Book of the Week: 'White'

Book of the Week: 'White'
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EDITOR’S NOTE: In this RealClearBooks series, we highlight recent nonfiction books from across the political spectrum. This week’s book is Bret Easton Ellis' 'White', just published by Knopf.

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Member of the literary brat pack, provacateur behind 'American Psycho', and, now, successful podcaster, Bret Easton Ellis has published his first work of non-fiction in 'White'. Ellis weighs in on Trump (and TDS), Kanye West, cinema, snowflake culture, and more in a new book that is triggering his former allies on the libertine left. The outrage over 'White' has not yet eclipsed 'Psycho' but the New Yorker has, predictably, smeared him as a racist while millenials have called for his 'cancellation', whatever that means. Not the contrarian masterwork many were hoping for, 'White' nonetheless proves that Ellis is still swimming in our cultural zeitgeist — and its rollout has revealed many of today's worst moral scolds.

Reviewed:

Bari Weiss, New York Times'If the author’s name rings a bell for the members of “Generation Wuss,” as Ellis has dubbed millennials, including his longtime (and surely long-suffering) boyfriend, it is likely because of one of his various headline-making tweets. Perhaps you’ll recall the one about the Oscar-winning director of “The Hurt Locker”: “Kathryn would be considered a mildly interesting filmmaker if she was a man but since she’s a very hot woman she’s really overrated.”

'White' by Bret Easton Ellis

Now, at least in theory, snowflakes on both coasts in withdrawal from Rachel Maddow’s nightly Kremlinology lesson can purchase a whole book to inspire paroxysms of rage. “White” — even the title is a trigger — is a veritable thirst trap for the easily microaggressed.

It’s all here. Rants about Trump derangement syndrome; MSNBC; #MeToo; safe spaces. He thinks “Moonlight” only won the Oscar for best picture over “La La Land” because voting for it could be seen as a “rebuke to Trump.” He thinks that Black Lives Matter is a morally significant movement, but says its “lurching, unformed aesthetic” is why it never reached a wide audience. Had the “millennial mess” mimicked the look of the Black Panthers, he suggests, it would have taken off. I’m not exaggerating. Speaking of Black Panthers — yes, you guessed it — the author thinks that movie was insanely overhyped. It will not escape reader notice that the author of a book called “White” happens to be particularly fixated on black culture.' Read the full review.

Interviewed:

 New York Times:

Isaac Chotiner, New Yorker

New Yorker: 'The animating feature of the book is that you are frustrated and annoyed with the liberal consensus, which is “shrilly” and “condescendingly” looks down on Trump voters. Would that be a fair way of putting it?

Ellis: I would say that’s a fair way to put it, sure.

New Yorker: Is it that you think there are terrible things going on but we should all take a deep breath, or is it that you don’t think there are a lot of terrible things going on?

Ellis: I just think that there is a man that got elected President. He is in the White House. He has vast support from his base. He was elected fairly and legally. And I think what happened is that the left is so hurt by this that they have overreacted to the Presidency. Now, look, I live with a Democratic, socialist-bordering-on-communist millennial. I hear it every day.

New Yorker: He’s a character in the book.

Ellis: He is in the next room right now. And I do put myself in his shoes, and I do look at the world through his lens, because I have to. I live with him, and I love him. And I do hear this, and some of it changes my mind, and some of it doesn’t. I am certainly much more of a centrist than he is. I do listen, and I think that [lack of a] sense of neutrality—of standing in the other side’s shoes and looking at this from the other side—has bothered me among a lot of my friends and from the media.

New Yorker: What would looking at some of the issues that we have been facing from the perspective of Trump voters look like in practice?

Ellis: I don’t know. I am not that interested in politics. I am not that interested in policy. What I was interested in was the coverage. Especially in Hollywood, there was an immense overreaction. I don’t care really about Trump that much, and I don’t care about politics. I was forced to care based on how it was covered and how people have reacted. Sure, you can be hysterical, or you can wait and vote him out of office.' Read the full interview.

Excerpted:

Why Liberal Lunatics Are Deeply Wrong about Kanye West, New York Post: 'In 2018, various journalists wanted to talk to me about a couple of tweets I’d posted in favor of Kanye West. They couldn’t seem to believe that I supported his “crazy” feed, especially when he said he liked Trump, and couldn’t fathom why I tweeted “Hail Kanye!” in response to his weird blend of transparent prophet and calculated p.r. prankster.

I’d known Kanye since 2013, when out of the blue he texted me to ask if I’d like to work on a movie idea of his. We’d never met, but I was intrigued enough to go see him in a private wing of Cedars Sinai in LA the day after his first child had been born. We spent four hours there talking about the movie project and a wide range of subjects — everything from Yeezus to porn to “The Jetsons” — until Kim Kardashian came out of her room cradling their newborn North. This seemed the time for me to excuse myself, though it also seemed that Kanye wanted me to stay indefinitely, even offering me a Grey Goose that he was pouring out of a magnum as I prepared to leave.

Since then I’d worked with him on a few complicated and strange projects for film, TV and video that mostly never happened, yet because of all this I kept up with him on social media and now found myself reacting to his amazing stream-of-conscious thoughts on his Twitter page in the weeks before the release of his new record — just like hundreds of thousands of other followers.

These tweets were a reminder of why I liked Kanye: They were sweet and mysterious, dumb and profound, funny and playful, part absurdist stunt as well as a genuine reflection of where Kanye West was in that moment. And at one point during the Twitter-storms he mentioned that he loved Trump and admired his “dragon energy,” which he suggested he and the president shared. But this admiration was nothing new, since he’d said as much when he imploded with a rant at a concert in San Jose the week after Trump won — and told the audience, “If I would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump.”

On top of all this, he was one of the only celebrities to visit the president in Trump Tower after the election. All of this was pure Kanye, obsessed with showbiz and spectacle and power — and to some of us his honesty had always been hypnotizing and inspiring. But the left acted like horrified schoolteachers, lecturing us that what he’d tweeted was very, very bad; that nobody should listen to him; that he should apologize so we all could forgive him for a narrative in which he — a black man — supported a racist and was therefore racist himself.' Read the full excerpt.

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