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If you were a WASPy, spoiled, vacuous student of a liberal-arts college in the mid-'80s and you jumped from one empty relationship to another and mulled obsessively over every mundane detail in your aimless life while thinking in run-on sentences, this book was written just for you. But I can't imagine possibly being interested, much less intrigued, by The Rules of Attraction. Ellis' second novel is only notable for being almost entirely unexceptional.
Most of this story is recounted in a first-person narrative by central characters Paul, Lauren and Sean, among a handful of other friends, relatives and acquaintances. They spend most of their time ingesting all manner of drugs, legal and otherwise. They jump into bed with whoever looks good at the moment. They usually avoid anything resembling responsible behavior by habit. And when they aren't whining over every minor misfortune that befalls them, they're trying desperately to fool themselves (and us) into believing that the few positive aspects of their lives are so much more engrossing than they actually are.
In terms of accuracy and structure, there isn't anything particularly objectionable about this story. What exists of the plot was cunningly conceived, and the dialogue is entirely authentic. Ellis possesses a very keen wit, but it's utilized far too infrequently; for every hilarious incident that's depicted here, there are a half-dozen that very nearly put me to sleep. These characters are realistic, decadent, impulsive and thoroughly boring. The story moves along at a lively pace, but these people are so self-absorbed and their respective tellings of each sequence are so pedestrian that slogging through this rather short book is quite a chore. Even contradictions found in comparison of any two self-serving, entirely subjective accounts of a common episode aren't terribly engaging.
The most frustrating aspect of this story is that the only interesting characters here are confined to its periphery: flighty Victor, fastidious Patrick (Bateman, titular American Psycho) and Eve, Paul's emotionally estranged mother. If these characters had been afforded a greater share of the narrative, this book might have been a much more engaging read.
Setting aside the minutia of this critique, it must be noted that this entire genre of popular fiction has been rendered obsolete by the Internet. At any time, I can access a wealth of blogs scribed by self-obsessed wretches who are every bit as dysfunctional as the spoiled brats of this banal, miserable volume, most of whom have much more intriguing exploits to relate. I can read about and laugh at their pathetic lives for free and this book doesn't convey anything profound either, so of what use it it?