Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis (Knopf; $24.95). "You're not a fictional character, are you, Mr. Ellis?" someone asks in Ellis's deliriously self-referential, yet curiously moving new novel. A no longer young novelist named Bret Easton Ellis is indeed the central character. He tells the story of his life to date in the first thirty pages of the book, mixing mundane truths, plausible lies, and all-out absurdities. Then the novel takes off into the realm of horror fiction, as Ellis is stalked by his most infamous creation, Patrick Bateman, of "American Psycho," apparently with the collusion of his dead father. Ellis is up to something serious here: he is confronting his father's ghost and the wreckage of an alcoholic household. If the relatively bloodless horror narrative doesn't shock as much as it's supposed to--or maybe it's not supposed to, given that it derives from a story the Ellis character wrote when he was a terrified kid--the ending is a rhapsody of grief and reconciliation.

Sky Burial, by Xinran, translated from the Mandarin by Julia Lovell and Esther Tyldesley (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday; $18.95). In China these days, Tibet is all the rage: Beijing hipsters lounge in bars festooned with yak horns, pop divas sing ballads about Lhasa, and tourists mob the rooftop of the world. This novel, by a Beijing journalist now living in London, plays into the fantasy of the region as a Wild West populated by noble savages, with much to teach the cosmopolitan Chinese. Purporting to be a fictionalized account of a true story, it tells of a Chinese woman whose husband dies while on an Army expedition in Tibet, in 1958. She heads out west to learn the truth about his death, and winds up living with nomads for three decades, conveniently missing out on the Cultural Revolution. For American readers, the urge to mythologize the frontier will be familiar; but here there are no bad guys, only misunderstandings. …

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