- The Informers
"The Informers" is a collection of linked short stories by
Bret Easton Ellisfirst published in 1994. It follows similar attributes to Ellis' novels " Less Than Zero" and " The Rules of Attraction" with the story set in California. Chapters 6 and 7, "Water from the Sun" and "Discovering Japan", were published separately in the UK by Picador in 2007. [http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0330445820]
cquote|"In this seductive and chillingly nihilistic new book, Bret Easton Ellis, the author of "American Psycho", returns to Los Angeles, the city whose moral badlands he portrayed unforgettably in "Less Than Zero". The time is the early eighties. The characters go to the same schools and eat at the same restaurants. Their voices enfold us as seamlessly as those of DJ's heard over a car radio. They have sex with the same boys and girls and buy from the same dealers. In short, they are connected in the only way people can be in that city.
Dirk sees his best friend killed in a desert car wreck, then rifles through his pockets for a last joint before the ambulance comes. Cheryl, a wannabe newscaster, chides her future stepdaughter, "You're tan but you don't look happy." Jamie is a clubland carnivore with a taste for human blood. As rendered by Ellis, their interactions compose a chilling, fascinating, and outrageous descent into the abyss beneath L.A.'s gorgeous surfaces."|200px|200px|from the blurb on the back of "The Informers"
The book "The Informers" follows the lives of interconnected characters. Each chapter in this book of short stories has a different first person, or narrator. The characters involved with the narrators are often repeated through a few chapters while the secondary characters in one chapter could appear as the narrator in another. The collection of stories was intended as a stopgap filler for Ellis, as his novel Glamorama was repeatedly delayed. In a 2005 bookstore signing, Ellis said that he has not written a short story since 1986. Each Chapter will be summarized in the following links.
Chapter 1 - Bruce Calls from Mulholland
No name protagonist, who is probably not the same no name protagonist from the last chapter, receives a phone call from Bruce. He apologizes for not being there in New Hampshire, but in Los Angeles. It has been two months since the last time he contacted her. Bruce mentions how things have gone down hill ever since he slept with Lauren, the girlfriend to his room mate, Robert, who is worth quite a bit of money. Lauren from this chapter may possibly be Lauren Hynde, from "The Rules of Attraction" and "Glamorama". This is very possible because it is well known that Bret Easton Ellis uses many of the same characters from book to book. The affair between the two, involving only sex, lasted a week before she moved on to someone worth more money than Robert. Bruce then had an affair with Lauren's brother, Marshall, which lasted longer than his affair with Lauren only because Bruce stayed in the apartment for a week and a half before moving back in with his ex-boyfriend. Bruce ends up moving out of Robert's apartment and into Reynold's due to some of Robert's expensive pet lizards dying, but this is only a rather thin excuse.
She thinks back to the past summer, when she met Bruce at a workshop, but has few memories of the time spent together. Bruce inquires about an event during that summer that she cannot remember. After the phone call, she meets up with Reynolds for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Although Reynolds makes conversation, all no name protagonist can think about is Bruce, Lauren and Arizona.
Chapter 2 - At the Still Point
This chapter is narrated by Tim. This may possibly be Tim Price from the novel "American Psycho", because as mentioned in "American Psycho" Tim is from California, where he went to school at UCLA before dropping out and going to Stanford. This is also the same Tim who makes an appearance in the later chapter In The Islands. The story takes place in Mario's (the restaurant) where Tim, and his three other friends, Raymond, Dirk, and Graham are eating dinner. When Raymond brings up the one-year anniversary of the death of Jamie, an old friend or acquaintance of the men, emotions fly. Although at first Dirk denies knowing what the specific anniversary is, he later tells the story of the frightful night when Jamie got in a car crash (which might be a lie, as indicated by certain inconsistencies that Tim points out; this Dirk might be the Dirk from the later chapter The Secrets of Summer, and he may have turned Jamie into a vampire on the night in question). When Raymond insists on acknowledging Jamie, the others, especially Dirk, try to stop discussing him, calling him a "Jerk". Finally Raymond's repeated comment, "I can't believe you guys don't care," ticks Dirk off so much that he "recalls" the accident in gory detail. Dirk explains how he was following Jamie when he lost control of his car and crashed, killing him instantly. He describes in detail how he pulled Jamie's bloody, decapitated body out of the car and waited seventy minutes until the ambulance came, just staring at the body the whole time. Raymond then gets upset at Dirk's descriptions and runs to the bathroom where Tim, the narrator, goes to calm him down. After many tears, Raymond acknowledges Jamie as his "best friend" while Tim knows that Jamie didn't like him all along.
