Here are two key themes of this book of essays: firstly, a middle-aged white male criticising millennials...and secondly, the notion of people as actors who are not behaving with authenticity. Ellis weaves his themes throughout the essay to produce a cohesive whole. That Ellis engages with his themes in a forthright, abrasive and unapologetic, intelligent manner is no surprise ... This book is also an enjoyable potted autobiography plotted through his own books and movies, and those that influenced him ... he ultimately wants art that is assessed by aesthetics, not an ideological message ... he cites Kanye West, Charlie Sheen and Trump as men who are free – (free to not give a damn), people (men) doing it their way and in the process generating a following ... That his own freedom would also be based on wealth...sometimes makes his criticism of the 'victimisation culture' seem a bit rich – as though not realising that a rebalancing is in order and that other voices must have their platform to be heard .... This book is a refreshing and hugely interesting intervention in a debate about the nature of our times – is it the cry of a dinosaur or a timely injection of corrective truth? I recommend it.
Ellis is in full stride here, playing a role familiar and delightful to his Twitter and podcast fans, that of self-appointed denigrator in chief of liberal-elitist attitudes. But while Ellis can be funny, his gleeful iconoclasm often overpowers his rhetorical purpose ... In short, he wants us to take other people’s opinions on the chin. This is the book’s most appealing idea. Unfortunately, if you’re not already there, Ellis is unlikely to convince you ... There’s also something unconvincing and disingenuous in his incredulous response to 'the overreaction epidemic' ... Matters aren’t helped by a lack of structure and a sometimes slapdash style. There’s no arc. Like the aborted novel Ellis says he started making notes for in 2013, White reads like a series of false starts ... And as criticism, although it’s enjoyably flashy — his thoughts on Kanye’s recent 'bi-polar, Dada performance art,' for instance — it’s also sloppy ... [Ellis is] often witty and insightful; there’s palpable gaiety in the airing of some of his more subversive ideas; and the book contains much of what makes reading him pleasurable. But by taking such a bombastic approach, Ellis makes White a self-defeating exercise, setting himself up for exactly the critical response he thinks he’s satirizing. Namely: successful, middle-aged white dude loses his cool.
This back-in-my-day generational grousing comes up again when Mr. Ellis complains about 'snowflakes' and 'millennials' who demand apologies for mean jokes. But it doesn’t work: Most of the entitled liberals in the news and entertainment industries he ridicules aren’t millennials but Generation Xers, as he is ... Mr. Ellis sometimes sounds like a bit of a snowflake himself. He writes at length on the hypersensitive reactions to his tweets, but it seems rather touchy to be complaining so much about one’s treatment on Twitter ... Mr. Ellis complains, rightly, that the cultural left elevates politics over art, but what conservative critic hasn’t said this in one form or another? ... Mr. Ellis will lose friends over this book, and perhaps he deserves credit for courage. But offending people is what he’s always done—and it’s worked for him rather well so far.
[Some of Elliss's criticisms seem] seem fair enough — but does he think his constant invocations of fascists and fascism are somehow different? These moments of hypocrisy occur so frequently that the reader begins to suspect Ellis simply has a different set of standards for himself than for anyone else. He has thoughts and opinions; everyone else has biases and agendas. His trolling is fun; anyone else's is a sign of cultural decline. When he is criticized it represents the degenerative power of social media. When opponents don't like his criticism, it is because they are crybabies ... Ellis's work is rooted in personal grievance: He can't escape the backlash cycle long enough to figure out what he actually believes or cares about. All he knows is that you care far too much ... In the end, for a chance of winning an argument against imaginary foes, Ellis is willing to concede that he is no longer capable of thinking for himself.
White is a poorly thought-out mess of a book written by someone who does not take seriously the topics he’s writing about. It is also, more damningly, not interesting at all ... All of White is, in fact, a massive and unoriginal exercise in projection, a defensive bray of 'I’m not mad, I actually think it’s funny,' repeated for 260 pages.
