Combining personal reflection and social observation, Bret Easton Ellis's first work of nonfiction is a polemic about this young century's failings, e-driven and otherwise, and at once an example, definition, and defense of what 'freedom of speech' truly means.
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.