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.

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One thought on “Book Review: American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis

  1. Dear Mike,

    this is a great post! I ALSO have to return some videotapes, so I’ll make this quick: My name is Peter Ricci, and I am a college student and writer who is currently contributing to an upstart online magazine called ‘Too Shy to Stop.’ We focus on culture and the arts, and a couple weeks ago I actually wrote an essay defending ‘American Psycho.’

    I focus more on the rhetoric behind Ellis’ argument, and I would love it if you checked it out and commented! Here is the link: http://tooshytostop.wordpress.com/2008/10/21/let-the-american-psycho-speak/.

    Sincerely,

    Peter Ricci

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