Eric sits down with Bret Easton Ellis; the two Gen X’ers graduated from rival high schools in a disaffected 1982 Los Angeles that inspired Ellis’ first novel “Less Than Zero”. In this conversation, they reflect on LA, Generation X, and the different notions of childhood held by Gen x and Millennials.
Phlur: phlur.com/portal for 20% off
Boll and Branch: BollandBranch.com $50 off with promo code: PORTAL No risk, 30 day trial period with free shipping
Four Sigmatic: FourSigmatic.com/PORTAL and use discount code PORTAL to get a 15% discount on all orders
Skillshare: Skillshare.com/PORTAL for 2 months of Skillshare free
Eric Weinstein: [00:00:00] Hello, you found the portal. I’m your host, Eric Weinstein. And today we’re here with a fabulous author who many of you will know? Bret Easton Ellis famous from less than zero and American psycho. And now the book white. Welcome.
Bret Easton Ellis: [00:00:21] Thank you for having me, Eric.
EW: [00:00:24] So, I don’t know exactly, uh, how to approach this, but one of the, one of the frames that I have is that we’re sitting here in a very unusual city, that many people don’t understand how important it is and what makes it so unusual.
And one way I might frame that is that because Los Angeles is the home of the entertainment industry, there’s a weird way in which this is the only city in the world in which I could make the argument that everyone’s some. Somehow partially lives here, whether they know it or not, they’ve consumed the street scenes, which are used as backdrops for movies and TV. And they have an idea of what the ethos of the places, which sort of seeps into the screen writers, uh, mindsets, no matter who they are and in any way that LA is different, it does broadcast itself to the world. Does that resonate with you? And can you add anything?
BEE: [00:01:13] Well, I think it, it maybe resonated that way for me maybe 10 or 15 years ago, a lot more. Uh, I think, uh, the entertainment industry is not centralized just to Los Angeles anymore, or at least that’s the way we look at entertainment. Uh, it seems to be this kind of global thing and not wholly concentrated in Los Angeles where it used to be though. Now you, you might have to, uh, say that it is because Disney is the entertainment.
Business Disney now owns everything. That’s the conglomerate that is going to produce an inordinate amount of content for the rest of the world. So maybe it actually has come back here and is centered here. Um, but you know, it’s strange, there are so many. The entertainment business or the notion of the entertainment business is now this global thing, whether it’s China, whether it’s India has a massive, it has the biggest entertainment complex in the world. The highest grossing movies. I mean the biggest. You know,
EW: [00:02:24] but that’s a diff the consumer base for, uh, Bollywood is very different. So if you’re in Indonesia, for example, or if you’re in East Africa, you’d be much more likely to run into somebody. I mean, famously, uh, Raj Kapoor and, you know, some of his songs are known by all Russians.
Right. But that hasn’t had the same impact. I think. I mean, I think you could take the biggest films, like a show lay and people in the U S have never even heard of they
BEE: [00:02:48] haven’t. That’s correct. Um, but. Uh, I think it’s because, uh, LA has been so central in our minds to the entertainment business since its inception, I guess, in the twenties or, or, or before that, that we, uh, that’s where all of our associations are.
They’re all. When we think about the movie industry, when we think about the entertainment industry that is just been around for so long that we always think that LA uh, we, we connect LA with that. Um, and I also think that it’s, um, Um, it has a lot to do with, uh, the way LA looks as a kind of a parrot paradise, a kind of identic Eden, like, um, uh, Uh, location. Um, and of course we’ve seen so much of it in so much of our, of the content we’ve consumed over the years. We’ve seen its roads. We’ve seen its hillsides. We’ve seen its beaches. We’ve seen its deserts. Um, that, that, that might be one reason why we’re, uh, we, we connect LA with. The business of entertainment?
EW: [00:03:57] Well, I mean, I think you just, if off what you’re saying, if I just thought about street names, you know, why is it that a Mulholland shows up in Tom Petty’s free fallen or is the title of a famous David Lynch film? You know, sunset Boulevard, all of these. Streets, you know, only New York might have in some sense as iconic street names, which are sort of projected out through the industry.
So that’s one indicator to me that, um, you know, if I thought about the streets in Houston, I have no idea what the name of, of important streets in Houston might be.
BEE: [00:04:32] No, nor do I, um, yeah, I mean, we’ll look so much at the talent, um, that creates, uh, this content of course lives here. Uh, and they reference everything about the place in their work.
And, you know, look, I have to say as someone who grew up out here and someone who has written about this in about three of my novels were Holy Holy set in Los Angeles. Um, it is. The most, um, creatively, suggestive place that I’ve ever lived. And I’ve lived in New York and I’ve lived in Vermont and I’ve lived in Virginia and I’ve spent a long time in England and in Paris, nothing really compares to. Los Angeles in terms of how it’s activated my mind and made me want to write. Um, and, uh, I still feel that way. I’ve always, I felt that way since I was a teenager. There’s a sense of possibilities and a sense of freedom here because of the constant mobility and especially the freedom I associated with being a young person in LA and having access if I wanted to, to be at the beach. And then an hour later, be the mountains and maybe an hour and a half later be at the desert that this whole thing was still available to me. And I had the mobility to, um, get to all these places and that activated a kind of freedom in my mind that wasn’t only physical, but it was also creative. And it’s very hard to explain that to people. I mean, when I talk to writers that I knew who grew up in New York or grew up in the suburbs, um, I don’t know if they really, uh, can access. That. And I, uh, I think about that a lot.
EW: [00:06:19] It seems to me that in somehow in some ways, um, that huge number of different environments really defines the place. And because LA doesn’t have in what I consider to be a good general description in the world, we don’t think about it the way we think about Paris, for example, or, you know, even New York, uh, People very often don’t realize that this is like, you know, the home in part of the Rand corporation or that there’s an oil field that partially defines the city.
It’s not a very easy to understand place. And I thought that in part, um, you know, just as you’re talking about the natural environments of Los Angeles, also the ability to go back and forth between skid row and sunset strip and to see the sort of. Ways in which, um, the, you know, the illusion of the Hollywood Hills and the dark underbelly make this place just far more generative and, you know, dark, uh, it’s one of these places that, that fits. The, um, description of sunny place for shady people?
BEE: [00:07:25] Well, that’s what I thought about a lot when I was growing up out here in the seventies. Right. And particularly in the early eighties, um, uh, when, uh, for example, Venice is a, is a good place to start. I mean, Venice in the seventies was, um, slum, dark varied, dark place.
You didn’t go to Venice after night. Uh, you didn’t even go to the Venice during the day. But I remember they started opening a few restaurants. There were a few art galleries. Uh, I remember at 72 market street was one of the first, very first restaurants, a very upscale kind of piano bar restaurant in a kind of derelict alley. And there was something kind of very Los Angeles about that. Very thrilling right off beach. And, um, And Los Angeles really does have the kind of imagination that allows that to open there and then flourish into other restaurants, began opening. I remember Wolfgang puck opened shin WAM on, on I think, main street. And then everything kind of started to flower out of that, but that was not unusual because I remember. A lot of times there would be, especially as a club kid and go into a lot of clubs, you go to these really cool chic clubs in the sleaziest parts of downtown in the, the lower, lower reaches of Wilshire Boulevard. And, um, there was just something kind of fabulous about an environment that allowed all of this to kind of coexist and, uh, you know, Melrose for example, was a place, a strip that I spent a lot of my adolescents on, and they were very high end stores next to, you know, discount clothing stores next to vintage sunglasses stores next to the seediest bar imaginable. And the fact that all of this could coexistence on a block was really thrilling to me. And you know, it just didn’t exist anywhere else that I’ve lived. Uh, in the world and it’s something that I still appreciate, uh, about the city though, of course, LA I think like all places now to a degree, and I don’t want to grossly generalize about it, but you know, we’re sitting here in a Hollywood basically, uh, in a new-ish high rise and all around us is. Massive construction. Yeah, they’re high rises going up all around Coalinga, all around coal, right by the ArcLight theater here and sunset Boulevard. The sunset Boulevard from my childhood is kind of gone and has become a corridor, not unlike some of the canyons of Manhattan and not unlike the Wilshire corridor in a lot of ways. There is massive expansion and massive building here. And also done on that, on that kind of global style free a zone that is so popular wherever you go now around the world where you’ll, I mean, I know they just redid ’em few years ago, they redid, uh, the Bel air hotels. Restaurant and bar, which was one of the more fabulous enclaves here. A very mysterious you’d walk through a forest over a pond. I guess they were ducks or geese, swans. They were swans. And then you’d enter into this mysterious. A dark dark bar from out of the thirties and a very kind of charming, conservative dining room, um, very, very old school. And when they re when they did the resign, uh, redesign, it basically looked like any airport restaurant in. Finland or in, in London or wherever it just something’s happening. And as someone who tours a lot, uh, I see it all over the place as kind of global style taking over and the, and the restaurant, the bar, the Bellaire, uh, now resemble. Pretty much everywhere else as does. If we’re talking about this, a Spargo in Beverly Hills was Wolfgang puck recently felt he had to re redesign in the same anonymous global style, you know, uh, kind of already black and white photographs. Um, uh, these futuristic like Tiki torches. I don’t know. Um, so the LA that I think you and I are referencing and that you can still find a pockets around here, um, is like everywhere else. It seems, uh, kind of feeding into the new. Generic global.
EW: [00:12:14] And in a way, I sort of agree with this. However, uh, I’ve been coming here, um, visiting in hotels and there are ways in which the old weirdness of LA keeps sort of, you know, like, like the Rose in Spanish, Harlem popping through the concretes that sort of dark underbelly does a recur.
So I was just for example, at this, um, Is it the Saddleback ranch, which, uh, has a mechanical bull on sunset strip. Right. And I was at a table and a lovely looking young woman says, you know, do you mind if I sit down and that sort of thought that was odd seeding alone. She’s like really quite complementary, very friendly. I just turned to her and I said, are you a working girl? And she says, yes. How would you like to go back to the hotel? And I said, why are you doing this? And she turned to me and she said, well, I’ve just got my real estate license, but unfortunately this month is a little slow. And I just thought, well, that’s a conversation. That’s not so easy to have anywhere in the world.
BEE: [00:13:18] No, it’s not. And it reminds me a lot of Hollywood and it reminds me a lot of, a lot of actors, uh, that I met out here when I was. Casting a couple of big projects. Um, yeah, that is very much an LA thing. This sort of gay for pay hookup culture. Sure. Right.
That is big among actors. We are in terms of the, you know, the bartending gig didn’t work out, they’re auditioning tomorrow. They, you know, they really need some cash and, um, yeah. LA operates. But Ellie has always operated that way. I wrote a novel about it and less than zero, there is, um, uh, ways that kids can make, uh, payback they’re drug dealers, and I’m one of them is prostituting themselves. And I had heard stories when I was at Buckley about a couple of, uh, Brothers. I knew who, if not exactly having sex with older men, you know, a little teasy, maybe they strip, maybe they’d put on a little bit of a show, not necessarily have sex with, but there’s always been this
EW: [00:14:25] kind of gray area between sex.
