Gerald Howard edited the first books of both Bret Easton Ellis and David Foster Wallace and wrote recently about why they didn’t like each other. Ellis recently read the new Wallace biography and took to Twitter to be a bitch about it. As Howard tells it, criticism of Wallace’s first book used Ellis’s minimalist first book as a foil and that stuck in Ellis’s craw. Then it was off to the races. Anyway, it seems like Howard sides with Ellis, so, I don’t know.
The reviews were pretty much all one could desire for a first novel, and a number of them drew a sharp distinction between Wallaceâ€™s hyperintelligent and maximalist approach and the work of the Brat Packers, who were already being set up for a critical flogging. Bret Ellis being one of those writers on whom nothing is lost, these invidious comparisons would not have escaped his attention. The anschluss arrived with the publication of his underrated second novel, â€œThe Rules of Attraction,â€ which we would also reprint at Penguin despite a cascade of disapprobration. Not pretty and really not fair.
In late 1988 I moved from Penguin to W. W. Norton, taking with me Davidâ€™s second book, the collection â€œGirl With Curious Hair,â€ which Penguin had refused to publish for legal reasons. (Long story.) The title story, about a bunch of L.A. punks misbehaving at a Keith Jarrett concert, struck me as an obvious and expert parody of Bret Ellisâ€™ affectless tone and subject matter and I said so. David, ever disingenuous about his influences (you could barely get him to admit heâ€™d even read Pynchon), denied ever having read a word of Bretâ€™s work â€“ an obvious lie that I let pass. I am certain, though, that Bret took peeved notice when the book was published.