Ashley's Reviews > American Psycho

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
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's review
Jan 03, 2008

really liked it
Recommended to Ashley by: Drunken Book Group
Read in January, 2008

** spoiler alert ** Surprisingly good!

I didn't want to read this and after about 3 pages I was a hair away from putting it down (if there's one thing I can't stand to read, it's about fashion)... But I kept on and really took a liking to it. Yes, it is obscene (for lack of a better word), with a nearly relentless barrage of misanthropic, misogynistic violence. The brutally explicit detail of sex and murders (apart and combined) are almost ridiculous in their excessiveness (the Rat scene was even a bit hard to get through). As is the name-brand by name-brand description of everyones outfits! What makes it work is its message. Though certainly a bit heavy handed in the delivery, this book is a biting criticism of the banality of success and wealth and conformity and consumerism. And how trying to fit in with that drove a young man past the brink of sanity.

Pat Bateman is a young, handsome and quite rather successful Wall Street fellow. Harvard, condo, wealth, "taste", beautiful friends (and women), arrogant and confident yet... There is something amiss. Somewhere deep inside it is apparent that these elitist snotty friends and their lives that they lead are so hollow, insubstantial and fake that there is a part of him that needs to break out, to break free of this reality of theirs in which the only things that they value are things that are really of no value (the brand of suit you wear, how hip your lunch spot is, having the right friends...). Under the stress of maintaining his facade and dealing with these people and his life, his mind starts to unravel. Pat hits a point where he starts killing people, reacting to the terribleness of his own shallow existence, in an attempt to find something that makes him feel alive amidst such a dead life.

Soon it becomes apparent that he's not so much becoming a homicidal maniac as that he is losing his mind. Inside his insanity, he can concoct a superhuman ability for violence and as it fails to satisfy him, it grows as he imagines himself to be an unstoppable and uncatchable madman. As he is generally unable to separate his fantasies from reality, his life becomes a mess. And as his mind falters more and more, his delusions get more and more violent, passing the believability mark and continuing down from there. By the end of the book, the scenes he has concocted are almost cartoonish in nature.

The tricky thing is the heavy-handedness of the delivery. For 380 pages, the banality of these people and the violence and frustration in his mind is all just thrown at you over and over. While it is hard to take (in oh so many ways), I think that this is necessary to the point of the book. To really express his inner terror at the superficial person he has made himself and the "tasteful" life that he leads on the outside, we have to come face to face with the boring barrage of idiocy and shallowness that is his environment.

As he says, he is just trying to fit in, but fit in with something that is much less than he.
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08/21/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Lauryl I think our interpretations of Bateman's madness differ. The impression I took away was not so much that Bateman was "driven insane" by his need to fit in and thusly to murder, so much as he was and always had been a sociopath. The joke here is that his inherent pathology is so perfectly matched to the pathology of his surroundings (Wall Street in the 1980's) that he blends right in, and, when it comes down to it, nobody notices or cares. Bateman is part protagonist (his desperate attempts to do SOMETHING shocking enough to be noticed, to no avail), part allegory (his insanity is the insanity of an era).

Jamie Burt I agree with this first comment by Lauryl. His murders don't begin in the novel - they are alluded to as having been part of his life for some time. He even remembers raping one of his family's maids when he was 14 years old. I completely agree that Ellis is commenting on the completely materialistic shallow society Bateman is living in, people care more about their clothes than anything else on earth. Bateman can site and describe every single portion of the outfit of anyone in the room - down to the shoes and jewelry. He knows where they came from, who designed them, what they're made of, but he doesn't know (for sure) the names of the people he works with.

He is such a narcissist and hypocrite, criticizing Courtney for only liking him for his looks, but excusing her shallowness because she herself is so good-looking. Also he and his friends scoff at a group of models for discussing the proper ways to wear fur, while they themselves spend hours discussing how to wear a vest.

All of this contributes to his entitled, almost superhuman view of himself, being so exceptional that he has the power to take other people's lives. He can do it, so he does. No one cares - even when he tries to tell people about it. They are too busy making reservations.

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