BEE: [00:14:28] Well, also
EW: [00:14:29] class class listening,
BEE: [00:14:31] you know, also I was talking to very big mogul, huge mogul, uh, Well, and I was in a conversation, uh, at. Cocktail party. And someone asked me, uh, where do you think the best looking people are? And I said, well, I think, I don’t think, yeah, Italy, Sweden. And then this mogul who’s over listening and said it’s LA LA Angeles.
This person’s very intelligent. Has very good taste. Insanely wealthy and I thought about it and I now believe that’s true. So this intersection of money, sex whoring is it almost feels like an inevitable thing. And I’ve written about this twice and I, and I’m just kind of realizing this now or remembering this right now in this moment. Not that I. You know, I, I don’t think about this all the time is that both of the narratives of my two LA novels, less than zero, and then 25 years later, I wrote a sequel to a called Imperial bedrooms where we kind of figure out where everyone’s landed after they were 18, both center around the center, this the central metaphor of prostitution in a way. And that, and beauty and. Money and that these, with the things that seem so suggested to me about LA, I don’t know. It means it, it, it ties back into the entertainment industry. It ties back into exploitation,
EW: [00:16:03] right.
BEE: [00:16:04] And exploiting beauty and. Youth and a certain kind of, uh, handsomeness, if you’re a man and a certain kind of beauty, if you’re a woman and that also being for so many people, um, their, uh, their calling card, uh, it’s what they really depend on.
I remember talking to a very good looking actor and, uh, someone that made a joke about, Oh, it’s not going to be fun to see you get old. And just in this broey to end, he was devastated. Absolutely devastated completely. And that, um, I don’t know, that kind of mentality, um, really becomes the emotional basis for the town in so many ways. So it’s not, it’s not strange. That happens because there is that, that intersection of, you know, beauty money exploitation is just, you know, it lends itself. It lends itself to war,
EW: [00:17:00] right? Well, this is, this is, um, this is the thing. LA really does. In some sense, live it’s new or at a level that would be fictional somewhere else.
I mean, I think about, so there’s this very strange coincidence that you and I came from essentially the exact same Milu we both graduated high school in 1982. Yes, we were both at. In the same sort of private school mill you, I believe that we knew people in common, although I’ve forgotten who they, who they might be. And I very much had the sense that when less than zero debuted, that you would privatized my childhood and that
BEE: [00:17:44] it was this,
EW: [00:17:46] it was this period, which if somebody hadn’t written about it would never be believed.
BEE: [00:17:51] And it.
EW: [00:17:52] The reason I’m trying to get at this, I guess, is that I think it had an importance that we didn’t understand while we were living through it.
So I wanted to try some theories with you because I think that you are, since the poet Laureate of. Whatever this firmament was, um, which is sort of Los Angeles, gen X. And then I’ll tie it back if, if, if successful to, um, to what I think its significance is for us now, because I don’t, I think it’s underrated, um, as, as a sort of a point of departure with the past. So I guess what my theory is, Is that, um, if you look out at this backdrop behind, behind us, imagine a neutron bomb went off, which was the divorce bomb. And it started with no fault divorce in 1970 with Ronald Reagan who himself was divorced, signing this thing into law. And if you look at a graph of like divorce rates per. Um, you know, whatever a thousand women it’s got this weird sort of it’s declining, declining, declining, and it just skyrockets for the entire 1970s before it starts with wanting to decline again. And we lived through this. Yes. Well, I’m asking, do you remember that suddenly, like everybody’s parents were on the rocks that suddenly the parents disappeared, that there were like children supposedly of privilege roaming the streets and that it was. Really dark.
BEE: [00:19:25] I, well, that’s a lot. Um, and my sister,
EW: [00:19:29] no,
BEE: [00:19:29] no, certainly remember, um, a lot of divorces, uh, becoming much more aware of them as I entered into junior high school. Uh, my parents’ marriage was very strained by the time I was 15 and I realized that they were going to split, uh, My sisters and I were however relieved because there was so much tension in the house caused by numerous things.
My, including my father’s alcoholism. So that was the, the divorce wasn’t the problem. The marriage was the problem. So that was so I. The darkness. And I have to say, as a teenager, I wished that I had, and I did too. Enjoy this mill you much more than I did, but I was an alienated kid and I was haunted. Uh, one of the reasons I was so alienated, it was, I was gay, which was V even living in liberal Los Angeles. In 1980, 81, even when it seemed gayness was in the culture and announcing itself in specific ways with whether it was David Bowie or Prince or American gigolo or Calvin Klein advertisements, you still weren’t out as a teenager. And so that alienates you and you begin to see the world in a slightly darker place. Or I think you begin to see the world. As it really is. You see through the facade of it, um, uh, you see through kind of the poses everyone is making in order to get through. And you, you really see the lie of high school in so many ways when you’re gay and you’re standing on the sideline and no song is about you and no movie is about you and you have to kind of reprocess everything. So that was a bit of the darkness of my, uh, LA experience divorce. Sure. Um, But, um, I think that for me, it was, it was, uh, Being gay and being a writer. I didn’t know anyone else that was writing a novel. I hadn’t written one already when I was 13 or 14. And those two things really did separate me from the rest of the crowd. Um, it’s not to say that I didn’t participate. I went to parties. I even had a girlfriend. Um, I went to the beach. I had my group of close male friends. I danced at parties
EW: [00:21:51] at what point? Always or six.
BEE: [00:21:53] Got it. Seven. Yeah. Um, and it was nothing that ever, uh, I ever agonized over. It was something I just kind of accepted and said, okay, this is another thing that I’ve got to deal with.
How am I going to navigate through this? And it really was never something that tortured me or I felt I had to like. Tell other people or come out to anybody. So I had a very even keel acceptance of that. Um, but it does separate you, you are only 4% of the population. There isn’t a large pool of, you know, of other people like that. Um, so that was, that was my burden in a way, but, um, uh, I also did it there, there was a kind of darkness in LA in the late seventies and into the early eighties, I felt it, I saw it in music. I saw it as a kind of, it was minimalism. And it was a kind of numbness that was being explored in a lot of the art and a lot of the music, certainly in part of the punk scene and in the new wave scene. Um, but it was a numbness that had a fever lean as well. It was numbness as a feeling. This is beauty and I completely, that to me was what. Influence less than zero. This notion that numbness was a feeling and that numbness was something that you could enter into and, and play with and try to express in some ways. And that was where I was at in my late teenage years. In LA, that was what was on my mind all the time. And that’s what influenced the style and the tone of lesson zero. If that makes any sense,
EW: [00:23:38] this is the weird thing about it. I’ve never heard anyone say this numbness is home to me. Like there’s a weird way.
Uh, I found myself driving the Ventura freeway, uh, After college. And I had gone to some party that hadn’t quite worked out. Aaron was unclear what the address was and whether somebody was squatting in somebody else’s, I think had all of these weird characteristics and the emptiness just washed over me. And I think Tom petty was playing on the, on the radio and I just felt I’m totally numb. I’m completely alienated. And I feel completely home.
BEE: [00:24:20] That is what I felt, but I do think that might be very specific to our generation. So
EW: [00:24:29] that’s, I think our generation is weirdly. The key to a lot of what we see going on in general, but because our generation is also invisible and because this place had very different characteristics, I do see it that there’s a little bit, you know, the, the portal theme here has to do with trying to figure out how do we get out of all of these mysteries that we’re trapped within and culturally, and in part, my belief is that LA pushed out a lot of this kind of nihilism.
To the world, um, wouldn’t easily travel. And so you were talking about music before. I remember being very cute into this band X. Yes. And X, I thought it was going to be huge. It was a huge mistake on my part
BEE: [00:25:19] of mine too.
EW: [00:25:20] And. How could it not be, they were witty. They had these weird harmonies. I think that happened in fourths between John DOE and Z
BEE: [00:25:29] Billy zoom.
Billy zoom was ETA bone
EW: [00:25:31] Carice the, the drummer. Yeah, but they get, so do you remember the song? Uh, their big hit regionally was the song. Johnny hit and run Pauline
BEE: [00:25:39] horse. I did off the Los Angeles LP
EW: [00:25:42] right now. This song. Did you remember the loop? Like the lyrics, how it goes?
BEE: [00:25:46] Um, vaguely, you gotta
EW: [00:25:48] remind you to sterilize hypo, shoot a sex machine drugs about cereal.
He’s got a rape 24 women in 24 hours. And the last one wouldn’t cooperate. This thing is so. Off it’s so dark, it’s so completely wrong. And it felt normal for Los Angeles at the time. Yeah. And it was like this massive miscalculation that first of all, no fault divorce hadn’t happened nationwide. Like in New York, it doesn’t happen until really late.
BEE: [00:26:18] Right. And
EW: [00:26:20] so there was something about this period that, um, was highly regional, but also was being broadcast everywhere, uh, even in kind of cryptic ways. And I think that your book probably less than zero probably looked kind of like wildly, weirdly exaggerated to the outside world. I don’t think it was that exaggerated.
BEE: [00:26:45] Well look, certainly there were things in it that I wanted to do as a writer. I certainly did not see a 12 year old girl get gang raped, which happens near the end of the book and where it’s treated as just as natural as. Stubbing your toe or something to come across, something like
EW: [00:27:04] that. And isn’t, there’s something about where people are hanging out with.
BEE: [00:27:08] well, now that was based on something that I had heard there, there, there wasn’t story going around that there had been this person who to, Oh, deed in an alley. Mm. Uh, I think somewhere along Melrose, this rumor went around in 1981, 82, and that kids just were brought to see the body of another kid and people had heard about it and someone would meet someone up at a party because of course, remember there was.
No cell phones then, and then people would come over, find the space and just gawk at this dead body. Um, and that is a scene in less than zero, but, um, overall I really did try to make it seem as realistic as possible. Uh, and almost as if it was journalism almost as if it was repertory that clay, the narrator of the book, uh, was. Really, um, describing the world. He was a part of, but not necessarily describing what his emotions were and all of the things he was feeling during that time, you understood that he was very detached and alienated because he never talked about himself. And he just described what his friends would say. He just described what he would see, what he would be seen. And I think part of why the book works for people is that this voice never varies. As the book gets darker and more violent and nightmarish in a way. So there, you know, I guess that’s yeah. What I was aiming for when I was riding it to find that kind of accumulation of power. By resisting hyperbole and then describing everything in a very flat I’m away. And of course, writers in the past had done this, but transposing that into a contemporary teenager, living in a big city, uh, was something that I hadn’t seen before teenagers in who were narrating novels were usually very emotional. Uh, look going back to, um, the, the few that there were. Whether you were going to Judy bloom, or whether you going back to the granddaddy of the mall, right. I wanted to do kind of the anti. Catch with the Ryan that way. But I think I drifted away from your question, which was kind of about, I mean, first of all, getting back to X, they were part of the reason that they didn’t fully work as a band was that they didn’t have hits. They kept each subsequent studio album from, uh, Los Angeles to, I guess, adult toys.
