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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
on 16 July 2004
I approached this book after becoming a fan of the excellent movie based on it. I do not know whether this is unfortunate or not. Easton Ellis has created a curious beast. The book opens up harmlessly, with slightly odd stylings such as detailed descriptions of characters clothing and so on. It then introduces you to some of the most shocking cases of murder imaginable. As has been said before, this is not for the faint hearted. Yet despite this, it is strewn with acute humor. This coupled with the homicide leaves one in an emotional sandstorm which is quite unique. If you wish to be tested, this is for you.
on 26 July 2013
I just read this on summer holidays in Spain. The usual book shop that sold english books was closed down so while walking along a town i saw a book shop with an english section and i was drawn to this book.
I found it intriguing and frustrating, violent and funny, stimulating and mundane. Even in reading therefore it evoked in me reactions which mirrored the two sided nature of Mr Bateman's confession. But i felt that the frustration and mundane bits were important aspects of the book to highlight the insights into the way society can be so superficial at times and contrast it to the real depth of the depravity and violence within Mr Bateman. I read the reviews and i felt that the shock and horror at the violence in fact some how justified the underlying analysis of society that the book portrayed. I wouldn't think the author would be surprised that people of a closed mind set would be outraged.
The tempo of the book I felt increased as it went along but I think the real skill was keeping it constant at any given point between the work/restaurant scenes and the chapters where Mr Bateman was letting his desires overcome him.
I appreciated his use of what i would consider the mundane to perhaps frustrate or to even keel the reader. I would think only the most fickle of reader would really appreciate all the names of suits and ties and such like but it set the scene of big city excesses and over whelming self centered personalities. The same could be said of the music descriptions. It stood out that Mr Bateman could talk on the subject of Genesis and Whitney Heuston to a phd level of detail but never once really mentioned any real details of his work.
The use of the last of the chapters on music and its position in the book heightened I felt the authors use of frustration (perhaps the skill of building towards a climax and letting the audience have a respite before the final shock.
Maybe if you read it, look beyond the obvious and enjoy the book for all its worth
on 9 February 2013
"I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don't know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip."
American Psycho (1991) is a hallucinatory web of social satire spun by author Bret Easton Ellis about a psychopathic serial killer who works in Wall Street in the 1980s. The book examines the dark side effect of a society heavily absorbed in a life of passive consumerism and also its desensitisation to extreme violence through television. The magic of American Psycho is how the author manages to juxtapose these two threads seamlessly - "Dinner last night? At Splash. Not much to remember: a watery Bellini, soggy arugula salad, a sullen waitress. Afterwards I watched a repeat of an old Patty Winters Show that I found on what I originally thought was a videotape of the torture and subsequent murder of two escort girls from last spring (the topic was Tips on How Your Pet Can Become a Movie Star)." American Psycho is undoubtedly black comedy at it's finest, and perhaps darkest; told through a first person perspective it details the day to day life of Patrick Batemen, a 27 year old who works in mergers and acquisitions at a company called Pierce & Pierce. Bateman is described as being quite wealthy and yet he does absolutely no work throughout the book, and instead spends his time bouncing between extreme ultraviolence and repetitive social outings. His life is completely void of passion and involvement and he even becomes numb to his massacres, which increase in scale like a rising wave throughout the course of the story.
The book has been scolded by many - feminists especially - for its misogynist and overly violent nature, and saw the author with a mailbox full of death threats. It was also praised for its daring exploration of the dark recesses of the human psyche, a timeless case study of a human soul completely fractured and devoid of social morals and values. What Bret Easton Ellis accomplished with American Psycho was the literary birth of a true monster - a monster that could very well lurk in the hearts of all ordinary people. The novel uses social satire to hint that this monster exists as modern consumerism, obsession with work, and a blending in with the environment and inability to stand out as an individual, as evidenced by Batemen and his colleagues total inability to properly identify their co workers, and even other characters inability to identify Batemen - "Owen has mistaken me for Marcus Halberstam (even though Marcus is dating Cecelia Wagner) but for some reason it really doesn't matter and it seems a logical faux pas since Marcus works at P & P also, in fact does the same exact thing I do."
American Psycho is not pleasure reading (unless you're a sadist of course) but is gruelling and tough to swallow. It's hard to tell what is more torturous to read, pages upon pages of violent mutilation being described in vivid detail, or whole chapters dedicated to Batemen's rambling reviews of his favourite bands and musicians (Genesis, Whitney Houston, Huey Lewis and the News etc). The book, while highly entertaining, borders on formulaic, and can be quite repetitive in it's 'murder scene, dinner scene, murder scene, endless lists of what people are wearing, what the topic on the Patty Winters show is, murder scene' approach. The author loves to write the vilest, most disturbing stuff that could possibly exist in the human imagination, and then juxtapose it with something completely mundane, such as a long argument over what restaurant to get a reservation at. However, this is what American Psycho is all about, and to take this element of the book away would be to reduce it from a powerful social commentary into something Marquis De Sade would read on the toilet. The only reason the repetitive nature of the book bothers me is that a lot of it felt unnecessary. At 400 pages, the book is like a never ending story that feels as though it should've achieved it's goal in half the page length.
But perhaps the thing that disturbs me the most is how I eventually skimmed through most of the boring parts of the book and took my time reading the violent bits. I might even say the only reason I read and enjoyed American Psycho is because, like most people, I have a dark side, and it gets a thrill out of reading or watching things I would never do in real life. Why else do we read books or watch television if not to vicariously experience events outside our day to day routine? If nothing else, American Psycho might make you question your own reflection in the mirror.
on 20 February 2000
I read this book a few months ago and I thought it was one the best books I've ever read ... while that may disturb some people to know that such young people are reading books like this, I think that the younger generation seems more in touch with this book than the oldies. I was reading the reviews with a smile plastered on my face, seeing how many people had given it one or two stars because of it's excessive violence and brutality. It's gritty I admit but I wouldn't go as far to say that it turned my stomach.(It did for some of my friends who seemed kind of shocked when i showed certain sections to them. The book is know in circulation around my class.) I also think that the people who thought that the constant mention and descriptons of what people are dressed in the book were boring didn't quite get it. The constant name dropping was what the 80's was all about. It was a very materialistic world. What I most loved about the book is the way the real "goings on" hit you all of a sudden. Patrick seems like a normal guy but every once and a while he slips a little until suddenly the violence hits you when he commits the first heinous crime in the book. It's superb! The person who read it over 3 years and said that it was a chore was going about it the wrong way. You need to get into it. I read it in a week and a half and I'm certainly a hell of a lot younger than him. Some people will love this book and others will hate it. I for one love t and think that all the people who can cope with it should read it now! It's brill.