Book Review: “White” (3.5/5)

Arts

Written by George R. Jackson

In what is his first work of nonfiction, Bret Easton Ellis, author of the infamous 1991 novel American Psycho, shares his musings on a variety of topics, ranging from Hollywood and the characters in his novels to Trump and the US political landscape. Reading as a collection of essays, the book is part autobiographical, part rant. Renowned for the blunt amorality and impersonal style of his novels, it is interesting to get an insight into what the man behind the books actually thinks about the world and his examinations of popular culture, from Tom Cruise to Kanye West are both easy and fun to read.

He also stresses a preference for what he calls ‘aesthetics’ over ‘ideology’ in art and stresses that, as a writer, nothing should be off limits as far as freedom of expression is concerned. To some, this may raise alarm bells that Ellis, the man whose books they’d enjoyed reading, has become nothing short of a right-wing lunatic, but Ellis himself points out that he feels no affiliation with either side of the political aisle and, instead, acts as more of an observer in a world maddened by ‘hysteria’, particularly on the anti-Trump front.

I think some of my contemporaries have judged this work too harshly, perhaps jumping onto the bandwagon of shutting down anything contrary to the liberal agenda too quickly. However, whilst I agree with Ellis’ point that we are living in an age of oversensitivity towards, as well as complete rejection of, certain ideas, he often makes this point excessively and at times I couldn’t help but feel that I was reading the same copy over and over. More frankly, the work is repetitive and takes on a register that is ‘holier than thou’ in places.

If there is any lesson to be gained from it, it’s that we should not deny the humanity of others simply because they have opinions different to our own, nor should we needlessly break all ties with a person purely because they voted for someone we don’t approve of. Instead, it might be wiser to try and understand each other before rejection ensues. There are exceptions to rules such as these, nonetheless, reserved for people who vote BNP, for instance.

As the late Chistopher Hitchens once said, “Politics is division by definition, if there was no disagreement there would be no politics.” We are bound to be divided, but – in most cases – it’s not worth losing friends over.

Featured image courtesy of Lightbox.

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