That there are children in cages or that newly emboldened white supremacists have taken to the streets of American cities does not seem to have left much of an impression on Bret Easton Ellis. Indeed, in his telling, the most pernicious consequence of Trump’s otherwise inconsequential election is that it gave woke culture the license to run riot. 'Everyone has to be the same' now, Ellis grumbles; everyone is forced to applaud the same politically correct television shows and cheer for the same politically correct heroes ... The irony of White is that it is a book-length exercise in playing the victim ... It is difficult to engage these broadsides in any serious way, because Ellis does so little work to back them up ... Are millennials thin-skinned? Ellis is so upset about being called a sexist and a ninny online that he has written tens of thousands of aggrieved words about it ... White shows that coldness can be as banal as it is outrageous. One can imagine an elderly Bateman in the austere luxury of his Manhattan apartment, his impassive face bathed in the greenish glow of a smartphone, sending his empty thoughts about pop music and Hollywood and politics into the ether.
Ellis is excellent as a practitioner-critic analysing the films that inspired him in his youth (such as Paul Schrader’s 'American Gigolo') or those that have failed to inspire him lately (such as 'Moonlight,' which he sees as a straight man’s vision of gay sexuality) or the career of David Foster Wallace and the posthumous cult that was determined to make a saint of him (until it wasn’t) ... Ellis’s critique of millennial fragility is weakened by his use of the stock phrases of reactionaries ('social justice warriors') as well as one of his own coining — 'Generation Wuss'. This is name-calling, and it underestimates the power of a cohort that has used technology to begin reshaping society in ways Gen X hardly attempted.
Although the book has been promoted as an ‘incendiary polemic’, it’s more of a lazy Susan of memoir, cultural reflections, pharmacological reports, name-dropping, reputation fluctuations and intermittent sighs ... Too many of his examples have gone stale, and he is blithely oblivious of the pathologies being exploited by slime merchants and alt-right hustlers such as Candace Owens and Milo Yiannopoulos ... So much of his counter-argument consists of shrugging ‘Hey, what’s the big deal?’ until shrugging becomes his default mode, the lazy way out ... As a novelist, Ellis has a cadaver dog’s nose for where the putrefaction is buried in polite and impolite society, but that doesn’t come into play here. Too much of White feels half-hearted, half-minded and phoned-in. (I almost typed ‘droned-in’ and that’s apt too) ... Yet I don’t see Ellis gunning for bigger game in the future, raising his sights, expanding his field of fire. That would require exertion, actual research and stuff. No, I think he has found his groove and that groove is mellifluously crooning into the podcast mic about the latest online spaz-out or personal pet peeves, like some well-worn balladeer, the Leonard Cohen of kvetching. If he paces himself, he’ll be able to go on indefinitely, methodically chewing the same old cud. Fine with me, you know, whatever.
Ellis is good chronicler or our divided times ... White is a refreshing read because it’s just so full of rage. It’s almost as if Patrick Bateman, Ellis’ anti-hero from American Psycho, had decided to become a writer instead of a serial killer.
First, the faint praise: White, a new collection of essays from Bret Easton Ellis, is the best thing the author has published in years. That’s not hard ... That’s the signature Ellis manoeuvre, of course: to give off all the signs of a man in acute psychological distress, and then, when you extend a helping hand, to bite your fingers off ... But here’s the real shocker: they’re good, particularly the earlier ones evoking his youth as a rich, unsupervised latchkey kid ... 'I now know that I was never happier than I was in the summer of 1991.' And on that stunning note he ends the essay ... had Ellis left it there it would have been the greatest mic drop of his career. Sadly, he doesn’t. His resentment over his vilification upon that book’s publication colours all that follows.
...a messy jumble of memoir, social critique and unhinged bile ... The contrast between an earlier era Ellis characterizes as defiantly expressive and our current cultural moment is overplayed in several of the book’s loosely structured chapters ... Even more interesting are his open-ended musings on the impact of digital media on our long-cherished notions of privacy and individuality ... There are other gems in what is an overly long book. Especially good are Ellis’s mini-essays on the revolutionary use of the inverted male gaze in Paul Schrader’s 1980 film American Gigolo, the pop genius of the Bangles’ first two albums, and how feelings of personal disintegration led to the creation of Patrick Bateman ... his observations on Millennials — Generation Wuss, he calls them — are too broad at times for a satirist of his skills. But like all of Ellis’s work, White is informed by a febrile, unflinching vision rare in any era.
Ugh, what a basic white guy Ellis turns out to be. What a whining, hypocritical, bloated sack of it's-my-fault-but-not-my-problem this guy exhibits. What a do-nothing, rich jackass Ellis is. To read White in all its alleged seriousness is to become instantly and also repeatedly inflamed by the author's very unamusing and privileged putdowns of what little shred of dignity our public discourse has left ... So, here's my final verdict: White is a satire of nonfiction writing, and it should not be considered a serious work.
