Reading Lunar Park, Bret Easton Ellis' new novel about a writer named Bret Easton Ellis, is like nothing so much as watching a terrible accident occurring in slow-motion and reflected in a series of funhouse mirrors. You are never quite sure where reality is located if there is any reality or how to process what you are reading.
Fans of Ellis' earlier novels may be the best prepared for this book, although Ellis carefully recaps his biography, as lived by his alter ego, in the first chapter. If you haven't read his work, resist the temptation to Google him. Delineating and then blurring the lines between the truth and fiction is part of Ellis' game here. Just give yourself over to the book and let it cast its very real spell.
The plot is highly complicated and the ground constantly shifts beneath the reader's feet. Lunar Park effortlessly morphs from feeling like a Henry James ghost story into a John Updike skewering of the suburbs into the paralytic state of Anne Rivers Siddons' The House Next Door, with splashes of post 9/11 horrors reported in the most Thomas Harris-like offhand fashion. Ellis gives us an America where first-graders are assigned The Lord of the Flies, where parents want a return on their investment in their medicated, hyper-allergenic, superficially pampered children, and where acts of terrorism have become a part of daily life. It's not hard to see why Ellis the protagonist is having such a hard time making good on his promise to give up his drinking and drugging ways, especially when the house and some of its inhabitants appear to turn on him, and his narrow life outside it begins to crumble.
Lunar Park is well crafted and often very frightening, with the worst horrors not coming from terrorists or who/what is haunting Ellis and his house, but from what American life has become for one American man.