One of the things I was most excited about at Latitude was seeing a talk with Bret Easton Ellis. While I was underwhelmed by his last book (Imperial Bedrooms), American Psycho, The Rules of Attraction and Lunar Park are among my very favourite novels.
It was certainly an interesting experience. The crowd was in a good mood, cheering the titles of their favourite novels as Miranda Sawyer introduced Ellis. He seemed surprised to see so many people present ("we thought we'd be hearing a song" someone shouted) and took photos of the crowd.
Ellis started by saying "I want to talk about hangovers… because that is more important to me than that book now." He was apparently suffering the second day of a hangover from partying earlier in the tour. Throughout, Ellis seemed to resent discussing Imperial Bedrooms, which he dismissed as an idea he had seven years ago, even though many of the audience had only recently bought and read it.
In fact, Ellis seemed reluctant to talk about most things. Miranda Sawyer was very patient and did a great job of drawing him out a little before asking for audience questions. In part, Ellis seemed to be trying to demystify what he did, but it also felt as if he didn't really want to be there.
One audience member asked about Clay, saying that he felt bad for not having as exciting a life. Ellis said he shouldn't worry: "he's a fictional character in a book". Ellis said that he works office hours so he can socialise with his friends in the
evening, and that his novels were reflections of his feelings at the
time he wrote them.
I enjoyed seeing Ellis – it was certainly an entertaining session – but looking back I feel a little uncomfortable with it too. His unwillingness to answer some of Miranda Sawyer's questions verged on rudeness. Obviously I have no expectations of a writer whose book I am reading. But if they're making a public appearance, then a certain amount of openness is expected.