In his 1998 book ‘Blank Fiction: Consumerism, Culture and the Contemporary American Novel’, James Annesley discusses the concept of ‘blank fiction’ – a term which may be applied to a variety of American transgressive fiction (fiction which violates the accepted, or normal, boundaries of social acceptability). This fiction was prominent in 1980s America, and includes works such as Bret Eastern Ellis’s 1985 novel ‘Less Than Zero’.
Annesley suggests that we can “see late twentieth-century culture as a formation generated by the interaction of individual priorities, industrial imperatives and social experiences”, an argument which he states “offers a sense of the ways in which contemporary fiction can be read” – pp135. He further states that such works of fiction can be interpreted as “narratives that disclose some of the key dynamics operating in contemporary culture”. – pp136.
In other words, Annesley argues that ‘blank fiction’ is a reflection of 1980s United States culture. Therefore , Ellis’s novel ‘Less Than Zero’ may be considered to act as a reflection of affluent, Los Angeles youth culture during the earlier part of the 1980s.
Marshall Fishwick – professor and writer – agrees in his 1998 review of Annesley’s ‘Blank Fiction: Consumerism, Culture and the Contemporary American Novel’ that works of ‘blank fiction’ are a "mirror held up to a corrupt American society”. He goes on to state that popular culture “is much given to fads and fancies. Some are mere shooting stars; others turn into trends, even movements”, suggesting that ‘blank fiction’ may be considered of great significance in reflecting and defining 1980s American culture. We can see this through Ellis’s novel.