EW: [00:29:51] Yeah.
BEE: [00:29:52] To, uh, under the big black sun. And then I think it was the eight love grand was their stab at MTV kind of a commercial
EW: [00:30:02] record. The story then
BEE: [00:30:04] after under the big black Sunday, I thought that was my favorite of the, of the, of the three records that had been even more so than Los Angeles.
There’s the, you could see that the songwriting was. Kind of moving away from the, uh, really kind of rough, uh, speed rock of Los Angeles and entering into a kind of more thoughtful kind of song writing. But for some, for whatever reason, they never really broke. And, uh, I think, I think that, um, they were a huge impact influence on less than zero. One of the epigraphs and less than zero is from. Ex. So I was obviously thinking about them, but it was also thinking about led Zeppelin because let’s pull in is also the other epigraph in lesson zero, but exaggerated, I don’t know. Look, I, as I said to you earlier, I really ran with that story. I. Uh, heard and I, so new parts of, from a couple of boys who were living on their own, actually in Beverly Hills who were not staying out of Malibu, they’re divorced, dad couldn’t deal with them. And they got an apartment in town as 17 year olds, or the father had rented it for them. And. I often wondered how they had such nice clothes, how they were able to go to this place or that place. And it was interesting because I look at that they knew a guy named Ronnie Lee Levine who was murdered by Joe Hunt of the billionaires boys club. Uh, is it Levina 11 Ronald. It was 11. Right?
EW: [00:31:37] I should know this. This was my high school. Cool.
BEE: [00:31:38] And so I got to know Ron Levin through these kids were all 16. And I remember this just goes to give you an idea. Of what my adolescence was like. Uh, we would congregate because we all had cars at Ron Levins and have drinks in Ron Levin’s living room.
And then Ron Levin would pour us all into his convertible rolls Royce. And we would all, he would drive us to flippers, which was a roller rink kind of bar disco. That’s on the corner of Los sciatica and. Uh, Santa Monica Boulevard that is now a CVS. We will, by the way, this is a weeknight. This is a school night. And so we would go with Ron to his booth. Ron, must’ve been, I guess, 48, 47 maybe. And he was gay. Very, definitely gay. And he would have six, 16 year old boys sitting with them at a booth. Flippers was all ages. By the way, there were a couple of clubs around town that were all ages. He didn’t need to be 18 to get into some of these.
EW: [00:32:42] They were just shortstop. I left this town when I was 16. And when I think about all of the stories that I had in clubs and bars, they have to be 16 and earlier, and it doesn’t make any sense to me.
BEE: [00:32:55] Um, look, I guess the drinking age was 18 in LA. It didn’t move to 21 until I think the mid eighties, it was always a look I got into when I was 16 in LA, I got into everywhere.
I got into bars. I was ordered drinks. Uh, I could get into the whiskey on a weeknight. Um, I never. And all my friends did too. I never remember having any problems with getting carded or anything, anything along those lines.
EW: [00:33:27] Right? Like somebody would always know somebody, the place was totally fluid. And th the, I mean, I want you to keep,
BEE: [00:33:33] keep up with 11th story.
Sorry about that. There’s nothing else about the loving story. It’s just, it gives you an idea and maybe there was a little cocaine involved, but that just gives you an a, and that looked must’ve been 1980, 1981 that kind of just gives you an idea and all and all. Nobody was damaged. None of us were triggered. None of us thought we had to go to the police. None of everyone.
EW: [00:33:55] Okay. But true. But how many funerals did you go to back in the day?
BEE: [00:33:59] I have to tell you. I didn’t know. I didn’t go to any. Okay. I didn’t, I mean, look, I mean, compared to now yeah. In terms of
EW: [00:34:07] emergency rooms, I mean, maybe funerals wasn’t that much, but there were all, this was not cheap.
It wasn’t that everybody was fine at the end of it.
BEE: [00:34:18] No, but I do think comparatively, there was a kind of gen X resiliency and strength,
EW: [00:34:26] which is what I want to get to.
BEE: [00:34:27] Okay. But I do, I think there is, and I think that we, we’re not wimps. Let’s just put it that way. You know, I sure. I knew people, you know, you have to understand drug problems.
I, we didn’t really know what that was in 1981 or 82. I didn’t have friends who had outsize drug problems and I really never heard of rehab
EW: [00:34:55] poor, doing amazing quantities of drugs, and then going off to Yale and Princeton and Stanford of course,
BEE: [00:35:02] or, or UCLA. A lot of them went, but, um, you know, the notion that no one believed you could get addicted to cocaine.
No one really believed that. Look, I don’t know if I’ve ever known anyone who’s been addicted to cocaine either, but back in high school, look, the other thing that I hadn’t got to say is that, and by the way, the 11 stories finished that I just wanted to see nothing else. Well, ultimately what happened, Ron Levin got murdered by Joe Hunt, which is a whole other story, but
EW: [00:35:33] I don’t want to lead over that.
We’ve just had put a Quentin Tarantino released once upon a time in Hollywood. It’s the story leading up to the Manson murders, where with an alternate. Ending. Yes. And I guess for me, I was thinking back to this very, um, I don’t know whether Joan Didion’s writings move you, but they’ve moved me a great deal.
BEE: [00:35:58] She was perhaps the biggest influence on less than zero and my writing. Okay.
EW: [00:36:03] So when I read, I think it’s the white album where she’s talking about how the, the, the sixties and spiritually with the murders on Cielo drive. And, you know, she writes with this just exquisite prose and it’s so it’s so perfect for this in a city that thinks about earthquakes and Canyon fires.
She says, you know, that the rumors spread like wildfire in the Hollywood Hills or something like this, it’s just dripping with this gorgeous analogy. And I thought about that. And then I thought about how, how that gives way to the seventies and the seventies is this period. That’s like the golden age of serial killers is, uh, and then you, you end up with like this very weird concept of privilege, which is one of the reasons that the millennials concept of privilege absolutely doesn’t work for me where you have like these very privileged schools. And you have a murderous club of investors who somehow the kids are just not happy with their station in life. And, you know, there are these schemes maybe to kill parents and,
BEE: [00:37:13] you know, you get the
EW: [00:37:15] Menendez brothers and I get the feeling that her feeling is that things ended with the murders on Cielo drive and our story, like just getting started.
In some weird way that sixties versus the seventies is a big shift because the sixties had this horror and idealism fused together. And the seventies that the sort of the idealism just drops out. But the horror keeps going.
BEE: [00:37:40] Yes. I think you said something about, that’s very interesting about, um, living here.
Maybe you didn’t say it, maybe I’m I’m taking what you said in some less, um, about how I think me and my peers were very aware that we were living in a, in a particular time. That was a kind of movie. And that was youth culture, uh, of the early eighties really seemed to be centered in LA. You saw it in all of the movies from fast times to Valley girl, to the music that was being made to the Go-Go’s being thrown out there. Um, there, there was this sense that we were at the red hot center of youth culture in Los Angeles. In say 1982, certainly look
EW: [00:38:30] less than some echo of like Jim Carroll on the opposite coast.
BEE: [00:38:35] Yeah, I guess so. But there was something more interestingly contradicting about Los Angeles or something, you know, the darkness and the beach and whatever.
I mean, it was this ying yang thing. And so. Um, very being very aware of that, of course adds, um, I don’t know, a kind of artificiality about the way you interacted with people and the way they behave. Now, I’m saying this not on a completely literal level. I’m saying this just an overall sense of that. A costume, your car. The decor of a nightclub that you would walk into and be very aware that this was the place, just the staginess. This really goes back to what you first talked about at LA as. This stage is movie set, sunset Boulevard, uh, cruising around Mulholland drive, going up to mom to get high, the beach, the beach, such a huge part of your Southern California childhood. Um, but that’s also not to say that to move it out for a little bit. But you said this about the East coast. I felt that time for the East coast wasn’t necessarily the late seventies complete. I think it comes in. Well, for me, I felt I was never more in a movie that I was during the yuppie years of the late eighties in New York, right before the crash, 1997. And that to me, and even afterwards the crash didn’t really change or alter the way New York operated, but 87, 88, 89 Manhattan to me was something as evocative as. The roaring twenties or the swinging sixties of London, you were very aware.
EW: [00:40:18] When was it? Gordon gecko?
BEE: [00:40:20] 87.
EW: [00:40:21] Okay. So you’re moving with the party you see for my trajectory was I I’m in the same firm with you in Los Angeles.
Then I go to college on the East coast and suddenly it occurs to me that the East coast has not gone through this. They are having like, people are getting drunk on cold duck for the first time. And I’m thinking that’s so cute. Right.
BEE: [00:40:42] Um, because we were drunk and cold duck in ninth grade. But anyway, I mean, I mean, Yeah.
I mean, I wasn’t conscious of. Wanting to chase the scene, but I don’t know how you felt, but I felt growing up here, which really now in retrospect was kind of glorious growing up as a teenager in LA is like kidding. Fantastic is the worst thing
EW: [00:41:06] ever. This is so interesting for writers. You’re able to do
BEE: [00:41:09] something I wrote less than zero, which is a complete, that was it kind of.
Yes. But there, there is also, I mean, I got to tell you, uh, Eric, that so many people. Who read lessons? There are so many kids loved it. Because they want it to move here and want to be part of that. So weird thing. So it was cool.
EW: [00:41:32] It wasn’t supposed to be in some weird way,
BEE: [00:41:34] but
EW: [00:41:35] when you have death and sex and money, people react and respond.
Memetically even if it’s the most unhealthy thing,
BEE: [00:41:43] that’s the best here. The late seven Mondays here we are in the, in the late seventies and into the early eighties. Right? But, um, I, uh, I lot completely lost my train of thought. We won’t talk in about, um, Oh yes. I mean, less than zero was dark. There was darkness around my.
The years that led up to me riding it. But I also, when I was living here, I know what I wanted to say it, but it, it, it had to do with the fact that in so many ways, I feel that we were lucky to grow up out here. Yes. It had its disadvantages and its darkness, but looking back, I mean, there, there were things about it that I like, and maybe I loved them. At 17 and 18. And you miss those two years of the massive freedom that one would have. We weren’t living out here in 17, 18, where you graduated at 16 and then you went off or did you stay here?
