Thursday, September 11, 2008

Book Review: American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis

Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho describes a few years in the life of Patrick Bateman, a successful investor and psychopath. That's about all there is to it.

American Psycho is not so much a story, but a drawn out snapshot of the nightmare world of yuppies in late 80s New York. This setting is as much of a character as Patrick Bateman is (the first third of the book is purely about his everyday life in this world, and we only later get a glimpse into the "psycho" part of it). I think that it's not so much that this world created the monster that is Patrick Bateman (the only description of his father is something like "there is something wrong with his eyes", implying that his psychosis has pretty deep roots), but that this world allows him to exist. Everyone is so self-centered and focused on superficial crap that they don't notice the serial killer in front of their noses. In a way, many of the characters in the book are as inhuman as Bateman is.

This is not a straightforward novel; it is very much open to interpretation in both its narrative and its message. Both the matter-of-factly described scenes of brutal violence and the overly detailed descriptions of fashion and music often had me wondering why the hell I kept reading it. But I did keep reading, and while it may not be an entertaining novel in the traditional sense, it did make me think. And it made me want to go out to a cheap restaurant where I don't need a reservation and make real connections with people, because dude, the world depicted in American Psycho is a shitty place that should be avoided at all costs.

I have to go return some videotapes.


Dead Robot said...

Ellis pulled a Whitley Strieber with his last book intertwining his personal life, controversy (shocker!) and fiction. So I stopped reading him.

What I did like about this book is how almost "Japanese" the characters are about their business cards. But yeah, I agree with you about this book (and most part, movie): ugh! dont make me think!

Anonymous said...

I didn't read the book (I should have - I know) but the film is one of my favorites.

I'll try the book next bookstore trip,

Anonymous said...

I wanted to read the book. I've only watched the movie, and it still makes me think. I was never sure whether Patrick Bateman did psychotic things or just had psychotic thoughts.

I thought the book would clarify that, but I'm not so sure now.

madamerouge said...

Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) and Sean Bateman (Rules of Attraction) are brothers.

S said...

I have to go through my medicine cabinet and list all of my products.

Deordorant. Toothbrush. Toothpaste.


sixty-six said...

if you feel like riding the bret easton ellis train for another 500+ pages, try out glamorama and/or less than zero.

both good reads but if you skip one make it glamorama.

Jason said...

I read that book many years ago. Friends told me that I began swearing after reading it. It corrupted me I guess.

Anonymous said...

I read the book when i was 15.
It did me no harm.
But i do not like to think about its contents. When one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Concusions aren't always nice.