The Informers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
First edition (publ. Alfred A. Knopf)

The Informers is a collection of short stories, seemingly linked by the same continuity, authored by American author Bret Easton Ellis. It was first published as a whole in 1994. Chapters 6 and 7, "Water from the Sun" and "Discovering Japan", were published separately in the UK by Picador in 2007.[1] It displays attributes similar to Ellis' novels Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and, to a lesser extent, American Psycho[citation needed]. Like the first novel, the stories here are set in California.

Chapters[edit]

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[edit]

Nameless protagonist receives a phone call from Bruce, who apologizes for not being in New Hampshire, but in Los Angeles. It has been two months since the last time he contacted her. Bruce mentions how things have deteriorated ever since sleeping with Lauren, the girlfriend of his wealthy roommate, Robert. The affair between the two lasted a week before she moved on to someone wealthier than Robert. Bruce then had an affair with Lauren's brother, Marshall, which lasted longer than his affair with Lauren only because Marshall 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 a feeble 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 the protagonist can think about is Bruce, Lauren and Arizona.

Chapter 2 - At the Still Point[edit]

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.

Tim and his friends Raymond, Dirk, and Graham gather at Mario's restaurant, where Raymond recalls that it is the one-year-anniversary of the death of Jamie, a mutual acquaintance of the boys'. Emotions run high as Dirk denies remembering that it is the anniversary, ultimately breaking down and recalling Jamie's death in graphic detail: Dirk was following Jamie's car through the desert when Jamie crashed it, and Dirk pulled Jamie's body from the wreck and waited with it until help arrived.

Raymond becomes upset by the story and retreats to the bathroom to cry, where Tim goes to calm him down. Although Tim acknowledges to the reader that Jamie never liked Raymond, Tim tells him that Jamie considered him a good friend, which cheers Raymond up. Meanwhile, Graham notices inconsistencies in Dirk's story: Although the coroner's report stated that Jamie died instantly when his car crashed, Dirk claims to have watched helplessly as Jamie slowly bled to death. Dirk dismisses the inconsistency as his intentionally trying to upset Raymond for bringing up the accident.

Chapter 3 - The Up Escalator[edit]

This chapter is narrated by the ex-wife of William, and mother of Graham and Susan. Though unnamed in the novel, she is called "Laura" in the film adaptation. 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 psychiatrist 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 rock star'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[edit]

This chapter is narrated by Les Price, the father of Tim Price from previous chapters. The chapter begins with Les on the phone with a man who is referred to by what sounds like a surname, Lynch. Les is watching Tim and Graham stand in line for a movie through the mirrored window in his office. While he watches the two boys, he begins to see signs that the two boys he thinks are friends, may have a more physical relationship. Les gets a phone call from his ex-wife Elena, who informs him that Tim does not want to go to on the trip to Mauna Kea. The next day, Les picks up Tim in his limousine and, after Les makes some attempts to talk to him and fails, they go to the airport.

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 play tennis and Les wins every set, which Tim shrugs off. They go to the beach and relax in the sun, until Tim meets a girl his age, named Rachel. Later that evening, Tim and his father have dinner with Rachel. Les tries to pick up Rachel during the dinner, at which point Tim freaks out and leaves. Tim's dad finds him up in their room smoking marijuana, causing him to attempt in vain to apologize. Les 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[edit]

The chapter involves Susan, the sister of Graham and daughter of William, going to Los Angeles by train to her father's 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. The character of Susan had previously made an appearance in The Rules of Attraction, sleeping with Sean Bateman.

Chapter 6 - Water from the Sun[edit]

Chapter about Cheryl Laine, a news anchor with a complicated love life. She married William, but they separated after he left her for a woman named "Linda". The chronology of all this is unclear, as are Cheryl's age and Linda's current significance (or lack thereof) in William's life. It is clear that Cheryl views William as an ex, however. Due to her high profile career, Cheryl is recognized in public places. Like William's (other) ex-wife (Graham's mother), Cheryl has now started sleeping with much younger men who are using her for food and shelter.