EW: [00:42:38] No, no, I was, I was, I, I was 16, turned 17 in Philadelphia and then I was in Boston. And what I found was that. I mean, just to be, to be honest about it, I I’ve stayed away from the city really for 37 years because I just thought it was the blackest darkest most seductive hell hole, um, which it is, which it is, which it is, and it can be, and it was generative.
I mean, and so, so that, that notion of repulsion. And fascination and home and total alienation, it’s been impossible to talk about. Um, because it’s all these things that usually come bundled, uh, you know, like home and support and meaning, and that bundling didn’t happen. And what I start, you know, if I think about the title of this film, that you probably remember the decline of Western civilization about like Darby crash and the cramps and the germs, all that kind of stuff. That seemed like overblown. And in many ways I actually think, well, whatever the thing is that is unraveling. The American tapestry history was really present and visible early here and that, and where I’m going to try to get to and see if you’re willing. And if you’re, if you’re not, that’s fine too. Um, one of the things that people may know me for is coining the phrase or pushing it out, the intellectual dark web, which people don’t. No, I’ve never heard with all the comments, cherry and almost all the commentary on the, on the IDW is bad commentary because it’s the commentary at trying to figure out who are these people without union cards and why are they commenting on the world? So that they’re always trying to figure out some way of getting rid of this thing. It was very much. Two things. It’s an LA phenomenon to an extent that nobody has understood. And it’s a gen X phenomenon to an extent because gen X is invisible to both boomers and millennials, millennials think that gen X
BEE: [00:44:41] is the boomer they do. They do.
EW: [00:44:43] And. The idea that there is this in between generation.
That’s not large enough to chant things and devote things into reality, but is extremely generative, very robust. And has this completely, I don’t know how to say it. You couldn’t pick. Um, two more different circumstances. A ton paths gets kidnapped in New York, I guess in 1979. And the milk carton kids start up and suddenly, almost overnight, all the kids who are used to playing in the streets with no adults in sight are brought indoors and things really change. And somehow the millennials are brought up in that world. Whereas. As far as I can remember, I play back so many scenes from the seventies and I can’t see grownups, the moms in particular are absent. Maybe the dads have been absent a long time. Yeah. But like the moms are somewhere else,
BEE: [00:45:42] but where were they?
Because I would say most of my friends, mothers didn’t work. So were, were they, were they up in their bedrooms? Were they out having lunch with their friends? Um, you remember,
EW: [00:45:54] I mean, I remember some moms, but sometimes mom was getting high with the kids. I remember that was a particular mom. There were moms who were looking for mr.
Goodbar. Their moms were trying to find some self actualization and that the women’s movement promised maybe there’s some new thing to do, but everybody was having a hard time finding what that was.
BEE: [00:46:12] Right. I think getting back to one thing you said before we move on to that, is that, um, the real darkness for me, uh, had to do with, um, the Manson family and the Manson family haunted my childhood and my adolescence, and still haunts my notion of Los Angeles.
So if I had to choose something that. I fixated on and honestly became obsessed by were the Tate LaBianca murders and the Manson family. And that book that Vincent Bugliosi wrote about the case Helter Skelter was kind of like a strange Bible for me. And it became kind of a dark touchstone. Um, yes, they’re there. I still saw it. And I was still in a group of people who were trying to have fun when I was in adolescence in LA. And especially when we were free with our cars and basically free from our parents and had that kind of, um, a sense of, I don’t know, ascendancy or able to go anywhere we wanted to, um, It erased some of the darkness. I mean, I, there, there was a lot of opportunity to have fun out here. Um, but I also have to say, and this, I think connects more with what, uh, in a way what your trajectory was. I wanted to get out. I did not want to stay here. Oh, so you okay. I wanted to get out and I knew at. 14. I wanted to get out and I had to wait for the plan to happen because when I was 18, boom, I was going to go as far away from here as possible. I did ultimately feel, I think what you felt, I felt like beneath the facade of beautiful teenagers and, you know, lovely setting and nice houses. That there was, um, a darkness that was encroaching upon everything. And it really, I really did notice it much more strongly after I’d left for a year. And I came back after Ashley left for five or six months and came back after I went to college for my first term, but that was always the plan. I remember seeing so many movies that took place in New York, even if they were dark as hell. I wanted to go there. And I remember seeing Woody Allen’s Manhattan, for example, and then that’s where I’m going to be. I’m going to be in that world. I mean, now, That world nauseates me. But at the time I was 14 or 15, that was the goal. And I was going to go to college back East, and then I was going to move to New York. All of my friends stayed out here. All of my friends were going to get into the film business because that’s what LA is. I mean, in certain, if you live in a certain area of LA is a company town and you end up, you know, working for the company, which is the entertainment complex. And that is what happened. My four closest male friends, all got into the business really. And, um, That was what I was supposed to be doing too, because, um, we were all making movies and writing scripts when we were teenagers and all of our fathers, mine accepted were somehow involved in the industry and that was going to be the next move. Um, and it just. I was writing novels and I was working on less than zero when I was 17, 18, 16, 17, 18. And I knew I had to get up. I don’t know. You must have felt that to some degree, uh, in order to, I mean, I don’t know if the escape was your. Choice, but the escape from LA was certainly mine. I only, um, applied to colleges back East and, um, and so, uh, so I knew senior year that this was going to be over at a certain point. And that summer of 82, I just could not wait
EW: [00:50:04] for it to, well, that’s the thing. I mean, that. We, we were, we were living through a, something that I think hasn’t been understood or digested in terms of its importance. And I think that if you think about,
BEE: [00:50:18] well, it’s being resisted, I talk about it all the time.
Yeah. And it’s being resisted. People don’t want to believe that this happened and that we were were okay. They weren’t
EW: [00:50:31] contradicts. It contradicts what I’ve called the gated institutional narrative, that there is this thing where the New York times is talking to the political parties is talking to the universities and they’ve settled on this thing.
That’s completely wrong. It’s a narrative, it’s a narrative. And the narrative has been cracking. And we have this funny thing, which I heard you, uh, talking about being an anti anti Trumper, where the idea is that you have Trump and the Trumpers. Yeah. Then you have the anti Trumpers, who are the people who are completely deranged by any mention of Trump? Would he ever, he said
BEE: [00:51:07] my partner, my boyfriend, yeah. Your boyfriend is a millennial. He’s a millennial. And he, as he is, uh, he has had a Trump derangement syndrome, uh, since the election and yet, uh, Eric, he is losing that and he is just simply becoming. An anti-Trump
EW: [00:51:30] well, because, well, no, sir. I don’t think that that’s fair, sir.
My belief is that. If you were an anti anti Trumper, I am an anti anti anti Trumper. That is, I am against Trump.
BEE: [00:51:43] Right. But
EW: [00:51:45] mere mention of his name. Doesn’t send me into paroxysms. I don’t write, I’m not apoplectic with rage. When he said something that’s been carefully constructed to set everybody off who carries certain behavior pattern.
Right. And so what my belief is is that I’m going through a very private, weird little mini hell in which I intellectually can’t. Stand the guy, but I understand him very well. Yes. I understand why it works. I’ve predicted this in some weird way. I wrote an essay on cafe, but I don’t know if you’ve
BEE: [00:52:17] I do.
Yes. Yeah. That you were one of the people actually suggested he could win. It was at you.
EW: [00:52:24] Yep. Okay. I just had two more Koran on the program. I thought everyone was lying about their feelings about Trump
BEE: [00:52:34] when they were asked about it.
EW: [00:52:36] Public well, because you, you need it. You needed to say how horrible he was.
If you were part of the institutional mill you, or if you needed to keep a job and make sure that you weren’t on the wrong side of your clients and what, what has been, what I find very frustrating. I mean, you have to appreciate the mainstream has no positive interest in this show me or anything that my group is doing whatsoever. Right? Yeah. And it’s, it’s not just, I mean, it’s the fact that we have this very negative view of CNN. And NPR, not what they’re supposedly standing
BEE: [00:53:20] for.
EW: [00:53:21] Right? Right. So this, in this narrative, um, you know, I guess what my take on it is is that the dominant, um, I don’t even know how to say idealism of a time is usually a false narrative.
That’s hiding how people can make money during that period of time. Right? So we are, the world is a portrayal of concern about Africa, the poor in Asia. What can we do to uplift people? But really it was a story about if we don’t break our bonds to our fellow countrymen, if we don’t. Make sure that we can not have to take care of Appalachia and the poor and the South and the downtrodden in our inner cities. Um, We’re not going to be able to make money. The way to make money is to move operations overseas, to keep your, your, you know, your, your country, um, with its headquarters, wherever it’s tax advantaged, there was some process by which globalization was the betrayal of your countrymen. Right. And. That thing was portrayed as the Davos idealism. Yeah. And the Davos idealism is cratering. Yeah. Because it was a wealth transfer program posing as a philanthropic effort. Right. And so the reason that nobody wants the Clintons, nobody wants the democratic party. Nobody wants the sanctimonious nonsense, uh, about, you know, our thirst for justice in our hatred of oppression is, is that. This is a search for a constituency. That’s large enough to get people elected who can continue to keep people making money. Who’ve been figuring out how to make money and Trump, the reason I’m anti Trump is, is that he’s taking lots of ideas that are actually originally wholesome and he’s giving them this shitty kind of
BEE: [00:55:16] mean
EW: [00:55:17] spirited, nasty
BEE: [00:55:20] spin.
EW: [00:55:21] Like for example, there’s nothing wrong with restriction ism. Whatsoever. There’s nothing xenophobic about restriction, right? The desire to want to keep a border is not as xenophobic early.
BEE: [00:55:31] I completely agree.
EW: [00:55:32] Okay. So when he tinges, is it with hints? You know, he’s playing around with something. He knows what the inference patterns of the left are.
So he’ll say something and the left will say, Oh my God, you’re really saying that, you know, you think all Mexicans are rapists
BEE: [00:55:48] and then the writer’s fault is that pardon me? I mean, whose fault is that? I mean, that’s the left’s fault for taking the bait or overreact?
EW: [00:55:56] No, it’s not that they figured out. A means of keeping people in line.
Whereas as you start to explore something that will stop the moneymaking, the transfer of wealth from whoever it’s like forced transfusion, right? The institutional left, I believe figures out how to transfuse one group, uh, to supply blood to another. And. What, what the left is supposed to be something, you know, more wholesome and more decent as you start to question the transfusion, you start to get, surely you’re not suggesting that we should close our borders to the downtrodden. That’s right. And Trump is saying, yeah, I’m not scared. I’m not going to, you’re not going to back me off by just saying that surely you, weren’t saying, you know, that’s a menacing tone and. For that many people love him because do you remember the scene in reservoir dogs of Tarantino where. Um, you’ve got, I guess, is it Steve Buscemi? And I can’t remember the other actor, uh, where they’re trying to figure who the rat is and mr. Blonde comes in and mr. Blonde is the psychopath has shot up the jewelry store and they can’t figure out who they can trust. The only person you can trust is the psychopath because the psychopath isn’t under control. Right? Well, Trump came through as mr. Blonde. And the one person we know isn’t under institutional control is Donald Trump, because he would never say those things.
