, our next pick is Bret Easton Ellis’s 1987 novel The Rules of Attraction. We love this novel for its frank depiction of sex, lust and love in college and for its searing look at what it meant to be young, privileged and, well, horny, in the 80s. Ellis himself bills the novel as “a pretty severe takedown of…the Empire decadence of the Reagan eighties.”
The Rules of Attraction was only Ellis’s second novel following his break-out but controversial debut Less Than Zero. He was also only 23 when the book was published, which helps to explain the subject matter. Set in a fictional New England liberal arts college, The Rules of Attraction centers on three students, Sean, Lauren and Paul, and the lover’s triangle in which they find themselves. Paul loves Sean. Sean loves Lauren. And Lauren is still infatuated with her shallow ex-boyfriend (Victor) who’s just returning from a bender in Europe.
Speaking about his inspiration for writing the novel with The Paris Review, Ellis says,
“The Rules of Attraction was an attempt to write the kind of college novel I had always wanted to read and could never find. I related to all the characters. I was fairly bisexual in college—I had girlfriends, I had boyfriends. I identified with Victor not realizing that there was this girl who cared for him a lot, but she was just a blip on his screen. I related to Sean, where maybe a guy really liked me, but nothing was going on, and yet he was talking to other people about his feelings toward me, while I was fucking everyone else in sight. I related to Paul and Lauren, liking someone and being rebuffed by them. I was able to feel everything that everyone was going through in that book, and that’s one of the reasons why I wrote it. I had been all of them.”
The Rules of Attraction is known for deploying first person stream of consciousness narratives from the point of view of each character in the novel, something that some (including Ellis’s editor) had criticized him for but now is considered one of the book’s hallmarks:
“The year I wrote the bulk of The Rules of Attraction, I was taking a seminar on Ulysses, and I was fascinated by the stream-of-consciousness technique. So I ended up writing a book that takes place on a college campus very much like the one I was attending and with three main narrators who, through free-associative monologues, describe, very differently, events that all three are experiencing.”
As for the novel’s mimetic look at college life, Ellis adds,
“You might argue that there is not a lot at stake in this book, where the worst thing that can happen to these characters is that they don’t end up at the right party or with the right girl or with the right drug. But isn’t that what college, for most kids, is all about? I was trying to write a book that captures what life is really like in college, the nonacademic side of it at least, and I think it succeeds on that level. It is also, oddly enough, the only book of mine with four stars on Amazon.”
As part of its sponsorship of TowleREAD, Audible is offering a free download of Bret Easton Ellis’s The Rules of Attraction at Audible.com with a 30-day trial membership for Towleroad readers.
Listen to an excerpt from the book, below:
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