Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Less Than Zero
The novel follows the life of Clay, a rich young college student who has returned to his hometown of Los Angeles, California for the winter break. Through much of the novel he spends his time going to parties and doing drugs with friends of his who live in the area. During this time, he must decide whether or not he wants to continue his relationship with his girlfriend, Blair, for whom he is uncertain about his feelings. Meanwhile, Clay has one-night stands with a few guys on the side while his relationship with Blair goes downhill. At the same time, he also tries to find out why his friend Julian has had very little contact with him, which leads him to learn that Julian has become a prostitute and drug addict. This, along with other strange events that happen in the course of the story, cause Clay to become disturbed by the people around him. Eventually, this leads him to leave Los Angeles, possibly (as the ending seems to suggest) never to return.
The novel is often criticized for its lack of details, loose (some say aimless) plot, and lackluster character development. However, others argue that this is an important device in telling the story, in that it shows the aimlessness and emptiness of the characters.
Less Than Zero was loosely adapted into a movie in 1987 starring Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey, Jr., and James Spader. The film focuses on an anti-drug message, rather than the emptiness of the characters' lives as in the novel.
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