BEE: [00:57:30] Yeah.
EW: [00:57:30] Okay. So now we’ve got a new paradigm where the only trustworthy person is the least trustworthy person,
BEE: [00:57:37] which
EW: [00:57:38] I’ve been trying to map this out.
And the problem with it is you can’t wake people up because they’re dying to get back to the process of making money by betraying their fellow countrymen. They, they really, the globalization thing came to an end. There’s no new idea about how to make money. Right. And the pyramid schemes are collapsing.
BEE: [00:58:00] Right. So what’s going to happen.
EW: [00:58:04] Well, that’s what I’m, that’s why you’re on the portal, sir.
BEE: [00:58:08] Mmm. Well look getting to that. Um, getting back to what you said in terms of, uh, uh, threatened name of the book, it was about preference versus, uh,
EW: [00:58:21] uh, public private truths, public lies. Right?
BEE: [00:58:24] Um, I knew a lot of these people I wrote about them in white.
I write a section of the book is about the mood in Los Angeles, uh, in the months leading up to. The primaries and then to the election and then after the election, and it is a cast of my usual. Entitled characters, even though this is a work of nonfiction and many of these conversations play out in the polo lounge, like they do in my LA novels with irony. Yeah. Rich people who cannot believe that things did not go their way, which is also something that’s lesson zero in a Bureau bedrooms. So even the white is a nonfiction Chronicle of whatever, uh, kind of the arc of a gen exer. I see it, it starts out in the. Late sixties, early seventies with me as a child. And then I’m standing, uh, you know, with my Dick in my hand, in the summer of 2018 going, I can’t say this, I can’t express myself. This was freedom of speech. It just, it seems to be, and I’m much more upset about it than my millennial boyfriend. Who’s used to rules. He’s used to all the rules that have been
EW: [00:59:32] maddening.
I can’t live. Like
BEE: [00:59:33] I know I can’t live like this either, but anyways, so I, I knew these people once Angeles, I knew the Obama Trump voter. I knew many of them who were making that jump. And I just sense something different by little looking at everything. Then my millennial boyfriend did, who was already printing out his Hillary t-shirts and you know, uh, can’t couldn’t wait for the, he had his lashings.
No, he’s a Bernie, Bernie. He was a Bernie guy, a Bernie Sanders guy, and he. Held his nose I’m voting for Clinton, but anything but Trump, because Trump drove him insane and there was just no fucking way that Trump could be, uh, elected president. So that was all going to be. Um, but you know, so I did, and I, and I write about this in white. Uh, people said, don’t tell anybody I’m going to vote for Trump. Uh, don’t tell anybody I’m voting for Trump. And, um, so. Uh, I wasn’t completely surprised when Trump won, but in, but what surprised me and this ties into what you were first asking, what completely surprised me for the next two years leading up to now is how so many of my smart friends, uh, became infected by Trump. Well, look
EW: [01:00:54] the most, say more of what you mean by that.
BEE: [01:00:56] W well look, all of our narratives, we have been forced. To deal with Trump. I talked about this in an interview that I gave with the Washington post, where, uh, I, even, if you don’t want Trump in your life, he’s in your life and you have to have an opinion about him because everyone else is talking about him.
Either people loath and to such a degree, that you are sucked into the conversation. And I believe it’s the same with people who love him. And I ju I know you’re w w what was it? Huge exhale. What was that about?
EW: [01:01:29] No, no I’m awake. I’m with you. I’m with you. I want to write an Eliza program. I swear I could write a small program that generates his tweets.
Like, for example, before Trump, I had a simple idea, which is that if I wanted to win an election as a Republican, all I would have to do is to talk about the nuclear family. And every educated person would say, you mean nuclear, not nuclear. And then they’d lose. It was like an automated reaction. That there was a class thing that says correct. Anyone who says nuclear. Okay. Well, that’s a pretty simple program. Yes. You win the correct pronunciation of the word nuclear. And you lose an election because you’re a Dick, right? So Trump is going to hit this thing over and over again, it’s a, the left is programmed to say certain things to defend certain things. And you know, if you have to make the point that there is absolutely zero connection whatsoever between Islam and terror, there is no connection whatsoever. Zero it’s an illusion.
BEE: [01:02:39] Okay.
EW: [01:02:41] Somebody can hit that. I mean all day long, every day, when I remember reading an issue of Dabiq put out by ISIS where their point was, I think it was called, they had an article called why we hate you, why we fight you.
And they said, you’ve marginalized. All the people in your society who point out that there is an aspect of fundamentalist, Jihadi, Islam that just hates you because you don’t believe in all of the way we do. And because that couldn’t be said,
BEE: [01:03:12] They couldn’t be set. I mean, that’s why there’s the break set
EW: [01:03:18] there.
There was once upon a time, a heuristic that said the best way to have a multicultural society is that you have to have some load bearing fictions. Like all religions are equally problematic in all ways. There’s no way that’s true. Jane Jane’s are not equally problematic as Jews, Jews are more problematic than Janes. And I’m able to say that because I’m Jewish.
BEE: [01:03:45] Yeah.
EW: [01:03:47] As a result, those sharistics hardened into dogmas because they were necessary to keep our society operating. We have to believe at the moment that a jury of 12 people knows how to convict somebody based on guilt, even though the DNA evidence shows that that’s not a real rubric.
Okay. Well, I mean, it’s a heuristic. Maybe it, maybe it works some of the time. Right? Okay. So as these sort of heuristics have been breaking down and these heuristics of the left are on top of the ones that are necessary for civil society. They, the desire to maintain this complex of ideas. Like trade is always good. No trade is not always good for all people that’s, it’s beyond moronic. Right, right. But it’s only recently. That you have economists like Brad DeLong saying actually it’s a, so, you know, the, the, what you’re optimizing is a social Darwin. Darwin is a function which trade is good for you based on the cube of your wealth. So the richer you are by the cube of your wealth trade is good for you. Right? Well, Brad DeLong was also saying, and why are those everybody complaining about the trade deals we inked since they helped people in Mexico as if like American voters are gonna vote to help Mexican peasants. I mean, it’s great if. Mexican peasants are helped, but I just don’t see the lowest echelons of American society having as their top priority, helping Mexicans with their vote. I mean, none of this makes any effing sense,
BEE: [01:05:19] but then why aren’t they deprogramming themselves because. They’re not going to move them forward, say in the new world order.
And that’s the problem with Trump. Trump presented something extremely new, uh, into the conversation and the left couldn’t deal with it. The media couldn’t deal with it. I always felt that if they had kind of dealt with them in a neutral way and just reported what he did without all this hyperbole, I don’t know if he would have one necessarily kind of
EW: [01:05:49] all just smart, honest people.
Had to be rejected from the institutional layer
BEE: [01:05:56] terrifying. Well, no, no,
EW: [01:05:58] no. It is your universal expulsion of people who will not go along with the gated institutional and I, my, my theory about this, if you haven’t met it is that we grew very quickly in a very stable way. That was totally anomalous post world war II to about 1972.
And every, the single institution that you see has an expectation of that kind of growth continuing. And so what happened is, is that all of those institutions, when they went pathological, They became Ponzi schemes and you needed to have a group of people in that institution who would not reveal the Ponzi scheme. And so effectively our expert class has been selected for as the people who will not blow the whistle on the fact that they’re lying. Right. Right. And so you can get this at Harvard, or you can get this at Stanford. Maybe the university of Chicago is something of an exception
BEE: [01:06:54] Hollywood while
EW: [01:06:55] Hollywood is right.
BEE: [01:06:58] Valley.
EW: [01:06:59] And so all of these institutional things are suffering from the embedded growth obligation disease or ego, right? And so these egos have turned
BEE: [01:07:09] like the
EW: [01:07:11] institutions are not interested in hearing how to beat Trump because it’s easy. It’s easy. You see to be Trump. It is. But the only problem is is that if you beat Trump in the way, that’s easy to beat Trump, you will not service the people with second and third homes in the Hamptons.
Right. Right. And so those people are saying, well, I wasn’t thinking of spending that much to beat Trump, right? No, no, that’s really,
BEE: [01:07:37] yeah.
EW: [01:07:37] That’s what the issue is. Is that right now? I, the exciting part is I want to retake the institutions.
Do you, do you really want nine conservative Supreme court justices? If you do, if you want, if that’s, if that’s what excites you, I highly recommend talking about reparations for slavery. Why don’t you tell some, some sort of a child Holocaust survivor that they need to pay reparations for slavery. See how that goes.
BEE: [01:08:07] Oh.
EW: [01:08:09] I mean, this is insane. We got some, you know, it is
BEE: [01:08:13] insane. And
EW: [01:08:14] self arm used to self hating Jews. We’ve had that as an issue forever. Right? The self-hating American. Oh man. You know, just suck it up, man. You okay. So you were born with white skin. Wait, what is D D D do you want it it’s like watching people.
It’s like watching a teenage girl on a cutting episode. You’re not responsible for every bad thing this country has ever done. We’re not going to write all wrongs. It would be absolutely unjust to go after every past injustice. And like, are we going to get rid of the arch of Titus in Rome? Because the Romans sacked Jerusalem and it commemorates, you can see they’re carrying off like this giant menorah. They stole our stuff, man. Alright. Let’s tear down the arch of Titus. Let’s burn the merchant of Venice. How deep do we want to go with this madness? We’re nuts.
BEE: [01:09:14] Well, uh, it needs what look, I think part of it. Why? Um, I’m very sensitive about this, is that because I am a gen X or, uh, I think boomers, like my parents, like my mom, my stepdad,
EW: [01:09:31] my parents
BEE: [01:09:31] born, uh, my father was born in Nevada and my mother was born in Illinois.
Uh, they were born in the, you know, technically not
EW: [01:09:41] Island, they’re
BEE: [01:09:42] silent, but my mom. Completely relates to boom, technically. Yeah. The last boomer. Yes I am. But I,
EW: [01:09:49] yeah, no, I know, I know that you are,
BEE: [01:09:52] but in terms of the chart, right, right, right. In terms of the chart. So yes, my parents were my mom and my stepdad are silent, but they really are boomers.
Um, but no, I don’t.
EW: [01:10:01] I’m going to disagree with yeah. I think that what we don’t understand is that we settled on a narrative in which the boomers are the problem. The silent generation really begins the problem. And we are letting the silent generation off just as we are not paying attention to gen X.
And I believe sir, that you are the last of the boomers, but that you are spiritually gen X and that you figured out you almost started really defining gen X. I forget. Who was he wrote the book gen X. You probably not
BEE: [01:10:33] does this split. Right,
EW: [01:10:35] right. I think that what I remember from this is that a few years, either way was really important.
