American Psycho (Picador thirty) Paperback – 6 Sep 2002
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Brett Easton Ellis established a reputation as the enfant terrible of American fiction in the 1980s with his controversial novel Less than Zero, but with the publication of American Psycho he became established as one of the most notorious and reviled novelists currently writing. American Psycho deserves its controversy. The novel opens with a sign scrawled above a New York subway station: "Abandon hope all ye who enter". So begins a hellish descent into the world of Patrick Bateman, the novel's protagonist. Bateman is a handsome 26-year-old Wall Street yuppie, who spends his days listening to Whitney Houston and working out which exclusive restaurant to eat in and what clothes to wear in a dizzying parody of 1980s consumerism run mad.
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.
'A serious, clever and shatteringly effective piece of writing... For its savagely coherent picture of a society lethally addicted to blandness, it should be judged by the highest standards' SUNDAY TIMESSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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?Read more ›
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.
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").Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As other have mentioned, too much detail on what people are wearing and the mention of designer labels from the 80s. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Allana Farr
Last read in 2005, and now re-read as part of a chronological reading of all of Bret Easton Ellis's novels up to 'Lunar Park' in order to appreciate the latter novel and to have a... Read morePublished 29 days ago by P. J. T. Brown
Great book written so interestingly. The author uses his copy to take you through the emotions on the protagonist and author.Published 1 month ago by Penny-Jane
Not one for the faint-hearted but, in all seriousness, one of the funniest and most enjoyable books I've ever read.Published 2 months ago by Andrew from Aberdeen
IINTIMIDATED BY WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW ABOUT THE BOOK, I PUT OFF. READING IT FOR TOO MANY YEARS. IT IS A TRULY GREAT READPublished 2 months ago by Sean Bennett
A must read but don't read while your eating a tuna sandwich. Movie/book translation is great too. It's a fantastic price of literature.Published 3 months ago by Jordan