She must remind her boyfriend Danny to record her newscasts, as she feels they are the only opportunity for him to look at her nowadays. Danny informs her that Ricky, the boyfriend of Danny's pal, Biff, has been murdered. Neither Cheryl nor Danny truly seem to care, though Danny claims he does. Throughout the story, William tries to reconcile his marriage with Cheryl, pleading that he's changed. She tells him, however, that 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[edit]

Burned out rock star Bryan Metro—the father of a friend of Martin's and the ex-husband of a woman Graham's mother is friends with—travels to Japan on his world tour, where he beats up groupies, rapes hotel maids, has sex with underage girls, and engages in drug-induced acts of self-mutilation. In a constant, drug-and-alcohol induced stupor, he attempts to negotiate the future of his career with his savvy, world-weary agent, who wants Bryan to team up with an up-and-coming band known as the English Prices. Bryan proves resistant, and is too focused on his own self-indulgence to care. Lost in the past, Bryan makes unsuccessful attempts to reconcile via phone with his ex-wife and son, and meditates on the suicide of one of his former bandmates, an event left out of a well-received documentary film about the events leading to the band's dissolution. Bryan ultimately completes the tour after a disastrous show (during which he forgets the words to his own songs) and prepares to head back to America.

Chapter 8 - Letters from L.A.[edit]

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 The 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[edit]

Graham lives in an apartment with his girlfriend, Christie, and two other boys, Randy and Martin, the latter of whom is having an affair with Graham's mother and with whom Graham is also having sex. Graham is further convinced that Christie and Martin are having sex, but does not care.

Graham visits Martin at a building where Martin is filming a music video for the English Prices, whose stoned lead singer proves difficult to work with. Later he has lunch with Christie, who tells him that a friend of theirs has been found dead in Mexico, severely mutilated and drained of blood. The two argue about their relationship, ultimately concluding that neither cares if the other has sex with different people.

One morning Graham goes downstairs to discover that a hostage situation is unfolding across the street involving numerous police officers; Graham dismissively watches it unfold along with the doorman, who wants to be introduced to Martin so that he can get into music videos. Graham ultimately goes back upstairs, ignoring the outcome of the hostage situation. Later, he receives word that his father has been killed in a plane crash, and travels out to Las Vegas to see the body and visit the accident site. Afterwards he gambles most of his money away at different Casinos, and ultimately loses most of his father's ashes after betting them on a game of Blackjack.

Chapter 10 - The Secrets of Summer[edit]

Chapter 10 flashes back to the life of Jamie, whose death was recounted earlier. Jamie is a sexist, racist young playboy fond of making jokes about Ethiopians. Throughout the course of the story, it becomes clear that Jamie either is, or at least believes himself to be, a vampire, who sleeps in a coffin outfitted with cable television and survives on raw filet mignon and by drinking the blood of teenage girls during sex. He is part of an apparent secret society of other "vampires," including socialite Miranda and his friend, Dirk, who has taken vampirism to the extreme by killing his victims rather than simply draining and drinking their blood.

Visiting Dirk, Jamie discovers various mutilated body parts that indicate him as the serial killer responsible for deaths mentioned in several previous stories. Jamie and Dirk uncomfortably recall the fate of Roderick, who disappeared at the same time a pile of ashes were found at the bottom of his pool, near a wooden stake and Lawry's garlic powder. The next time Jamie picks up a girl he discovers that she is more perceptive to his racism and lifestyle than his other conquests, which causes him to snap and murder her.

In the last section, Jamie goes to visit his psychiatrist, Dr. Nova, whom he asks for more Darvocet. Jamie taunts the psychiatrist by claiming responsibility for his father's death; Dr. Nova calmly dismisses the story as one Jamie has told before, casting doubt on Jamie's reliability as a narrator. Jamie then threatens to kill Dr. Nova's daughter, spurring him to write the prescription. Before leaving, Jamie claims to be the Biblical demon Legion.

Chapter 11 - The Fifth Wheel[edit]

A car wash attendant, Tommy, gets a call from an old acquaintance of his, Peter, who wants to stay at his place while he visits the city. Tommy agrees, and Peter shows up later along with his girlfriend, a heroin addict named Mary who takes to sleeping on a mattress on the floor of Tommy's room. Initially, Peter and Mary only prove to be a minor nuisance, as the morbidly obese Peter binge-eats all day and watches cartoons while Mary shoots up in the bedroom. One afternoon, however, Tommy comes home to discover a ten-year-old boy tied up in the bathtub; Peter explains that he owes money to a drug dealer named Spin, and explains that the child—whom he and Mary kidnapped from the mall—is part of a plan to raise money to pay off the debt. Tommy initially protests, prompting Peter to assault him. Tommy quickly grows too apathetic to intervene, and simply takes to urinating in his kitchen sink and defecating at a nearby gas station as a way to avoid the bathroom.

