The Rules of Attraction

The Rules of Attraction - Bret Easton Ellis

Ah, Camden College. My first references to it came through Ellis' other books, but I soon found out about how it links authors Donna Tartt and Jill Eisenstadt, and apparently Jonathan Lethem too.

'From Rockaway' was my first real introduction to the Camden, it wasn't a fantastic book, but decent, so it was fun when Lauren recognized Alex (that-nice-girl-from-rockaway), Joseph and a couple other minor characters from that novel as part of the Friday night crowd at the Pub.

In 'Rules' Ellis magnifies the selfishness, the pettiness, and the insecurity of college social life - I don't think anyone at Camden goes to class - and he ends up with a pretty accurate map of what its like. At least, emotionally. I can't imagine any school as hedonist and underwhelming as Camden existing in real life...though I often did wonder how some people ended up graduating from my own school when they seemed to be blacking out every night.

The most effective aspect of 'Rules' is the shifting first-person narration. Sometimes covering the same party from four or five perspectives. All sides of a relationship came out. I can't remember an author who was so able to highlight characters' delusions, self-inflicted and otherwise. Death of romance indeed.

One short chapter is narrated completely by Sean's French roommate Bertrand, in French. So after half-heartedly looking for a translation online (I couldn't find a decent one), I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time translating it myself with my French-English dictionary and Google Translate (which is hardly perfect, but a lot more sophisticated than Babelfish). So even if none of the characters learned anything, I certainly got a good refresher in foreign languages.