18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2001
On the one hand this book is, and let me make this clear straight away, one of the most repulsive books I have ever read. The further you get throught the book, the more horrific the murders become. It would be very easy to dismiss this as an empty, attention-grabbing ploy.
But that would be unfair: this book works brilliantly as a satire on the 1980s attitudes. Pages are filled with excrutiating detail of what Bateman is wearing; his daily routine is scrutinised in minute detail; his friends are empty-headed, vacuous fools, who listen to nothing. Bateman himself is simply taking the consumerist dream to its extremes: the idea that he can take life. Filled with black humour, and some truly surreal situations (Bateman asks for a "decapitated" coffee; no-one appears to notice), this is fantastic. The sex and violence are unpleasant, but in the context of the novel they make sense.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 20 February 2014
A dark satire on 1980's Yuppie Culture. Meet Patrick Bateman. The book doesn't tell us much about him in regards of background and what he actually does, but that he is a Yuppie, associating with his Yuppie friends and only defines himself via consumer goods: expensive clothing, watches, pens etc. The book spends a lot of pages where Bateman explains to us the brands and how important it is to him.
Bateman is also a serial killer and kills and mutilates particularly women. Simple as that. No one seems to notice amongst his friends or business associates.Nothing else much happens and no explanation is every given for the killings, in fact, it is left up to your imagination whether the killings are actually real or even just exist in Bateman's imagination? Warning: Scenes of extreme violence, rape, detailed descriptions of killings and mutilations. Not an easy read and as a woman reader, I did find it hard to read it sometimes, especially as the violence is neither condemned nor explained, but is just simple there.
One of the few books where I thought that the film is as good or even better than the book, maybe because of the excellent Christian Bale in the title role. Unusually, here I had seen the movie first before reading the book, and the whole time when reading, of course, I saw Bale. Not necessarily a bad thing.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I started this book with some trepidation given that I knew it contains a lot of extremely graphic sex and violence. What I hadn't expected was to find the book so very funny.
The blackest black comedy I have ever read, the author lays bare the shallow and self-obsessed world of '80s yuppie culture and does so superbly. The obsessions with brand clothing, with pop icons such as Genesis and Whitney Houston, with nouvelle and fusion cuisine and most of all with conspicuous spending - all combined to remind me of the awfulness of the laddish greed culture so prevalent at that time. Throughout the book the author contrasts the drink and drug-fuelled excess of these successful city boys (and girls) with the poverty that could be seen at every street corner.
The violence is indeed graphic and gets progressively more extreme as the book goes on. However, given the theme of excess in all things that runs through the book, I felt it stayed in context. In fact, it eventually became so outrageous that, for me, it passed from being shocking to being, in a strange way, part of the humour of the book. I don't know quite how the author made me like and feel sorry for the monstrous 'psycho' Patrick - but he did.
Brilliantly written, extremely perceptive and amazingly funny - highly recommended.
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2006
Easton-Ellis' first person description of the development of a psychopath is nothing short of mind blowing and this fact alone makes American Psycho a great novel. Following the anti-hero Patrick Bateman through about a year of his life and aided by flashbacks to past events the reader is drawn ever more into the mindset of a killer and his normalisation and disassociation from the acts that he is committing. At the beginning of the book (where violence is only hinted at briefly), it is very easy to laugh at Bateman, his shallow life, appalling friends and fiancé and his assumption that happiness and wealth are one and the same thing. As the story develops one can almost feel pity for someone who is so clearly trapped in a life not of his choosing but which he is unwilling to leave for all the wrong reasons.
Bateman's increasingly violent behaviour and periods of psychosis characterise the middle of the book, but the author still finds room to add his own brand of dark humour to the situations he puts his star into. In the final section of the book we see Bateman develop into a full blown psychopathic monster, completely out of control and unable to repress the primal urges that are overcoming him.
That Easton-Ellis manages to achieve this whilst taking a sideways sneer at eighties yuppie culture AND providing an allegorical interpretation of what it means to be alive in modern day America is what makes this novel remarkable and ultimately an essential read.
My only complaint is that the novel is too long. Did the Huey Lewis and The News chapter really add anything to the plot, particularly after lengthy discussions on Genesis and Whitney Houston? Some of the later murders also seemed to add very little to the development of the character or the plot and one could argue were only added for pure shock value. (I'm thinking in particular of the murder of the escort girls and the rat chapter). This has the effect of making the last fifty to a hundred pages a bit of a chore, and dilutes the otherwise excellent ending.
Like Lunar Park this novel creeps up on you and doesn't necessarily leave you in a better place than when you started it. There is no happy ending and if you feel disgusted after 200 pages it is probably best to put the book down at this stage rather than put yourself through the last 150 pages which are far more graphic. If you found the humour in the film entertaining and didn't find the murders too gory then I would recommend this. If you have trouble dealing with misogyny or black comedy then it is probably best to do what most of New York's high society should have done and avoid Bateman altogether.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2015
Maybe there's something about this novel that I don't get. I understand it's a satire, and I think I understand what it's supposed to be satirising- that is rampant consumerism and yuppie culture- but I don't really understand how. If you're a yuppie, does that make you a murderer? No, not really.
I've watched interviews with Bret Easton Ellis on youtube and he comes across likable, engaging and thoughtful. He claims- and I'm not sure I believe him on this- that the novel was not written with any intent to shock and he was surprised at the controversy it generated. The murders are written in such a way that they appear to be inviting the reader to relish them along with the perpetrator. They're very salacious, and they tend to be immediately preceded by hardcore sex scenes that have probably already got the reader aroused. This threatens to negate any serious satirical point Ellis might be trying to make.