...a series of glorified, padded-out blog posts than a series of regular, normal-size blog posts ... [a] deeply needless book ... a rambling mess of cultural commentary and self-aggrandizement ... Even the title White is a provocation, designed to simultaneously anticipate, incur, and mock accusations of white privilege ... The thesis of White is that American culture has entered a period of steep, perhaps irreversible decline, and social media and millennials are to blame. This is ridiculous, not because social media hasn’t changed things tremendously, but because such claims are invariably rooted in a childish nostalgia ... It is perfectly acceptable to bitch and moan about how the mean people didn’t like your good tweets, but there is a time and a place for such behavior, and it is not the offices of Alfred A. Knopf, publisher ... Ellis refers to millennials as Generation Wuss, which sounds like something your dad made up. Lots of White is given to this kind of feeble bullying ... The prose in White is shapeless, roving, and aggressively unedited. One waits in vain for an arresting image ... one cannot read White as anything but a book about being rich and bored ... [Ellis is] an angry, uninteresting man who has just written a very needy book.
...[an] intelligent and briskly observed offering ... As his Twitter followers and podcast listeners will know, Ellis isn’t afraid to be contrarian, and that’s what makes this book so interesting. You might disagree with much of what Ellis thinks—but that, it would seem, is just fine with him.
... White, a collection of eight essays that respond to contemporary culture, has all the sound, fury and insignificance of a misguided rant posted at 3am. Except, inexplicably, it has been given the dignity of print publication ... Ellis seems to find [his] questions original, profound and scary, but they read as narcissistic, reactionary and boring ... 'Maybe when you’re roiling in childish rage, the first thing you lose is judgement, and then comes common sense,' Ellis writes at the close of White, supposedly in reference to the 'constant shrieking' of the left. Maybe that’s also how we ended up with such a nonsensical, vapid book, written by a man so furiously obsessed with his right to speak that he forgets to say anything at all.
It isn’t confession, necessarily, and it isn’t reportage or evaluation. [Ellis's] just telling stories. And the reason those stories are so engrossing is because he’s a natural novelist—and, given the frequency with which he talks about his boyhood precocity in reading and studying horror, Ellis seems to appreciate this about himself: he loves stories and he’s good at telling them ... His novelist’s inclination is to lean, always, on character, on voice (each of his novels is written in the first person, by narrators who sometimes think they understand what’s going on but clearly don’t), and while that can be frustrating and irksome if you’re trying to appreciate White for the book of criticism that it’s billed as, it’s much more enjoyable when read as, if not fiction, a kind of literary performance art. His account of things is always anecdotal. He talks about Hollywood drama and scandal, he names names, supplies motives—and never cites a thing. Again, it’s annoying if you’re taking it seriously; funny, though, if you’re appreciating it for what it is: 200 pages of wine talk with a scathingly opinionated, fairly obnoxious, very smart friend whose observations are often clouded by ego and indignation and nostalgia for the wood-paneled anonymity of the 1970s, or the carefree affluence of the early ‘80s.
He mentions American Psycho often, congratulating himself on his prescience — he claims to have predicted the rise of Donald Trump — so the response to these incendiary rambling pieces shouldn’t have come as a shock. And how rambling and incendiary they are ... He jumps from topic to topic, from 9/11 to a critique of Charlie Sheen to a smattering of details about the bloodbath — narrative as well as financial — that was American Psycho: The Musical ... The main factor connecting these pieces is Ellis’ lack of self-awareness ... dissenting perspectives should be based on valid argument and thoughtful consideration. Ellis’ broad-brush statements rarely meet those criteria.
...his principal interest is in the fractured American culture, political and otherwise ... He lashes out at certain writers while delivering praise to others—e.g., he admires Joan Didion and Jonathan Franzen ... Well-written pieces bubbling with attitude and self-confidence but, at times, as judgmental as those Ellis condemns.
...[a] contentious manifesto ... Ellis’s pop-culture preoccupations sometimes feel callow—he paints Charlie Sheen and Kanye West as America’s last free men ... an unoriginal reprise of ideas commonplace to right-wing media outlets.