September 2011

Don DeLillo


in conversation with

Bret Easton Ellis


“Good times or bad times for writers, what does that really mean?”
Some misconceptions cleared up herein:
That DeLillo and Ellis met at a party in the company of Barbara Feldon
That The Great Gatsby is not a nightmarish tragedy
That Ellis is the dark prince of decadence or whatever

When asking Bret Easton Ellis and Don DeLillo to sit and have a conversation, I was not only unsure that they’d agree to do it, I simply didn’t expect them to enjoy it. Both writers—living literary legends—had not met before, and, on the surface, they seem to have nothing in common. In the media, Ellis is known as a decadent, public figure of the ’80s, DeLillo as a Salingeresque recluse, silent to the media. (Both deny that these characterizations are accurate.) I would never have imagined they’d get along so well.

Don DeLillo was born in 1936 in New York City. He was raised in an Italian American family and earned a degree in communication arts. The literary world was an unknown territory for him when he quit his job and began writing his first novel. According to Easton Ellis, DeLillo’s work represents “a new phase in fiction.” His refined style and philosophical themes—paranoia, language, truth, modern urban living—have indisputably influenced a spate of contemporary American writers.

Some of these themes also nourish Bret Easton Ellis’s work, work which has become a touchstone for younger authors writing about youth culture. Ellis was born in 1964 in Los Angeles. A graduate of Bennington College, he published his first book, Less Than Zero, in 1985. It was a stunning and violent portrait of a ruthless civilization. Although he had not written the book expecting publication, it immediately established him as one of the decade’s leading artistic figures.

Their conversation took place in a large Louis XIII room, with old armchairs and an impressive fireplace, in mid-October 2010, in the Hôtel d’Aubusson in Paris. Both monstres sacrés were in Europe promoting their new books (DeLillo’s Point Omega and Ellis’s Imperial Bedrooms). DeLillo arrived first. Then came Ellis. And then an hour or so of almost-private and friendly conversation.

—Didier Jacob


DON DELILLO: Less Than Zero was published in 1985, and it created a great amount of attention.

BRET EASTON ELLIS: It was published the same year as White Noise. Eighty-five was a very good year for both of us, actually.

DON DELILLO: Except that I was middle-aged and you were a kid.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Didier Jacob is a French journalist. He was born in Paris in 1962. He has been working as a literary critic for the Nouvel Observateur for years and is the author of a book about literary criticism, Literary War.

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