Right? And I believe that the silence or the first generation to wrestle with the problem in 1972, 73, that the country won’t wake up to, which is that. Our growth pattern changed for structural reasons. It wasn’t about some bad decision. It wasn’t about the gold standard. It wasn’t about the Arab oil embargo. Something really structurally changed. Okay. And in my telling of the tale, silence, try to figure out how to restart real growth. It’s like the engine has gone out. They’re going to try to restart the engine. It doesn’t work. The boomers look at these efforts and they say, huh, that doesn’t work, but it’s good enough for redistribution and to play games with fake growth. So why don’t we help ourselves to fake growth and we’ll just grow our slices of the pie as if the pie we’re growing. And I’m sure that that must mean that somebody else’s slice isn’t growing, but that’s really too bad for them. And so the silence start a lot of these problems. The boomers continue it. All right. The millennials confused. Who’s the gen Xers for boomers because to them boomer means older than me.
BEE: [01:11:51] Right.
EW: [01:11:52] And the only generation. And this is the thing that I find fascinating that I think really has a good hope of restarting sense-making is gen X.
BEE: [01:12:01] I agree. I completely agree with that. And I do know that whenever I attempt to do it, millennial thinking shuts you down.
And so that is what I see. That is what I’ve come up against on this last book tour I’ve done earlier this year, and I’m going back out on the road, uh, in the fall, uh, millennial hysteria, and overreaction to my talking about millennials and any kind of critical way, and even being somewhat sympathetic to them. Completely more than sympathetic Brett. Oh,
EW: [01:12:32] completely. You’re you and I are both hanging out with tons of millennials and we’re having some success. We’re having some, like, I don’t understand this thought pattern and the millennials. This is another thing that I believe in you. You please correct me if I’m wrong.
I’m fairly disagreeable. Yeah. I think the millennials are starving to know what actually happened. And partially what I try to tell them is your. The, the super ancestors, the silence and boomers who like, I think bill Ayres, you know, was the head of the weather underground. And he gets his job as a professor. Whereas people, I know they, they see the slightest wrong thing in their out, right. You’re like, okay, you were a, you were a leading terrorist and you can have a job as a professor,
BEE: [01:13:19] um,
EW: [01:13:20] that world, in which 25 year old men. You know, could take down a home and immediately build a second home and everything just turned to gold.
It’s like, well, it’s not really that they were doing anything so clever. They just, they were in a stream that was moving really fast. And you got a dry Creek bed. Right. And yes, a few of you are going to do something so brilliant that you can do something against that. You know what I mean? Like Ariana Grande’s is not hurting for money. Okay. However, the idea that you could have in the financial sense, beta to a process where you could just like, I don’t know, go to law school or open a dry cleaner, or, you know, start some new nonprofit and you can have a perfectly fabulous life. That thing died. And the millennials have the sense of like, okay, well this is all hopeless. And maybe we’re not really that good.
BEE: [01:14:19] Oh yes.
EW: [01:14:20] And my point is, look, man, these other guys could have three martini lunch punches, and everything’s still worked out.
BEE: [01:14:26] Yeah. Um, there is this sense of it. And I talk about it in. In my book, I talk about all of the things I’ve noticed and I’ve Mark down with living in close proximity with a millennial, a key millennial, uh, For the past 10 years and, uh, the things that I’ve noticed about them and that I’ve experienced.
And I started to write about this. I actually tweet about it quite harmlessly, uh, and under the hashtag generation was because I was so surprised how offended he was, how over-reactive he was bordering. I felt on hysteric about. Just the normalcy of the world and the way human beings are with all of the contradictions and all of their flaws. Um, as I said earlier, uh, he, and I’m not saying that he, um, puts it out there, but there seem to be, I found a love of rules. That rules offered a kind of pathway, a narrative that wasn’t there otherwise, and that all of these rules about what you can say, what you can’t say, how you can express yourself, how this is sexist, how that is racist was a way of kind of controlling a world that they felt was had just abandoned them in a way that w there was no way to make money that the economy was
EW: [01:15:52] well, this is something they can do to you.
BEE: [01:15:55] Which is what they are doing. So it is now happening. And I see it in the reaction to this book, which is critical of a lot of ways of thinking. And I think you and I are pretty much aligned on what the problems are right now.
EW: [01:16:10] Let’s, let’s explore that. What do you, what do you see is because I have a different take the rules thing, for example, maybe I’ll try that and see whether,
BEE: [01:16:16] yeah.
EW: [01:16:17] Okay. I think people have not understood the role of Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication starts off with a good idea, which is that. Maybe there’s a way in which speech that is particularly damaging has a physiological impact on us. Our cortisol levels, spike. We go into fight or flight. There’s all sorts of, you know, fighting words as part of our legal structure.
What if we call that violence? Okay. Now we have to have nonviolent communication. So then you have all these rules about what it is that constitutes violent versus nonviolent communication and speech becomes violence. And then the entire concept of free speech goes out the window. Furthermore, you have an abandonment, I think. Thank you. If you probably looked at the gender ratios of teachers in schools, my guess is that you’ll find that it has changed quite considerably from being dominated by one gender, rather than a mixture of the two. And as a result, you have the sort of thing that I don’t think people have really understood, which is then in part there’s a way of boys will be boys was used to disguise a lot of behavior, which I would have called toxic masculinity, had that term not been polluted and turned into something metastatic and unusable right there. Really. I went to an all boys school and man, I saw some stuff that would absolutely curl your toes. On the other hand, we’re now using it. Uh, to mean somebody makes the joke in the elevator third floor, women’s lingerie. Career’s over like what? That’s insane.
BEE: [01:17:48] Look, my problem isn’t necessarily with the things that you’re talking about, kids getting bullied, for example, no, that shouldn’t be happening.
It’s a part of life. I look back on my life and I think what if I hadn’t been bullied? What if I had been
EW: [01:18:03] bullied?
BEE: [01:18:05] Mmm, look just as much as anyone else I knew any other boys I knew. Yes I was. And, um, but it w I don’t know. I mean, was it traumatic? Did it help me become a writer? Did it make me want to become an artist?
I certainly don’t think I would have been a writer if I had been captain the football team or the prom King, certainly things that happened to me that were painful, helped create an artistic persona and helped my voice as a writer. All of the stuff that you were talking about. Fine. Maybe there should be a big fix for them. I don’t know. I mean, I also think that life is really hard and basically how you toughen up is that you go through the hardships that build you into a person that can deal with life’s everyday hassles and the pain that inevitably comes to all of us. What worries me is how this affects. The arts and how we, um, deal with art, how we, um, how we, uh, let it into our lives. Uh, and. That is the most worrying thing to me in the last five to 10 years, seeing that art must be a certain way that there have to be rules for the art to be accepted with the community that outlaw art. I don’t know where it is anymore. Certainly was a big part of. Uh, the world that I came of age and, and certainly it was something that I wanted to explore as the writer of lessons zero or the right of American psycho two books that I think because of sensitivity editors that they have now, publishing houses would never be allowed to be published in American mainstream fiction. So that lawlessness and that kind of recklessness, um, uh, that great artists, um, trafficking. Is really being minimized because it’s it, isn’t following a set of rules. And I talk a lot in the book about how aesthetics don’t really matter that ideology has become the aesthetic and that what people want is kind of an affirmation. They want a lesson. They want to learn something and they want it to be very, very explicit, um, ambiguity, metaphor. I really don’t know if anybody traffics in that anymore in terms of, you know, uh, communicating with millennials. Um, so that is the thing that has bothered me the most, uh, the other things that you’re talking about. Yeah. And people shouldn’t be in pain, but. Being having to include certain things in your art for it to be palatable or for you to make money or for someone to publish it or for it to be shown in as many places as possible. That is that’s a problem. And being told what you can or cannot say in something you create is also a problem. Um, the list of rules now being handed out to artists about. What’s acceptable. What’s not acceptable as a writer and as a public person who has a podcast and writes essays, you know, about entertainment and about, um, the world that I’m a part of and getting attacked. Is crazy. I, it is the insanity that you’re talking about. I recently wrote a piece for Italian Vogue about the differences between fashion in 1999. When I published a large novel that took place within the fashion world called glam Arama. And today. And so I thought about it, I thought, okay, well they’re pain quite well when no one else pays well. And I can riff on this for a couple of thousand words. And so I wrote about how mysterious the fashion world was and in the late nineties and how, uh, it’s exclusivity was, what it made, what it made it. So Lorraine, um, it’s, um, it’s, it’s lack of income. Illusion is what made people want to be a part of it. So. So badly compared to now where you can see the met gala streaming online, and everyone can be interacting. Uh, and throwing out the comments while I see in closeup, the inside of the party and the dresses right. As they’re happening. Um, is that, I dunno, is that exciting? Is it more exciting to not know exactly what’s behind the curtain? And of course I’m writing this as a gen exer, I’m writing about this in a way that is really conforms to mind. Sensibility. I also talked about how, uh, the model bottles, the women and the men were really quite extreme, nearly beautiful. And they were, they were goddesses and they were gods and we looked up to them because they weren’t us. They weren’t us. And that’s why we were so drawn to them. These women were other worldly. These men were otherworldly and there was something about that, that I thought we don’t have anymore where we need models that look like us, that we have to be more inclusive of, you know, um, body image and that we have to accept and that, and that the modeling world and the fashion world is trying its best to do that. And you can see it in shows. Um, where, you know, they have, uh, whatever buck, tooth, whatever it is. No, not, not people who conform to normal. Not even normal,
EW: [01:23:31] but let’s be clear about it. Model bone structure is almost like a mutation
BEE: [01:23:37] completely.
EW: [01:23:37] It’s what we traditionally think of is something that is, is extraordinarily rare.
It does particular things for clothes that norm normal humans don’t a friend of mine is a supermodel. And at some point I said to her, Um, I never realized it, but you’re really a mutant. Yeah. And her response was, yeah, I’m all legs and no. So in her, her hands are like Edward Scissorhands hands. Like just, just the way that Mike Michelangelo had to distort the David. Somehow these people are actually distorted.
BEE: [01:24:15] I got blasted
EW: [01:24:17] for writing this
BEE: [01:24:17] one. Yeah, absolutely. Blasted by millennials. Huge. A huge controversy about this piece. Now I think part of the problem was that it was translated into Italian and then someone wanted to translate it into English. So when you’re translating Italian back into English, it’s a whole, other can be all of these other meanings.
But basically the beef was, I don’t believe in inclusivity in the fashion world. Well, I meant, I meant exclusivity was what made it so erotic and alluring? No, that’s they, they read it as I’m saying that. Inclusivity. I don’t believe in inclusivity means that I’m a racist that I, uh, am a body shamer and it was so remarkable to me that that’s the message that they got out of an older man talking about what he liked about in the late nineties, about fashion that moved him to actually write a novel set in that world. I’m a complete distortion of really what I was saying based on this emotional idea of being. Excluded themselves. And
EW: [01:25:27] it’s
BEE: [01:25:28] just such a remarkable way to, um, to, uh, reread something so that it conforms to your view of the world. Uh, I certainly didn’t have that when I read things that I didn’t necessarily agree in when I was
EW: [01:25:43] that age.
