7 Awesome Books with LGBT Characters (the works of Bret Easton Ellis)
This article was originally supposed to be five books, but I’ve changed it to 7 in order to cheat. Rather than telling you 7 of my favourite books with LGBT characters, I’m going to write about the works of Bret Easton Ellis, whose works contain numerous LGBT characters. There are 7 of them, hence extending the list.
Less than Zero (1985)
This is Ellis’ first novel, published when he was 21, and still in college. It takes place over the course of 4 weeks, and we follow Clay, a fresh-faced 18 year-old back in LA for the Christmas holidays. One of the themes in this book, as well as all of Ellis’ novels, is that characters are never definitively stated to be LGBT. In a similar vein, characters are never said to be straight either. Take Clay for example, we don’t know if he’s gay, straight, bi, whatever. We see him have sex with girls, but we also see him have sex with guys; Clay is a very apathetic person, who just seems to accept whatever is put in front of him. His world is bleak, and he uses sex and drugs to stop himself from drowning.
The Rules of Attraction (1987)
In Ellis’ second novel, we have 3 main characters; Lauren, Paul, and Sean. These three, as with Clay in Less than Zero, are all incredibly apathetic. They care about nothing, they’re at college but without actually really being there. They drift from one party to the next, one relationship to the next, one sexual encounter to the next, without any great care for the details. This novel is a spider’s web of relationships, and everyone is sleeping with everyone else. Male, female, no one seems to care, or even really notice. Sex is sex, it doesn’t matter with whom.
American Psycho (1991)
This is probably the moment where you’ve gone “ah, that’s why I know the name.” Yes, Bret Easton Ellis is the mind behind American Psycho. This is the Ellis book where LGBT characters are as you’d expect them to be; the main character, Patrick Bateman, is fairly homophobic, but rather than being actually homophobic, he’s merely trying to fit in with 80s American culture. The only real examples of LGBT behavior we see involve prostitutes, Bateman hiring females and making them have sex with each other. Whilst being his most famous work, this is Ellis’ least sexually exploratory, though definitely still worth reading.
The Informers (1994)
A collection of short stories, The Informers is Ellis’ only work that deviates from the novelistic style. As with American Psycho, the LGBT themes are fairly minimal – I wonder if this has anything to do with being a period when Ellis struggled with his own sexuality? (My theory only – Ellis has never come out and stated whether he is gay or straight, however he has confirmed he’s in a relationship, and living, with a man). It’s still worth reading, if only to continue the other themes prevalent across Elli’s work (horror, apathy, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, etc.).
This is my personal favourite novel (not just by Ellis, but by any author), and here we see a return to the themes of LGBT. The main character, Victor, takes us back to the tropes of a young male sleeping his way through his life, regardless of the sex of his partner. One of the most memorable scenes in the book, and believe me there are many, is a very detailed description of a threesome involving Victor, his idol Bobby, and Bobby’s girlfriend Jamie. Alongside Victor, there are countless LGBT characters, making this possibly the strongest representation of LGBT in Ellis’ works.
Lunar Park (2005)
This is a fascinating novel, as it’s a fictional autobiography of Ellis himself. Ellis is the main character of the novel, albeit a fictionalised version of himself. This is a very implicit book when it comes to LGBT; only by knowing about Ellis himself are you aware of the themes. This is more of a horror novel, it’s Ellis’ attempt at a Stephen King book, and whilst it’s not to the same level, it’s by no means a bad effort. The LGBT themes only become apparent towards the end of the novel, when a heroin-addicted Ellis is living with a young male artist.
Imperial Bedrooms (2010)
Ellis’ most recent book, this is a sequel to his first, Less Than Zero. We meet up with Clay, this time as an apathetic 40-something, and find little has changed. His sexual encounters are equally as numerous, however they’re more female orientated; he’s a writer now, and uses his position to coerce young actresses to sleep with him. As with Lunar Park, the LGBT themes aren’t apparent until towards the end of the novel, when they hit you full in the face.
Bret Easton Ellis is a great author to tackle if you want to experience LGBT characters, without the fact they’re LGBT being their main character trait. His works are fantastic in making LGBT normal (which of course it is, however sadly it’s not always seen to be), part of everyday life, and not something to be focused on. LGBT people are just people, they should be liked or disliked for their personalities, not their sexuality, and Ellis is great at making this the case.