Academic journal article Style

The Medium Is Also the Message: Narrating Media in Bret Easton Ellis's Glamorama

Academic journal article Style

The Medium Is Also the Message: Narrating Media in Bret Easton Ellis's Glamorama

Article excerpt

"You shouldn't be shocked by any of this, Victor," Bobby says. "This is expected. This was in the script. You shouldn't be surprised by any of this."

--Glamorama 286

"They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.

--White Noise 13


Literary scholars have not paid much attention to Bret Easton Ellis' novels. When you look for more significant articles on Ellis' work not much shows up despite his novels' focus on interrelated issues of violence, terror and media. (1) This may be due to the fact that Ellis' authorship at some level has been devalued because he is considered more as a media phenomenon than as a serious and ambitious writer of novels. However, although Ellis' work and not just his authorship may be conceived as a media phenomenon, there is much more to it than just a provocative and spectacular media happening. His novels--and especially the novel Glamorama, which in this perspective is considered a peak in his authorship--are in fact innovative and provoking from a narratological as well as a mediatic perspective. From both perspectives Ellis' book presents remarkable results which will be presented and discussed below.

When Alexander Laurence asked Ellis in an interview in 1994, "What kind of influence has the media had, growing up watching TV ... how has that informed the novel?" Ellis answered:

The question is "How has television informed every book.'?" Media has informed all of us, no matter what artform we pursue, whether painters or musicians. TV has unconsciously, whether we want to admit it or not, shaped all of our visions to an inordinate degree. How? I don't know. I couldn't give you specifics. Is it good or bad? I don't know. I think it just is. (Laurence and Amerika)

How television has informed and influenced a novel like Glamorama will be demonstrated in a short while, but this article also will try and clarify another peculiar thing highlighted in the interview. The interviewer, Laurence, states that there is "quite a bit of dialogue in what you write" to which Ellis reluctantly answers that "[e]verything I wrote is a monologue." Now, I am of course aware of Ellis' talent for performative self-fashioning in his media appearances, but I still think that the interview shows how Ellis' books are often misunderstood, not least from a narratological perspective. Glamorama is in fact a very astonishing and perhaps gloomy monologue from an unnamed first-person narrator with an idle identity.

In their book Remediation. Understanding New Media Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin write:

   No medium today, and certainly no single media event, seems to do
   its cultural work in isolation from other media, any more than it
   works in isolation from other social and economic forces. What is
   new about new media comes from the particular ways in which they
   refashion older media and the ways in which older media refashion
   themselves to answer the challenges of new media. (15)

This point obviously also applies to the book as media and following on from this the contents of this kind of media which for the purposes of the study in question is literature, especially the novel. It seems to me that research on the relationship between new media and narration has focused mostly on how new media has shaped our views of the book and, more specifically, the novel as a stand alone medium; and then also on how narratives find new avenues in new media.2 But less has been written on the influence media and new media has in the opposite direction, namely on the traditional novel and the way these novels are narrated; that is how narratives in the novel deals with and examines concepts like remediation and intermediality.

In order to consider this point, I make some suggestions for a reading of certain ambiguities and strange events that are noticeable in the narration of Glamorama. …

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