Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The "Blank Generation."

Reading the other blogs published, it is apparent that the term "blank fiction" is seemingly challenging to explicitly define. A quick search for the term, however, promotes a genre very much pronounced, and set in the nineteen-eighties. As James Annesley states: 'you might not be sure what it is, but you can be sure that it's out there. Turn on the TV and it's there. Go to the movies and you'll see it. Flick through a rack of CDs and you'll find it. Turn the pages of a novel and you'll read it. It's found in [...] images of excess and indulgence, [...] [with] and emphasis on the extreme, the marginal, and the violent.' (James Annesley, Blank Fictions: Consumerism, Culture, and the Contemporary American Novel,' p.1.)

Ellis' Less Than Zero is renowned as a novel which epitomises something of a hedonistic, decadent lifestyle whereby drugs play an overt, integral role and present themselves as a part of a lifestyle which emphasises, as the blurb states, 'the author's refusal to condone or chastise such behaviour.' The opening pages contain rather nuanced, subtle references to substance abuse, presenting it as day-t0-day (almost mundane and assumed), but nevertheless insist on placing it at the forefront of the readers' minds. We, as readers, are drawn to the fact the Clay (our voice) is constantly, noticeably "pale," with him initially keen to avoid his former/current drug dealer. Clay, re-entering an obviously urban environment is shown to be included in an affluent, bourgeois lifestyle. On our first encounter with his mum, for instance, shows her as preened, well-presented yet with an underlying, implied reliance on alcohol - 'She doesn't say anything else, until she's finished her third glass of wine and poured her fourth' (p. 11). The novel's introduction invites the reader to form a critique on the effects of wealth.

To me, what I understand "blank fiction" to represent is somewhat of a neglected youth culture, financially supported, yet potentially emotionally unfulfilled and met with a wealth of consumerist opportunity which has the potential to fill a void. Maria T. Pao, in her article 'Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll: Historias del Kronen as Blank Fiction,' highlights that the younger members of the aforementioned emergent bourgeois social group 'reflect a slacker culture,' with 'professional and familial responsibility [being avoided]' (p.246) ( I may be misguided in claiming this as the overarching factor of the introductory chapters of Ellis' novel, but what seemed most shocking what the blasé attitude related to recreational drug use. Clay, with his mother in ear shot, announced that he keeps he bedroom door locked because his sisters 'stole a quarter gram of cocaine from [him]' (p. 17), for instance. Something of an "underground L.A lifestyle" is, in the first instance, represented as the norm. I can only assume that, from Clay's position as we are invited to take, the comfortable youth (especially ones from a "broken home" as Clay is) need not have any sense of ambition or responsibility and are uncontrollably forced into the debauched surroundings fitting the confused, misplaced wealthy who can afford to enter into a world which we may naturally associate with the impoverished and desperate. The very fact that the respectable are also susceptible to, and controlled by, substance abuse (alcohol, cocaine or otherwise) is arguably synonymous with the 1980s, linked to an emergent consumerist society driven by the material and greed.

"Blank fiction" is strongly associated with "transgressive fiction" and is recognisable by the prolific presence of taboo subject matter - sex and promiscuity, drugs, violence and crime - and functions to represent characters confined or trapped by accepted social conventions and norms. Indeed, such characters are shown to be breaking free from pressured confines through entering into illicit activity.

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