There is also a chance that the Jamie mentioned in this chapter is the same Jamie that narrates a story closer to the end of the novel.
Chapter 3 - The Up Escalator
This chapter is narrated by an unnamed narrator who is the mother to Graham, who is a recurring character in the novel, and Susan. The chapter starts out with a dream about the narrator being pushed out the window by her much younger lover Martin. She then awakens and wanders about the house in a daze of Valium. She tries to make conversation with her son and daughter, but fails as they either ignore her, or change the subject. She then eats lunch with Martin, then goes back to his apartment and has sex with him, after which she gives him a pith helmet as a gift. The next scene is the narrator sitting by the pool observing the pool cleaner. The pool cleaner then finds two dead rats and starts talking to the narrator, who becomes flustered by the conversation. The narrator then has lunch with her friends, in which she daydreams about the pool boy. After this she talks with her daughter Susan who mentions Blair. This may be the same Blair from "Less Than Zero" as she would be about the right age and living in LA. The narrator then dreams of drowning rats and pool boys, then wakes up and has more Valium before calling Martin. The narrator then has lunch with her son and daughter. During this lunch Graham and Susan mention Julian. This again is probably the same Julian from "Less Than Zero"; as he would be about the right age, deals heroin, and is mentioned to be a male prostitute. The next section is where the narrator gets a call from her mother. They discuss her mother's health and the narrator remembers a Christmas from her childhood. Next the narrator meets with her psychologist so she can get her prescriptions filled. She then follows her son Graham and watches him score drugs. She then talks with Martin about how she is friend with his mother, then loans him money to pay for Billy Idol tickets. After this her husband William and she are getting ready to go to a party. She contemplates filling William's Insulin shot with air to kill him, because they just had a fight. Once at the party she mentions seeing the rockstar's wife who tried to kill herself. This is most likely Bryan Metro's wife who also tries to kill herself and is discussed in the chapter Discovering Japan.
Chapter 4 - In the Islands
This chapter is narrated by Tim's father. This is the same Tim from other stories, and possibly is Tim Price from "American Psycho". The fact that Tim is wearing a USC sweatshirt and goes to USC, even though it says he went to UCLA and Stanford in "American Psycho" could be explained by Patrick Bateman's notoriously unreliable narration. The chapter starts out with Tim's father, Les Price, looking at him and Graham, who is the same Graham from other chapters, through a mirrored window up in his office. Les then gets a phone call from his ex-wife Elena informing him that Tim does not want to go to on the trip to Mauna Kea. Les then picks up Tim the next day in his limousine and they go to the airport after Les makes some attempts to talk to him and fails. After Tim and his father arrive in Hawaii they eat at the Mauna Kea restaurant and his father once again tries unsuccessfully to make conversation with Tim. Once dinner ends they go walking around the hotel until they meet two ladies from Chicago at the bar. Les tries unsuccessfully to pick up on the two ladies, and Tim gets upset at his father's actions and leaves. They then play tennis and Les wins every set, which Tim shrugs off. They then go to the beach and relax in the sun, until Tim meets a girl his age, named Rachel. Tim and his father then have dinner with Rachel. Les tries to pick up Rachel during the dinner, at which point Tim freaks out and leaves. Tim's dad then finds him up in their room smoking marijuana, causing him to attempt in vain to apologize. Les then wanders around the hotel and once again meets Rachel. Les talks with her about manta rays and Tim. The chapter ends with Tim and Les sitting on the beach staring at the ocean.
