Bret Easton Ellis

It's been more than two decades since Less Than Zero branded Ellis part of the Literary Brat Pack and buried him deep in the DNA of Controversial Youth Stories to come. So a sequel, Imperial Bedrooms (Knopf, $25)—timed to the 25th anniversary re-release of Zero, sounds like a lame, mostly disingenuous ploy for money. The novel follows the group of friends 25 years later, again from the perspective of Clay, Zero's sad young thing home for the holidays, now a middle-aged screenwriter back from New York to cast his latest film. As it turns out, all the events of Zero were the construct of someone who wasn't in fact Clay. And that's just the first of many twists like it to come. Older and richer, Ellis' characters now find themselves able to fuel sinister extremes, acts that lead Clay to devolve from concerned observer to a paranoid, desperate mess trying to make sense of his surroundings. For his first novel, Ellis was likely too young (or too close) to the situation to understand these people and how they became the way they were, how they yielded the children (and book) he did. He definitely knows now, and the result is devastating. FOSTER KAMER

Wed., June 30, 8 p.m., 2010

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