As time goes on it becomes apparent that Peter has no real plan to use the child as a means of income; he never makes ransom demands from the child's parents, and only briefly considers selling him to the vampires in Los Angeles, before deciding to use the boy as his own personal sex slave. The sight of the child's bloody body after being raped by Peter only causes Tommy to become more apathetic.

One night, left alone with Mary, Tommy attempts to have sex with her. Mary tells him that the last time the couple found themselves in a similar situation, she had sex with their host, prompting Peter to shoot him in the eye and castrate him. Nevertheless, Tommy still attempts to have sex with her, an effort that fails when she passes out from heroin.

After Spin shows up and threatens Tommy, Peter decides to flee to Las Vegas, and asks Tommy to come along with. Before they leave, he encourages Tommy to murder the child to tie up loose ends. Tommy initially refuses, but is too apathetic to keep up his protest, and obligingly stabs the boy to death. The trio flee into the desert, where Peter reminds Tommy that the child's death is on his hands, and not Peter's. When Tommy brings up the man that Peter shot and castrated, Peter is genuinely confused, and indicates he does not know what Tommy is talking about.

Chapter 12 - On the Beach[edit]

An unnamed protagonist spends his days with his dying girlfriend, who wants to spend the time she has left on the beach at her mother's house in Malibu. The protagonist meditates upon his girlfriend's rapidly deteriorating condition, which she first exhibited at their senior prom, and which he attended while high.

Keeping the couple company are the girlfriend's best friend, Mona, and a seemingly endless string of young men that Mona brings home. The latest, Griffin, clashes with the narrator by drinking all of his beer, exacerbating the already tense situation. After sleeping with Mona, the narrator informs her of his ambivalence towards his girlfriend, and his decision to leave the next day: Her impending death reminds him too much of his own mortality, and the prospect of being around to witness it is too frightening.

The narrator visits his girlfriend one last time as she lays weakly on the beach, watching the sunset, listlessly begging to be allowed to work on her tan. The narrator quietly walks away, leaving her alone and contemplating his own mortality.

Chapter 13 - At the Zoo with Bruce[edit]

An unnamed protagonist spends the day at the zoo with her married lover, Bruce, a television writer who has been using her for money and sex while promising to leave his wife. Over the course of the day, the narrator finds parallels between the various injured zoo animals they encounter and her own life situation, as her attempts to leave Bruce all end with Bruce begging her not to and the narrator ultimately relenting.

When the narrator finally tries to confront Bruce about leaving his wife, Bruce tells her a long, convoluted story about being an alien sent to Earth to prepare for its destruction in the 24th century. Leaving the zoo, the narrator contemplates finally living a life independent of Bruce, but sees no immediate release from the situation.

Film adaptation[edit]

A film version of the book has been produced from a script by Ellis and Nicholas Jarecki and was screened at the 2009 Sundance film festival. It was directed by Gregor Jordan and featured an ensemble cast, such as Winona Ryder, Billy Bob Thornton, Mickey Rourke, Amber Heard and Kim Basinger. It was Brad Renfro's last film before his untimely death.

Criticism[edit]

In her review of the book in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani wrote that Ellis had written "a novel that is as cynical, shallow and stupid as the people it depicts."

Will Self wrote that, "The Informers shows the work of a writer at the peak of his powers, deeply concerned with the moral decline of our society."[2]

Audiobook[edit]

In 2009, Audible.com produced an audio version of The Informers, narrated by Christian Rummel and Therese Plummer, as part of its Modern Vanguard line of audiobooks.

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Evening Standard (London) October 13, 1994 BEYOND THE AMERICAN PSYCHO BACKLASH; (1) It's all there on WILL SELF's Sanyo M1118 cassette tape recorder - an interview in which the received image of Bret Easton Ellis, the author of the reviled American Psycho, is put to death (2) This is a man whom I'd happily let bath my children - should he wish to engage in such an atrocity (3) The Informers shows the work of a writer deeply concerned with the moral decline of our society BYLINE: Will Self 28-29

External links[edit]