Chapter 5 - Sitting Still
The chapter involves Susan, the sister of Graham and daughter of William, going to Los Angeles by train to see her fathers wedding. She remembers the conversation she has with her father asking if she approved of his marriage to Cheryl. The father also admits never telling the mother of the marriage and that a divorce has never been finalized. Since the father hardly ever talks about Cheryl in detail the girl gets most of her information from Graham. She also mentions that one summer she had spent time with Cheryl. She tells her father—or rather lets him assume—that she likes Cheryl; but in a phone conversation with Graham later on in the chapter, she describes how she believes it is a bad idea for them to get married and how much she disapproves of it. Later in the story, the narrator calls her mother and discovers that she had not heard about the wedding. At the end of the chapter, she leaves Los Angeles giving the reader the impression that she travelled there but then decided not to stay, instead planning to return by train to Camden College.
Chapter 6 - Water from the Sun
Chapter about Cheryl Laine the wife to be of William, who has now married and separated from him after he left her for a Linda. Having made it as a newscaster, she is recognised in public places. Like William's ex-wife, Graham's mother, she has now started sleeping with much younger men who are using her for her money. Her boyfriend Danny often fails to record her newscasts which she feels are the only opportunity for him to look at her nowadays, and similarly she is disinterested in the story of his friend Biff's boyfriend's murder. William pleads that he's changed, but she tells him she's happier with Danny despite her own fears he may be more attracted to Biff than to her. Danny, in turn, abruptly dumps her by a note left in her apartment, and suggests she hook up with Biff.
Chapter 7 - Discovering Japan
This chapter is narrated by a burned out rock star named Bryan Metro who is touring in Tokyo. Most of the chapter takes place in Bryan's hotel room at the Tokyo Hilton where he rapes the chambermaids, scores cocaine, physically abuses groupies, and drinks non-stop. There is a segment in which Bryan tries to renew a friendship with an old band mate, as well as one where he is introduced to another Los Angeles native band called The English Prices, who he does not try to relate to in any way.
Chapter 8 - Letters from L.A.
This section is a series of letters from a character named Anne, who is a 20 year old student at Camden College taking a semester (or more) off in Los Angeles with her grandparents, to Sean (character Sean Bateman from
Rules of Attraction). The letters span from September to January and decrease in frequency. Anne undergoes drastic physical, emotional, and mental changes, being indoctrinated into the often detached and morally hollow Los Angeles mindset. Among other things, Anne specifically details her friendship with 30 year old named Randy. She practically lives at his house much of the time and describes him as a sort of best friend, constantly writing about him in the letters. Yet she seems pretty unaffected when he is found dead (possibly murdered) and mentions it in passing as a minor detail. Physically she changes from a brunette, pale, scholarly and sensitive college student to blonde, tan, vapid and disillusioned aerobics junkie.
Chapter 9 - Another Gray Area
This chapter is narrated by Graham, who is a recurring character throughout the novel. It begins with Graham, his girlfriend Christie, Randy, and Martin (possibly the Martin from "The Up Escalator") getting stoned in his home. Graham is convinced that Christie and Martin are sleeping together, but has no proof and does not seem to care that much.
Graham wakes up the next morning, and, while looking for matches for his bong, finds a note telling him to go to a house where someone filming a video for The English Prices wants to have lunch with him. Graham goes to the house and finds Martin there, but Martin doesn't know anything about the note. Graham hangs around for a bit before leaving.
He then meets Christie for lunch and orders a salad made with wilted lettuce. Christie mentions that a friend of theirs was found in Mexico completely drained of blood, his neck hacked open, and all of his vital organs missing; she says that Mexican police told her it was a drowning. They then argue about their relationship, and come to the conclusion that, though they are seeing each other, neither really cares if they "see" other people as well.
Graham wakes up the next morning to the sound of gunshots. He walks outside, but the doorman tells him to stay inside. There are police cars across the street, but Graham has no idea what is going on. Instead, he talks with the doorman, who believes him to be Martin.
Graham's mother calls him to tell him that his father just died and that he has to fly out to Las Vegas. Graham makes his way to the site of the place crash that killed his father, accompanied by a ranger. The ranger tells him that the body looked like a miniature Darth Vader. Graham flirts with him.