Perhaps the murders are metaphors for ruthless business practices. Perhaps they are an expression of how disgusting Ellis finds the sweatshops where Patrick Bateman's precious clothes are made. If this, or something similar, is the case, then for me it hasn't been spelt out clearly enough.
Even aside from the violence, this is a very unpleasant novel. There is no-one to root for. Practically everyone is vacuous and self-centred beyond belief. The only levity is a streak of coal-black, often very surreal humour, the farcical nature of which sometimes simply adds to the unpleasantness. That's fine as a stylistic technique, but it further turned me off. Bateman peppers his narrative with racial slurs, again something I didn't grasp the basis of. He doesn't attend skinhead rallies or argue Aryan superiority. It feels gratuitous.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2010
Well, what can I say about this book? I wouldn't say I was that disturbed by it, in the end, in part because I found the writing quite impenetrable and hard going so that I couldn't really get into the narrative.
It's a clever book; there's no doubt about that. You have to read it really carefully to get it, I think. Does Patrick Bateman commit any of the crimes he describes or does he just fantasise about it? They're pretty horrific scenes so either way, he fits the book's title. There are certainly enough inconsistencies to make you wonder, and I do find that clever. In fact, I find it a clever book all round but I just struggled so much with the delivery.
In essence, I couldn't say I'd truly recommend this book because I didn't find it very readable and, yet, at the same time I can't help thinking it is a modern classic because it did something with the unreliable narrator that hadn't really been done before. Even the major things that I object to in the book, like the constant detailed descriptions of clothes and food that slow everything down, I understand their necessity. Not a book I enjoyed but one that I respect.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 25 August 2001
Only very few people will be gripped by this book in the same way as other comparable novels (Fight Club springs to mind with its similar satirical twinges, and with it being on the side of my screen), mainly due to the often monotonous tone of the lengthy passages reffering to all manner of trivial thoughts running through the protaganists mind. Many of the previous reviews complained about this, calling it boring, and an over-used technique. They are, of course, wrong, and I, of course, am right. These repetitive monologues are the defining force in hammering down Bateman's shallow, and often confused persona, as well as satirising the eighties yuppie perfectly - creating a character that believes he knows what good taste is, believes it to be incredibly important to have it, thinks he has it, thinks that other people thinks that he has it, and yet is misleading himself completely, and in doing so, tells the reader exactly how superficial (sp?) people in situations similar to Bateman's were. Unfortunately, despite being, in my humble opinion, a classic of modern fiction in telling a truly tragic tale in a unique manner, in doing so the book has become a very daunting prospect. The first time I read it, the first few hundred pages bored me completely, and only the murders actually held my attention particularly well. However, coming back to it with a will to really take the book in (btw watching the film Wall Street before hand is a help in understanding the true nature of Bateman and the eighties) helped me to appreciate it more fully. I can't say that I understand the book completely even now, unlike some of the others I am not convinced with the wholly fantastical ending, or even the true relevance of Patrick's relationship with Evelyn. A previous reviewer said that he read it while on the train. I do not recommend this. Sit down in a quiet room and focus all your attention on the book (cliched maybe, but you'll apprectiate it). It may well suck you right in.
Some find the content of this book amazing, some disgusting. I say it is both, but the literary panache will take some beating. An excellent book.
41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2005
I think it is a common and understandable mistake to assert that Patrick Bateman does not "actually" kill in the book, and to cite as evidence for this the fact that no one is reported missing after their deaths, and that people Patrick has supposedly killed are spotted at parties, etc.
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 1998
F. Scott Fitzgerald has a successor. Easton Ellis' coruscating portrait of the monied class as it behaves in contemporary times stands comparison, in its perspicacity, with Fitzgerald's insights into the plutocracy of the Twenties and Thirties. Savagely satirical, achingly funny, and appallingly violent - often within the space of the same page - this is the novel people will read in two hundred years' time, if they want to know what life was like in the last years of the twentieth century.
On a qualitative par with "Gatsby", this is beyond question the deepest, funniest, most memorable, and most emotionally draining novel I have ever read. It still disturbs me that as the tale unfolds I find myself less and less able to dislike its ghastly, tortured hero. Like Fitzgerald, Easton Ellis will always be remembered for this book above all his others, whatever their merits.
A novel of monsters, created by a giant.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2000
Ignore these reviews, read the book and make up your own mind! This book is so cleverly written that you will need to come back to it time and again to get the most out of it. Yes, the violence is deeply disturbing and horrific but the author, in my opinion, means us to be horrified by it. Yes, the fashion comments get boring, but this is a reflection of the character's obsessive behaviour brought about through drug addiction, not to mention the whole social satire of the fashion conscious 80's. And, of course, what everyone has so far neglected to mention, is the question of whether or not the main character actually committed the crimes in question or whether they were the drug fuelled fantasies of a sick mind! Ultimately I was left feeling pity for a character who in no way deserved it. The main character ends up being not only a product of his time but all that was wrong and evil about his time, nevertheless I cannot help but see him as a helpless victim swept up on a wave of commercialsm and hype of all that a rich successful young man ought to be. This expectation fuelled by drugs makes him the screwed up kind of yuppie you might expect but 1000 times worse. The graphic descriptions of poverty and violence merely serve to shock the reader out of the apathy that they, along with everyone one else, has succombed to in their everyday reading of newspapers and watching T.V, violence is not just described in this book it is glorified and it takes this to shock us in a world where violence is accepted as the norm! Well done Bret Easton Ellis for a book which is not only a very good read but which challenges the reader on a number of issues and moral standpoints. I defy any person who has read this book not to look at the world around them more closely, a novel which truly opens ones eyes to the society in which we live.