Can I push back on the slightly? Yeah, please. So the way I read it is. That they might’ve actually had a point and then they missed a point. Right. So. One of the costs of having fashion be mysterious, aspirational, and dare I say, transcendent, uh, is that it does remind us of our merely mortal nature. There was a period of time where, you know, you, you would show people without makeup, uh, and just how completely plain and ordinary. They were right there. They’re all sorts of faces that lend themselves to being turned into something that cannot be as canvases on which to be painted. Let’s say. There is something powerful about, um, deconstructing fashion. If I, if you remember, when I bring up sometimes as Jennifer Lopez is famous for Saatchi dress. Yeah. Um, I am sure that adhesive is somehow lurking in the background, but the idea of having adhesive on your boobs and, and having the fabric somehow stick, you know, all sorts of contrivances. That’s much less. Exciting and alluring if I know how the magic trick, of course. So the idea of a magic show in which the demands to know how every trick is done is a very weird thing because some of us want to be fooled. We want to be seduced. But we also are shamed in this process because of our own very plain nature. One of the things that I have to deal with is, is that I have moles all over my face and some, some percentage of every YouTube video that I’ve ever done comments. And you think the guy would have some money, you need to have the moles removed. Why is that guy wearing a wig? Right? Yeah. It’s clearly a weave. No, but nobody, his age has hair like that, you know, or whatever. And the shaming is incredibly powerful. On the other hand, the transcendence is incredibly powerful. And the number of people who can see both of these things, which is, yeah, they have a point and they’re also creating a huge negative externality and costs that they’re not taking into account. We are in some sense in some sort of awkward waking up that there has been a very dark side to fashion, to the models, to the way in which we’ve eroticized children. Very often, these women are recognized when they’re 12, when they’re 14, um, And we have been complicit as a society in the, you know, eroticization of children for a great deal of time. So what, what astounds me is not that they push back, but that the quality of the pushback is so shitty.
BEE: [01:28:32] Well, it it’s, it’s just, uh, a reflection of their way of thinking. It is pure ideology. I don’t send someone, I mean, look, writing anything is kind of, you know, I don’t want to say an act of magic or an act of willing disbelief in terms of you’re you’re creating something out of nothing.
And I’m creating this idea about my memories of, uh, The nineties and what I was attracted to about fashion and contrast seen it negatively to what I feel fashion is now where I just, it’s not as interesting. Um, because it’s, uh, I guess more, uh, Inclusive in terms of letting you see the strings and everything, but letting you see the strings and letting you see how everything is made is really endemic to this culture. Now it’s, it’s in every Wikipedia page, it’s in connecting all the Marvel movies and all the backstories to all the characters generation that’s there is no mystery in terms of that they don’t want mystery. I think mystery frightens them and makes them feel. Whatever unsafe ambiguity makes them feel unsafe and it confuses them. Um, so I don’t know, is it really shitty? That thinking is shitty. I guess it is to a degree. It also is overly reactive to me and it, and of course it is because the minute something is posted, you want to get your voice out there. So you post something 20 minutes.
EW: [01:30:03] That’s true. But like, I would say that for example, I always ask this question.
Do people want to be seduced? If you, if you believe that you don’t want to be manipulated, you’ll never have the experience of being seduced because seduction is in some sense, a willing manipulation, usually on two people’s part. Right? And so when, when Jennifer Lopez was trying to seduce the world at scale with this dress, that miraculously stayed on her body. We wanted to be in the audience and I’m sure, you know, one of the beliefs I’ve had about gay men is that in some sense, very often gay men are like magicians assistance or consultants. They very often take great pleasure in seeing how the trick is done. Um, without wanting to be completely like the heterosexual men are just sitting there in the audience, lapping it up. And the gay men are like, Oh, you know, did you see her makeup? It was fabulous. Like they’re actually thinking about the construction, the craft, you know, there’s sort of a different, I,
BEE: [01:31:09] an outsider. I
EW: [01:31:10] mean, outside of that is you’re not being carried away. Like women at all also will say, Oh, did you see, I love the way she, you know, she wears her false eyelashes.
Right. Whereas men are like, If they’re heterosexual, they’re sort of believing the whole thing.
BEE: [01:31:23] Right? I can’t imagine living in a world where I didn’t want to be seduced daily. That’s what I want to be. I want to be seduced all day long. I want to be seduced by every book I pick up. I want to be seduced by why else would I drive to a theater?
Why else would I drive to the ArcLight, pay a ticket and sit in a dark empty room, unless I want it to be seduced. I want to be seduced by my coffee. I want to be seduced by everything. And I do think there’s a pushback on that because giving insists a deduction is being out of control. It is an out of control, but that’s the pleasure.
EW: [01:31:58] I think you’ve made this point before. It has to do with this crazy loss of trust and in a world. Characterized by a loss of trust. I do understand the desire to worry about, well, you weren’t careful and you are shaming and you’re having a negative effect over here. Right? Whereas in a world of higher trust, people say, you know, like in Silicon Valley, the concept of pitching people say pitch me, you know, because the VCs who have the money are used to being seduced.
You know, like, Oh, your, your pitch was in insufficiently, manipulative and insufficiently seductive. You’re going to have a harder time with your company. If that’s how you do things, let me show you how to be, uh, how to orient things so that you’re more likely to succeed because that way I’m more likely to make money with my investment. I think that there there’s some aspect where this desire for radical transparency has to do with people who feel very cut out of society.
BEE: [01:33:03] I think it has to do with, because people don’t read anymore. I think it has to do with people don’t read fiction anymore. I think it has to do with a tiny, strange lack of empathy, even when everyone says.
You know, warm, fuzzy things to each other, uh, which to me increasingly is just virtue signaling and acting out, you know, feeling
EW: [01:33:27] virtuous and being virtuous as a writer, the book are two very different.
BEE: [01:33:30] Thanks. I think it’s, I think it really is down to people. Don’t read anymore. And that someone can find more meaning in, uh, Cuphead, which is the new video game that all the kids are playing and that they’ll never be reading.
They’ll never know the mysteries of HP Lovecraft or whatever. I do think that something has been. Severely minimized in terms of experience and in terms of a breadth of experience. And I don’t care if I sound old, I’ve always sounded old. I sounded old when I wrote less than zero was an old man at five,
EW: [01:34:05] but you’ve said that you wouldn’t choose novels again.
BEE: [01:34:07] I wouldn’t, I absolutely would not.
EW: [01:34:09] What would you choose in
BEE: [01:34:10] a world? Uh, a web series, a TV show, a mini series. I choose it. I, I do think they’ve replaced it. I think, uh, adult literary fiction has slid down. Uh, we’ve lost about three. 13% of the readers since 2013, that is a lot that is a bad business. And that’s over a loss of a billion dollars in sales that is suggestive of something.
And I also don’t meet anybody anymore. Who reads serious adult fiction, serious meaning quasi literary to literary adult fiction. I’m not talking about, you know, obscure. Writers that are only taught in academia, but, um, it is something that, um, I don’t know. I am, I really do believe that reading that kind of long form fiction encourages empathy and encourages you to step into other people’s shoes and to see the world from. Three or four or eight different angles rather than your own. I think that that to me is the purest example of getting that experience more than theater, more than listening to a record, more than going to a movie, because it is not a passive experience. It is an active experience of actually putting yourself in the shoes of the character and seeing the world through the way that they look at it. And it’s just that you can’t get that in any other kind of medium. And if that’s going, um, I mean, I don’t know. I mean, what’s, what’s replacing that.
EW: [01:35:40] Well, I don’t know that there is, and that’s one of the things I wanted to get to, which is if we are in fact losing the capacity, as I’ve said for a semi reliable, communal sense, making that we can’t make sense of the incoming information in any way where we can communally kind of agree on, well, what just happened and what should we be thinking about, about how to, how to.
How to approach at our approach that if we don’t have a cannon where I can reference a line or two, uh, you know, to get at a really complicated thought in my own tradition, we’ve lost canned humor where a lot of, like, let’s say Talmudic teachings were contained in a joke and you would just use the punchline that nobody. Told the joke. Once everybody knew it, you just used the punchline to say, well, that’s a super subtle principal, you know, like, well, referencing one line, the idea is that does protest too much. Me thinks is a complicated concept. I don’t want to have to explain it from scratch, but if I can point out that somebody is falling over, you know, Alan Dershowitz seems to be protesting too much at the moment. Right. And I don’t want to have to say more. Right. Um, if we don’t have common literature, common Canon, if we don’t have the time to sort of take a more Strauss in view, which is what is the, what is the writer really trying to, to say that can’t be said in the open, if we believe that transparency is always the answer and that sunlight is always the best disinfectant, is there any way of waking up into a different era? So that th this thing that is, uh, suffusing our culture. Um, doesn’t take the whole enterprise down.
BEE: [01:37:18] Sometimes, I think I’m old sometimes and I am, I am old. And I think that this is the natural state of things and that we are just moving forward on this trajectory and that bit by bit, you kind of get. Um, you can fight, I suppose, in an unnatural way to try to stay on that trajectory, but it’s moving along and, uh, you know, that golden world that surrounded you is moving on to younger people and to sexier people and to.
More vibrant people. And I, I think sometimes, and I S I, I don’t believe this is true about reading. I sometimes think that, Oh, this is what it means to become somewhat obsolete in terms of a pop culture world in terms of being a member of the pop culture world. And it. And it just goes this way and people are left behind, I think a lot about why, um, the Quintin Tarantino movie, uh, struck a chord among so many middle aged men I know is because it’s really an exploration of that, of being, you know, um, so all of this is a roundabout way saying that maybe people are figuring out and the trajectory that we’re on is the one that they want to be on. But I just don’t know if it, I don’t know if it is, and I don’t know if, um, I, I don’t, I think we’re ever going back to Reed.
EW: [01:38:50] I agree with that. I don’t know that I want to go back to the previous world.
BEE: [01:38:54] Yeah, no, I don’t think I do either. And I am. I just, I just wished it to a degree and I think it’s it’s as with you that, um, that I guess a little bit more.
Empathy critical thought. And that this notion that you can see two things in, um, in a sentence or in an opinion, you know, Fitzgerald’s famous dictum about. The only smart people are the ones that can really see both the beauty and the horror and arose. And if you, if you, you need to be able to see both to be an artist or to be a person in the world, uh, if you just see one or the other, whatever. Um, and I, and I don’t see that, uh, anymore, and it is, um, That’s what I miss. I mean, I don’t really want to necessarily go, but they’ll look watching, watching the Quintin Tarantino movie. I mean, I wouldn’t, I don’t know if I wouldn’t mind going back here to Hollywood, 1969, just in terms of a certain kind of fetishistic level in terms of clothes and decor and.