Chapter 10 - The Secrets of Summer
Chapter 10 is narrated by a boy named Jamie. It starts off with him picking up a noticeably underage girl from a bar, bringing her back to his place, upon which time he engages in intercourse with her and then bleeds her. Through interaction with a female friend later on, Miranda, we learn that the two might be actual vampires, since bleeding is mentioned and the two characters dine on bloody and raw steak throughout their evening together. Jamie, during intercourse and after getting a first taste of blood, describes his facial features as hideous and very much not human (though if he appeared this way all the time, he would have difficulty picking up girls and/or meandering through society). He sleeps in a coffin, which has all the necessities of a twentieth century vampire life, and suffers a horrible experience when he sucks the blood of a doped-up girl only to discover that she was high on heroin, which causes him to trip.
At one point, the protagonist passes by a billboard on Sunset reading "Disappear Here" (a line that Ellis is infamous for). Also, Jamie continuously makes off-color Ethiopian jokes throughout the entire story, signaling which of the people he's interacting with are his friends and which aren't. His friends always get his jokes and find them hilarious; the girls he picks up-- all of them rather unintelligent and stereotypical of Los Angeles youth-- do not, and some find them horrific.
Jamie visits his friend Dirk, who is into the same lifestyle as him and Miranda. He hopes that there will be fresh meat at Dirk's place and is not disappointed. Body bags and blood are scattered everywhere throughout the apartment, but the two boys are fairly apathetic and mention everything in an offhand way between sips of Coronas. A friend, Roderick, is brought up and we learn that his ashes were found at his place, at the bottom of his pool, along with a wooden stake crafted out of a baseball bat. Dirk doesn't wish to talk about it as it is a reminder they are not truly immortal. The two boys watch television, but Jamie can't concentrate as the smells of fresh blood flowing from the next room over are giving him the munchies. He tries to sneak in, but is yelled at by Dirk because the body isn't dead yet.
In the last section, Jamie goes to visit his psychiatrist, in which he asks for more Darvocet. Jamie asks the doctor more questions than the doctor asks him, and it is unclear whether or not Jamie is merely suffering from psychotic episodes or is really the vampire and killer he claims to be. Regardless, Jamie is shown to be an unreliable first person narrator, like many of Ellis' protagonists.
Chapter 11 - The Fifth Wheel
This story is told through the perspective of a guy, Tommy, and opens up with Tommy, Peter and Mary wondering whether or not they will have to kill a young boy now in their custody. It is worth mentioning that Peter and Mary are heroin addicts. Peter arrives at Tommy's place with the kid. As the story progresses, we learn that he is a ticket towards Peter getting some money. Tommy is initially extremely unhappy with the situation however cannot do anything to change it and is subdued by Peter almost breaking his arm. He succumbs to the kid in the bathtub and subtly adjusts so that he does not have to go in, by urinating in the sink and visiting fast food restaurants and a local car wash when he has to poop. He says he can hear the kid bumping around in the tub throughout the house, but Peter claims it's all in his head. We find out that the kid was picked up from a parking lot in hopes that the parents will pay money to have him back. It is mentioned that Peter was thinking of selling him off to a vampire in West Hollywood, harkening back to the last chapter, and the ransom money is helping to pay off "a fag named Spin" (200) who is referenced in several previous chapters.
Peter leaves the house at one point to take care of some business, although he never says with this business is, leaving Tommy and Mary, whom we have not seen much of, alone in Tommy's apartment. Mary is high on something strong most likely heroin, because it leaves her with difficulty talking and breathing. Mary mentions a guy that Peter and her met in Carson who sold them a lot of heavy drugs. At some point, Peter catches the guy and Mary together, and in retaliation, takes him out into the desert, shoots him in the eye, and then cuts off his penis, which he then throws at Mary in anger. Although Mary is laughing while she tells the story, it ends with her crying hysterically. Tommy at this point tries unsuccessfully to have sex with her.
