Less Than Hero? by Kathy Charles
They say you should never meet your heroes.
I met Bret Easton Ellis when he was in town last week. A friend remarked to me that it must be something to meet your idol as a peer. “What do you mean?” I asked, genuinely baffled. “You know, as a fellow writer,” he replied. Suddenly I was filled with anxiety about the meeting. Was I meant to play it cool? Was I expected to approach my favorite author with an air of benign indifference? I was paralysed with the idea that when meeting him I would behave in a way that was unfitting. Would he sense my fandom and find it off-putting?
If he did, he didn’t show it. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. Ellis also wears his fandom on his sleeve. His conversation is peppered with references to his favorite bands, movies and TV shows (don’t even get him started on The Hills!). At the sold-out Athenaeum event Ellis said that the pinnacle of his career was when he received a phone call from Joan Didion, whose seminal LA novel Play It As It Lays was the inspiration for Less Than Zero. Didion was phoning to say she was dedicating her new collection of essays to Ellis, at which point the author says he saw “white light” and dramatically sank to the floor. I’m pretty sure the enthused crowd at the Athenaeum were experiencing their own “white light” moment just being in BEE’s presence. Ellis is the rarest of celebrities: a pop culture icon who attained this status without dying young and tragic. Love him or hate him, Ellis gets people talking, and in a world where the novel is supposedly dying, polarising and controversial authors are needed now more than ever. If the literary world had more rock stars like Ellis, one can’t help but think the industry would be in a much healthier state than it is now. Fervent adoration sure breeds sales.
So I wear my fandom proudly, if we are going to call it that. It seems a very reductive term for my appreciation of the worlds Ellis and my other favorite authors have given me, worlds that inspired me to write myself in the hope I could come close to creating these experiences for other people. Now all that’s left is to meet my other two literary heroes, a couple of guys I affectionately refer to as the two Steve’s: Steve Martin and Stephen King. Can anyone hook me up?
Kathy Charles is the author of Hollywood Ending from Text Publishing, which will be released in North America as John Belushi is Dead by MTV Books.