EW: [01:40:05] Yeah, I think that there is a golden age of Hollywood. I think one of the things we’re missing is we developed this idea of critical thinking and it turned out that there was a parallel theory that never got developed, which I’ve called critical feeling, which is how do you get your feeling to be responsive and adaptive as opposed to reflexive and kind of right.
And that the group feel. Is this very weird thing that the millennials traveling my theory about this, whether you’ll bite on this or think it’s really is that maybe generation X are there so-called magic Negroes to, um, the millennials, the millennials are a larger cohort. Maybe they’re going to mean. More, you know, nobody from the 1930s who was born in the 1930s ever became president of the United States. Maybe the idea is the gen X has a different role and that the millennials, uh, are hungry to be inducted by something older, something more established to be recognized. The boomers are weirdly not going to do it. The silence are almost spent. Yeah. And I wonder whether our problem is that we were angry. Like, I don’t think generation was really working because what it does is it sets us up. Oppositionally we’re taking their nonsensical energy, which by the way is completely maddening. And I think it’s very strange that I grew up in a very threatening world, really physical, physical. Yeah. And I’m more worried about Twitter. Than I ever was in the world where people are wrapping their cars around telephone poles or ending up ODing in the Cedars, ER. Something about this world is weirdly dangerous because there are no normal rules. It doesn’t know when to stop. It’s willing to take away your ability to earn, to destroy your reputation, to move your private life into the public sphere. And it doesn’t seem to have any empathy. I wonder if the real trick, and this is like, the hardest thing to even imagine is to realize that these are damaged kids and now damaged adults and that our grit. It’s supposed to serve them. Maybe we’re supposed to lose twice, lose one to the baby boomers and the silence more supposed to lose again. But we are supposed to take up. Our place, helping them become a better version of themselves. I think most of my audience is millennial and I bet yours is too
BEE: [01:42:31] great deal of his millennial. Uh, and, uh, I talk about the demise of a lot of things. I talked about the demise of reading. I thought I talk about the demise of American cinema, which you would think would not be interesting to them at all, but, um, They’re there.
Uh, and certainly I have a large millennial following despite how often millennials attacked me this past spring with the publication of the book. Uh, they were definitely there at the readings. They were definitely there at the signings and a lot of them were there when I gave a talk at the Peter deal. The oven foundation about a month ago. So there is that audience and I agree with you on a certain level. I do think they want to learn and they do want guidance. I think they’re hungry for it or to a degree. Um, but they are overly sensitive about how people, um, see them. And that is very interesting. Uh, and I think a new thing in terms of shame because the, the, the guiding principle or one of the strongest, um, uh, signifiers in the millennials, I know is shame. Shame is a huge motivating factor to be shamed. And, um, that is something that I, I don’t know, I can’t relate to, and I don’t think gen X can really relate to that. As much either it’s not as PA it was never as powerful, motivating how you express yourself in terms of being online in terms of how people talk about it for us.
EW: [01:44:09] I think that what we don’t understand is is that we’re not, this is another theory. Feel free to shoot it down. I’ve watched the very strange interactions between millennials from a perspective of a gen X or whatever often say is that was a little rapey. Yeah. And. If you use the word rape to a gen exer, it’s like, boom, you’ve just dropped a bomb.
But like rapey, like I would never use the word rapey and then another one of them will say, yeah, you’re right. It was a little bit rapey. And then they go on. And so the idea is that they’re trading there. They have an agreement, which is like, it’s normal for people to say things that are kind of. Rapey and racist and kind of, kind of like you’re starting to get into dangerous territory, just I’m signaling to you. You probably don’t want to go there and there. And he was like, thank you very much. I didn’t want to go there. And then they all go on their Merry way. Very often. What we do is say, what did you say. Like we we’re back on our heels. Cause we’re not part of this agreement. And we have an idea of like, there was nothing wrong with what I said, dare talk to me that way or no, no, no, absolutely didn’t mean it. I promise you. I promise you so we don’t understand that it’s relative to an agreement that we’re not part of to warn each other to back off and give a quick apology and then keep moving on. And I don’t even agree with it, like from their perspective. If I’m showing them a George Carlin routine and they say that was a little racist.
BEE: [01:45:45] Mmm.
EW: [01:45:46] We’re now at a weird impasse where if I continue to say, I think that routine is actually quite important and you really need to look at it and pay attention. Try to figure out what he’s saying now we’ve escalated. Wow. You did. I gave you your warning shot and you declined it. Now I’m going to have to call, call you out as really a bad person.
And now I’m going to have to potentially use my high leverage position as a reporter for a famous newspaper to actually ruin your life. Like we don’t understand that. That’s not what they’re hoping for. They’re hoping for this sort of, Oh yeah. You know, what was I thinking? I would never want to point somebody to that. George Carlin routine,
BEE: [01:46:25] the ambiguity of irony. That’s missing the ambiguity of irony and ironic I irony and being ironic was, you know, a key, a key part of it. Our generation. Um, and it was a way we express ourselves and it’s a way that we dealt with things. A lot of it in our, in our novels, in the music that we listened to, um, very rarely was music, this declaration of myself and how I’m feeling, um, at least as a gen X or growing up in the late seventies and the eighties.
Um, but that lack of irony. Rips up, takes away shading and takes away, uh, humanity, um, because nothing is exactly as it seems. And if you want to look at the world in that way, and then every little, um, thing that you don’t like becomes racist or rapey, and you’re not able to. Place it within a context and taking the totality of it and look at it from three or four different angles. And you’re, it’s just pure reaction to, I dunno, a litany of rules that you’ve been told you have to follow. I’m not doing it. I mean, I’m just not, and I don’t apologize to them and I don’t say anything, but I just don’t say anything. People. I mean, I didn’t, I’ve never written an apology to anybody and I’ve never defended myself to any of these people either because the arguments just isn’t worth responding to on a certain level you’ve, you’ve taken you’ve, you’ve decreased, structured to a degree where there’s an ounce or so of sympathy, but I also think that they should know better. I think I’m giving people way too much credit for those pulling up their pants and understanding what it means to be an adult and that you
EW: [01:48:23] well, I’m trying to get them to entertain the idea that, for example, if you chase injustice with greater injustice, you have not gotten rid of injustice. You have a problem with the old lady who swallowed a fly, right?
I’m trying to figure out how to get through to their minds. What I see now, maybe there are ways in which I’m wrong. I’m open to that, but I’m not open to the idea that suddenly every everything has been wrong and one generation has suddenly figured it out.
BEE: [01:48:53] I have to say something please, as I realized that I don’t really care.
Yeah. I really don’t care what millennials think about me. And I really don’t know if I care. What I think about them. The overreaction to the hashtag generation was, which I thought was a perfect example of a kind of snarky gen X way of looking at millennials was intended as comedy. And it was tended as something to
EW: [01:49:17] talk about.
I understand exactly. I got all chuckle out
BEE: [01:49:20] of it. Right. But still. Two two. And then when I did it, take it a bit serious, more seriously, and expanded on it in my book, um, and realized that I was sympathetic as well as annoyed. Um, I just, I don’t know. I think that the reaction to that was endemic of, of, uh, you know, millennial thinking and that it is, um, I don’t know it was problematic, but I also realized I’ve got other things, so not to worry.
EW: [01:49:52] fine. But what I’m worried about is we’ve got a generation that is now going to probably use its high leverage positions to derange a lot and, and cancel it and well canceling, you know, some of us can afford w what worries me is I see this as eroding the. Outer layers of our civil society.
They’re about to get to core structure and it’s going to keep going. And I don’t think it’s cute. I think now I think it is absolutely capable of getting us into war. I think it’s capable of getting us a president that would be dictatorial as far as an overreaction to their nonsense. Yeah. So I don’t think nothing is riding on it. I think a lot is riding on it and I have two contradictory impulses. One is to say, Well, what is it that you’re actually trying to say? Maybe we can work to try to understand you better. And the other one is cut that shit out. No, of course. And so I don’t have the indifference. I think that you do. I think what I have is I have two contradictory impulses. One of which is to say, I bet you’re saying something and I’m just not getting it. And the other is you’re wildly out of control and you need to see a different path.
BEE: [01:51:05] Of course, boom or youth. Millennial youth, gen X youth. I know which one that I am probably, uh, uh, most, uh, impress apply on a certain level in terms of I’m shocked in terms of a kind of a level of.
Clear headed. I don’t want to say adulthood, but just a, a way of dealing with the world that is wildly different from millennial and boomer. And I think that’s interesting that you think that there could be a moment where gen X might step up to the stage and announce itself forcefully in a way that perhaps we
EW: [01:51:46] have, I mean, you and I.
We’re modeling a conversation, which we have a couple of diff disagreements. Yeah. I think it’s polite. Both of us are capable of taking our sabers out of their sheets, but there’s usually no reason to
BEE: [01:52:00] no, and I don’t
EW: [01:52:01] never, and what I do find is is that I just think. What I was hoping to do here a little bit is to talk about this context and this firmament, which I think has been invisible, that we’ve have a boomer millennial story.
There’s a very important role of gen X that has been ignored. And your, your, your work, I think, has been probably the best example of it. To be honest, I find it almost impossible to read because it’s so, it’s so right. And that what. What we do next is we have to think about the longterm longevity of our stuff. Society. I’m very worried for example, that some of these millennial females need to start families, even though they’re pretending it doesn’t really matter one way or the other, whether they have, uh, families are not, I think it’s going to be incredibly destructive if we don’t have people invested in the longevity of our society. Through somewhat normal structures. Now I could be wrong in that. Maybe the idea is, is that a family is an outmoded concept and that people don’t need this to be fulfilled. But I do think that if we don’t actually have adults in the room and if we don’t become those adults and strong and caring above, let’s just the way you’re dealing with a bratty child. We’re, we’re too cowed by these bratty children. We actually have to say, Hey. I’m really sorry, but you have to stop throwing a temper tantrum. And if you have to go to your room, go to your room, but you’re out of control you. We can’t have the New York times becoming the agent of like individual destruction as it destroys the reputations of people who fall out of line of the orthodoxy. That, that thing is a threat to our society. Writ large. Anyway. I don’t know whether you agree with
BEE: [01:53:40] that note. All right. I think I, I completely agree. Well, I agree.
EW: [01:53:46] It has been fantastic having you here and you’ve been through the portal with Bret Easton Ellis. Uh, I hope for those of you who are listening on Apple or Spotify, You’ll subscribe to the program and hopefully we’ll be putting it out on YouTube as well.
So make sure to subscribe to our channel and we’ll see you next time. Thanks very much.