He wakes up to Peter and Mary gone and a visit from Rip, whose actions and words clash with his surfer appearance. This is most likely the same Rip who is in "Less Than Zero", because he is the right age and is also a drug dealer. They both show up back at the apartment shortly afterwards, and freak out when they're told about Rip, deciding it's better to run for it then stick around. However, there is still the kid in the bathtub to worry about, and Peter shoves Tommy into the role of killing him, which Tommy botches badly before managing to make a deep enough cut in the kid's neck. Peter suggests they head to Vegas to hide out and feigns ignorance when Tommy brings up the incident in the desert, indicating that Tommy is the one with the most to fear since he just killed a young boy. It is possible that Mary was making up the story in the desert, since she is not all together there, as witnessed in the last scene, but again, there is no telling for sure.
Chapter 12 - On the Beach
No name protagonist's presumed girlfriend is dying, and spends all of her spare time lying out on the beach, although the tan does nothing to take away from her rapidly deteriorating appearance. She lives close to the beach with a friend, Mona, who is constantly surrounded by boyfriends whom she has sex with on a regular basis. No name protagonist flashes back to their prom, which is the first time that he learns about his girlfriend's condition, although it was not as bad back then. We know that she is in fairly deep at the present because of the black wig donned over a bald head, and a body that is becoming more emaciated each day. She takes up smoking because she is already dying and clings to it as an act of rebellion, but she cannot really do it, and most of her cigarettes just end up as ash in the tray.
He leaves his girlfriend on the beach, where she sits staring out over the ocean, and enters the house where he engages in non-conversation with first Mona and then Griffin, the current boy toy, with whom no name protagonist is angry for drinking all the Corona. Leaving the house to return to the beach, he tells Mona, who walks out after him, that he doesn't love his girlfriend and that he doesn't want to stick around to watch the rest of the movie that is life because he knows how it's going to end. In other words, he does not want to deal with her death because it reminds him of his own mortality.
He ends up walking back to the house, wondering about the future, and his thoughts play briefly across his dealer Spin, a recurring character.
Chapter 13 - At the Zoo with Bruce
In the first paragraph, we learn that no name protagonist is two years younger than Bruce, and is seeing Bruce on the sly, as he is married. Bruce lives in Studio City. His wife is named Grace. No name protagonist mentions how Bruce mentioned his intentions for breaking everything off with Grace the night before, but upon arriving at the apartment, Grace's car is still there, so it is obvious that he chickened out. Bruce is a writer for a television show and no name protagonist is a fifth-year junior at UCLA.
The zoo is fairly deserted on the Thursday afternoon, except for a brief appearance by a horde of elementary school students. The animals are all tired and look sad, and when no name protagonist brings this up, Bruce chastises her, asking her what she expects, and points out that they are happy, but then also points out a large, ugly scar on a polar bear in passing. They pass more unhappy animals as no name protagonist thinks back to when she first met Bruce at a party. She only finds out three weeks in, right before Bruce leaves for a weekend trip to Florida, that he is married, but by then, it is too late. It is on that note that we are directed to the gorillas kept in cages. Bruce points out how the animals like to be there, but no name protagonist counters by saying they were captured and they have no choice. Much like she feels she is captured and stuck in this odd non-relationship because Bruce keeps telling her, "Don't leave me."
It is obvious at this point that Bruce is using no name protagonist for intercourse and money, as she pays for everything, and the only reason they are in the zoo is through a friend of Bruce having a membership to the zoo. He refuses to talk about them and it is at this point that no name protagonist realizes he is not going to leave Grace. Near the back of the zoo, close to the zebras, they sit down on a bench and Bruce confides to no name protagonist that he is an alien from a distant galaxy whose been sent to earth to record human behavior. The Earth is set on being destroyed in the 24th century, but she will have nothing to fear since she will be dead by then. He ends by saying that for once, he is telling the truth.
No name protagonist ponders the future as they walk out of the zoo, stopping momentarily to visit the gibbons, which Bruce really wanted to see earlier in the chapter. She realizes she will probably move on and that is life, yet her final naive thought is that she has faith in Bruce.
A film version of the book is currently in production from a script by Ellis and
Nicholas Jarecki. Gregor Jordanis directing an ensemble cast.
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