Glass Kills Skin
A Died Epidermis Being
With a Little Help of
Pure Heady Alcohol,
Served on the Wads
It takes just a Single but
A Scratch Masterly Done:
Skin Drank Elixir.
Re-read (and finished at this time, oh jeez) one year after the very first attempt of mine.
Not that bad. But not that good either.
Less Than Zero is smart but it's what one may call an artificial smartness somehow.
On my bookshelf the novel followed the reading of Bright Lights, Big City by Jay Mc Inerney that was once seen as the East Coast counterpart of this book but whose fame faded quite soon.
I might disagree with that vision and say there is not so much in common between the two novels.
Apart from snorting blizzards of cocaine in public toilets, messy bedrooms and as a substitute for any given proper meal, I mean.
In fact, where Jay Mc Inerney is wordy and humour-flavoured, Bret Easton Ellis is minimalist and deeply fatalist.
Furthermore, Jay sounds somewhat British to me (is the infamous Ivy League influence?), while Bret is totally - even too much - American-like with all the negative stereotypes included.
So, here it comes my personal suggestion:
don't lend Less Than Zero to a staunch anti-American guy as you could give him/her plenty of topics for the following six months. And over.
Bright Lights Big City is like Holden Caulfield dating Bartleby The Scrivener and Ivana Trump in an early Sex & The City pilot where Nick Hornby wrote the script and Rudy Giuliani forgot the neon tubes on.
Less Than Zero is like getting stoned wearing a Devo t-shirt in a Mtv serie releasing party held in a Valley mall and hosted by the cast of Beverly Hills 90210 while watching Reservoir Dogs with the audio off.
But this was exactly the effect Bret Easton Ellis wanted to have, I guess, so it's not that disturbing as it should sound.
Plus, Bret EE was able to write this stuff years before Brenda & Kelly were killing their uptown spleen with compulsive shopping and Quentin Tarantino was going to teach us how to resuscitate Uma Thurman after an overdose. And for this reason Bret deserves to be praised a little bit.
The first time I tried to read this book somehow I failed to get into it. Then I waited for the right moment to come as I was sure Pahor had something to tell.
When that moment came, months later, I was glad I gave Nekropolis a second chance.
Do not expect a second Elie Wiesel or a second Primo Levi as this book gives a different perspective on a detention experience in a Nazi concentration camp. Pahor was segregated in a small and not very known camp on the Alsatian mountains, the kind of camp that is often not even cited on the accounts about racial and political extermination.
He was not a Jew and had the Italian citizenship, but being Slovenian mother tongue he already suffered a first persecution in Trieste by local fascists trying to annihilate the non-Italian community there.
Then as an Italian by his documents he was considered a traitor by Germans and not a companion even by most of the Italian mother tongue people he met.
While in the camp he was trying to do his best healing people there (pretty much what Varlam Salamov did in the Kolyma gulags) but most of the times he could not do anything and had the impression of working in a morgue rather than in a barrack surgery.
Nevertheless, young Pahor never lost his hope as well as the capacity of contemplating the sky and the countryside above and around the camp.
Nekropolis is the story of Pahor's comeback to the concentration camp several years later. The writer visits the former camp wondering how the people who visit it can perceive the place. Did the concentration camp become a mere memorial? Did the camp become just a touristic venue?
Either contemplating a group of visitors or two young lovers walking hand in hand where the haftlinge worked, survived and died, Pahor reminisces what he felt while there leaving us a great book about the power and importance of memory.