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Love, sex or faux pas

art-and-culture Updated: Mar 03, 2012 02:30 IST
Bhavya Dore
Bhavya Dore
Hindustan Times
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It's the mid-eighties, but everyone from Camden College on the American east coast still seems to be stuck in the '60s. College is incidental, with the maximum portion of the day and night being devoted to the steady pursuit of drugs, sex and more drugs.

Partying is the raison d'etre. And it's all bohemia, possibly minus the politics. Ellis' book follows three students at a liberal arts college enmeshed in a frothy love triangle. There is Lauren, still nursing a broken heart after her boyfriend Victor took off for Europe. There is Sean, who bounces from one girl's bed to the next, all the while eyeing Lauren.

And finally, there is the bisexual Paul, one of Laura's ex-boyfriends, who is now eyeing Sean. Into this romantic circuitry are periodically thrown in other characters, each as promiscuous and drug-addled as the next.

The book swivels from one voice to another, dipping the reader in medias res into the action and never quite pausing for breath. We aren't so much privy to the characters' stream of consciousness as we are to a cascading, turbulent, torrent of consciousness.

Ellis' cult campus novel fixes its gaze onto a student world driven by materialistic pursuits and seemingly hollow at the core. No one seems satisifed. Everyone seems to be caught in an unending cycle of debauchery.

Ellis is wonderfully sardonic, successfully capturing the rhythms of speech and thought and delivering several laugh-out-loud moments. Being a witness to self-destruction can be both poignant and funny.