Ray's Reviews > American Psycho

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
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's review
Jan 10, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: novels, favorites, junkie-lit, bret-e, audio

Upon recently listening to the audiobook version (which still very much deserves 5 stars, extremely good acting and interesting to get another version differing from Bale's voice you can't help but hear when you read), I have some new perspectives and dare suspect I may have this infamous tome figured out.

In recent interviews with Mr. Ellis, he has repeatedly said that this is his most autobiographical novel. More than Less Than Zero and Lunar Park even! What does that mean? Obviously he was deep in the 80s Manhattanite yuppie scene, but he wasn't a spoiled Wall Street guy and he obviously wasn't a killer (or so we hope).

I've always concluded that the ambiguity proves that it wasn't just a gore novel about a killer. Now I'm sure of it. Hope this isn't a spoiler, but now I am quite convinced that Patrick Bateman - that greatest unreliable narrator in literary history - was not really a serial killer. There is the way he keeps getting away with it, even at the zoo, even the ridiculous 'Chase, Manhattan' chapter, and of course the ending with the lawyer and is Paul Owen in London or not??

Basically, I think this was autobiographical in this sense: Bret Easton Ellis was a successful man in New York in the 1980s, and he had trendy friends and did everything the consumerist magazines said to be a happy person, and he was apparently in the unhappiest darkest state of his life. I believe this is a novel about a man in this position, who just goes through the motions in life and just imagines the most terrible things he can possibly imagine.

Haven't you ever done that? Dark thoughts creep in, you are acting like its all okay and doing a damn good job of acting like that - and then those sadistic horrifying images pop into your head. You can't help it, right? Everybody does that sometimes. What if we are seemingly big successes like Patrick Bateman or Bret Easton Ellis, and just do that all the time? Every moment slipping away and unable to stop fantasying about the worst possible scenarios, the most cynical thoughts about everyone we personally know and all the empty people in the background, and the most insane thing of all is that nobody knows and nobody would believe it and it all has no apparent affect on the world outside. And that's why Bateman always improbably gets away with it, that's kind of the point.

Just my latest take. It also struck me on revisiting how funny much of the novel is. It is always at least a bit dark, but certain scenes make you laugh out loud. Then it consecutively gets darker and darker and you are left forgetting the Patty Winters synopses and endless examples of people mistaking each other cuz they're all so interchangeable and the NYU "homeless" student and the models who think comet is a planet...

The Christie scenes and child at zoo part are particularly haunting. Also, the chapter 'End of the 1980s' is not violent at all but just such powerful writing that you cannot help but stay away with the lines reverberating in your head for days afterward.

Right at the very end, by the way gets even more unreliably a fantasy, with the Patty Winters show featuring an eloquent bigfoot and Patrick finds bones in his Dove bar.

Still, the funniest aspect of all is how Bateman never ever does any work. With the meticulous research Ellis did in seemingly memorizing all GQ issues and fashion catalogs ever published, it is obviously a major statement that Bateman never works. It could have been about a more obvious critique of capitalism and the business lifestyle, but it was even deeper in that these guys all spent money and not once did anything to make money.

Now on to Glamorama again, what did that all mean...?

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