An international bestseller and true modern classic
However, Bateman also has a darker side; he is a psychopathic serial killer, with a penchant for torturing and sexually abusing young women before killing them in the most gruesome and explicit fashion. The novel contains little actual plot, and consists of extended descriptions of exclusive restaurants, designer clothes, TV shows and the minutiae of Bateman's vacuous world, relieved only by clinically described scenes of torture and mutilation which are not for the faint-hearted. Bateman makes little attempt to justify his actions, merely claiming that "this is the way the world--my world--moves". As a satire on the bankrupt, money-driven world of the 1980s, American Psycho is a successful, if rather heavy-handed piece of fiction, whose controversy seems only set to increase. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
In fact, this evidence is misleading. To take American Psycho as part of a major arc of fiction by Ellis, we see that in ALL of his books there are cases of identity-confusion, or in fact the total loss of individual identity altogether.
Even within American Psycho itself, Bateman is often mistaken for other people, and other people mistaken for Bateman or for other other people! This is simply because Ellis is satirising the fact that all 20-something Wall Street wannabe Yuppies in the 80s looked and sounded the same - they all aspired to the Gordon Gecko look (itself an image that started as satire and achieved aspirational iconic status much to its creator, Oliver Stone's, horror).
So when people tell Patrick they have seen his "victims" alive and well at restaurants after their supposed deaths, the suggestion is that they are truly dead, but will never be missed because they were never identifiable or memorable individually anyway. It is a soulless universe where lives are as interchangable as ties or handbags.
As I said, this continues a major theme in Brett Easton Ellis' other novels Less Than Zero and Rules of Attraction, where again people often claim to have seen characters in places we know they have no been because of this identity confusion (in these cases the blond, tanned, slim, muscular, vacant Californian pretty boys are the "clones").
This theme continues through Glamorama and into the wonderful short story collection The Informers, to the point where a father does not even recognise whether a figure through a window is his son, his son's boyfriend, or any one of a million such "boys".
Better evidence for Bateman's violence being as imaginary as his success is the mythical/movie-like escape from imminent police capture. This echoes Bateman's addiction to cheap action movies and cable TV shows, and shows his narcissism and self-aggrandisement in equal measure.
This is a great book, one of the true greats. That is why it is loved and hated so ferociously. And as a reviewer says above, if a book is so dark it forces you to feel repulsed or even look away, it has achieved a state very little art still can in our desensitised times. Power like that is very hard to achieve in print.
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