“So Coke-y…So Entitled!”: This Is What It Was Like Going to Bennington College With Bret Easton Ellis, Donna Tartt, and Jonathan Lethem

In response to legend, Bennington School is situated in one of many few spots on Earth the place all 4 winds meet, thereby imbuing the varsity with its total haunted sizzle of alchemy. The dual forces of youth and genius, at the very least, have been palpable within the air upon the arrival of the category of 1986, when three explicit undergrads named Bret Easton Ellis, Donna Tartt, and Jonathan Lethem hit the campus, primed to flirt and flounder and observe their callings by their ensuing years on the decade’s most decadent faculty (which all three would later mythologize of their respective literary careers).

After first cracking open the school’s secret oral history for Esquire in 2019, Self-importance Honest contributing editor Lili Anolik provides the Bennington Cinematic Universe the complete podcast remedy by way of a brand new season of her As soon as Upon a Time… collection. Along with Peabody–nominated C13Originals studios, Anolik units the time machine again to the final nice decade and chaperones a visit by the Gen X glory days in Vermont—in addition to Oxford, Mississippi; Los Angeles; and New York—that turns campus mythology into darkish academia canon.

The 14-part collection premieres Wednesday; get an exclusive preview here:

Self-importance Honest: The place did your fascination with the world of Bennington School within the ‘80s first start?

Lili Anolik: I’ve been engaged on this story ever since I interviewed Bret Easton Ellis within the workplace of his West Hollywood condominium a couple of film he’d scripted, The Canyons, again in 2013. Sitting proper there on his bookcase shelf was a hardcover copy of The Secret Historical past, a novel I’d first learn once I was 14, then reread most likely every year, yearly, till I turned 25.

I remembered out loud that Donna Tartt had co-dedicated the e-book to him, and Bret mentioned that he and Donna had been at Bennington collectively—then talked about that they’d gone on a date freshman yr. The date was, I’ll confess, a little bit of a shock because it was his boyfriend who, a couple of minutes earlier than, had buzzed me up, however I rolled with it. I requested the place they went that night time, who paid, was there a kiss on the finish, and I’ve requested him 1,000,000 Bennington-related questions ever since. It was an off-the-cuff dialog turned hardcore obsession.

Bret additionally talked about that Jonathan Lethem had been of their class, too, and that Jonathan had written a bit about going to high school with him and Donna. Donna, he mentioned, had been angered by it. After all, that stoked the flames of curiosity. Why was Donna pissed? I’ve typically puzzled if Bret, in that second, may really feel the facility his phrases have been engaged on my consideration. He seems informal, possibly even a little bit checked out, however that’s simply him enjoying possum. In any case, I felt that I had one thing depraved by the tail and I wasn’t about to let go.

For individuals who are completely unfamiliar with Bennington, how would you describe the “magic sauce” of that point and place that drew you in?

Artwork and transcendence, child! Sure, Bret, Donna and Jonathan are main literary figures, however they’re additionally main cultural figures.

Bret, with American Psycho, predicted Donald Trump—name-checked within the novel 30 instances!—as president of the USA. The roaring and adoring response Trump excites within the breast of Patrick Bateman foreshadowed what we noticed occur with hundreds of thousands of MAGA supporters. Jonathan, with The Fortress of Solitude, which got here out in 2003 and which traces the decades-long friendship of two Brooklyn youngsters—one white, one Black—was so forward of its time so far as Black Lives Matter and racial reckonings go that it’s of our time.And Donna, with The Secret Historical past, wrote the American Brideshead Revisited. She redefined the undergraduate expertise. I definitely trotted off to varsity hoping to have my model of The Secret Historical past.

And the way would you describe the “magic sauce” behind this podcast?

Entry. The podcast provides listeners entry to worlds they most likely formally disapprove of—so coke-y, so fuck-y, so entitled!—however secretly wish to dwell in, or at the very least go to.

Bennington School, is the first world, after all. You’ll be able to, together with Bret Easton Ellis, steal the underpants of Quintana Roo Dunne, daughter of Joan Didion, after an evening of debauchery. Or you possibly can crash one in every of Donna Tartt’s alcoholic “tea events,” held in her dorm room in Franklin Home.

However there are additionally different worlds explored, too: The novel that made Bret well-known, Much less Than Zero, was written and revealed whereas he was at Bennington, however it’s based mostly on experiences he had as a highschool pupil on the Buckley College in Sherman Oaks. So, two early episodes of the podcast are dedicated to the world of louche private-school Los Angeles, 1980-1982, a world of medicine and fame and quick automobiles and useless youngsters and the Billionaire Boys Membership girls and boys who will develop as much as be Determined Housewives. Later, within the podcast, time shall be spent in New York Metropolis café society, 1985-1989, the place we’ll be preserving very quick, very well-known firm—Warhol and Basquiat; Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson and Robert Downey Jr.; Jay McInerney and Michael J. Fox; Boy George and John Kennedy Jr. and sure members of Duran Duran.

https://www.vanityfair.com/fashion/2021/09/bennington-college-with-bret-easton-ellis-donna-tartt-jonathan-lethem | “So Coke-y…So Entitled!”: This Is What It Was Like Going to Bennington School With Bret Easton Ellis, Donna Tartt, and Jonathan Lethem


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