American Psycho American Psycho discussion


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Bateman's violence: All in his head?

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message 1: by Pam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pam After I read the novel, I couldn't quite decide whether Bateman actually tortures, mutilates, and kills people, or if he only THINKS he does those things.

There are plenty of little details that indicate he might just be imagining all of the violence (his maid cleaning up supposedly gory newspapers, the man-hunt that he supposedly escaped from, etc.) So many of these details just don't add up that it makes me think the violence was all fantasy, but that he believed it was reality.

But then again, what happened to Paul Owen? Why did the cab driver claim that he saw Bateman's face on a Wanted poster? Or was that in his head, too (he is an unreliable narrator, so it's not beyond question)?

Thoughts?


message 2: by Will (last edited Jul 21, 2012 07:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will IV Here's my opinion on the matter: it doesn't matter.

While my logical mind tells me they are in his head because of many other circumstances where outlandish, obviously fantastical events happen (see: "A Glimpse of a Thursday Afternoon," when Patrick knocks over a stand of fruits by accident, the Korean owner clutches his lapels and bursts into a song, and then Patrick proceeds to eats five whole vials of crack), it is ultimately missing the point of the novel to focus on the events being real or imagined.

Either way, the book serves as a critique of a culture, and in many ways, a critique of maleness and the observation of primitive morals when thrust into a society where wealth and material gains are more important than empathy or compassion, and where other people's thoughts and feelings are second to your own desires.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Will wrote: "Here's my opinion on the matter: it doesn't matter.

While my logical mind tells me they are in his head because of many other circumstances where outlandish, obviously fantastical events happen (..."


I am ecstatic that the very first reply to this question is that it doesn't matter. Focusing on the reality of the plot detracts from getting any valuable meaning from the rest of the text. It's a shell game to worry about the actuality of the murders. It's more important that Bateman thinks he's a killer than if Bateman is actually a killer.


message 4: by Pam (last edited Jul 21, 2012 08:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pam I'm not sure I agree. I think the overall meaning of the novel will be different depending on whether the actions are mental or physical. I think the "valuable meaning" gotten from the text will depend, to some extent, on whether Bateman is a murdering sociopath or an imaginative escapist.

If he's really a murderer, it's a harsher criticism of society, that he's allowed to get away with such heinous actions.

If he's an escapist and he's merely imagining those horrors, then it's more of an indictment of the social pressures that make him feel the need to escape into fantasy, especially one so gory.

There are plenty of messages in the text that don't depend on this distinction, but how the narrator is understood definitely does depend on this point. Sure, he's insane either way, but how we understand that insanity shifts.

My curiosity won't allow me to accept "it doesn't matter" as an answer to this issue. It just doesn't feel that way to me, but I'm not really sure why. If it's a pointless question to other readers, that's fine. I just thought it was an interesting aspect of the narrator's personality to explore.


J.B. Siewers wow, I read this book in the 90's and loved it but this makes me feel like i missed something big ! I have to go back and read it again ....Pam wrote: "After I read the novel, I couldn't quite decide whether Bateman actually tortures, mutilates, and kills people, or if he only THINKS he does those things.

There are plenty of little details that i..."



Zana This is the only book I've read by Ellis. As I was reading it, I believed it was only in his head, that everything (the drugs, the girls, the pressures of his job) was getting to him and he needed an outlet for his building pressure so he imagined killing these people.

I wanted to know what Ellis had said about it, if he'd said whether Bateman actually did it or not so I looked up some interviews by him and he said that he left it open for the reader to understand as they will. However, in some of his other books, (from what I've heard; I've not read them) Bateman is apparently mentioned as a serial killer.


message 7: by Will (last edited Jul 21, 2012 09:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will IV Pam wrote: "If he's really a murderer, it's a harsher criticism of society, that he's allowed to get away with such heinous actions.

If he's an escapist and he's merely imagining those horrors, then it's more of an indictment of the social pressures that make him feel the need to escape into fantasy, especially one so gory."


But you've hit the very mark here! If he explicitly stated one way, then the text loses some important meaning, and vice versa. By leaving it open to both, the author allows us to see the text as a critique of BOTH circumstances (i.e. "a harsher criticism of society, that he's allowed to get away with such heinous actions" and "an indictment of the social pressures that make him feel the need to escape into fantasy").

In this way, the author makes it clear that it doesn't matter, because one way or another, (he is or isn't a murderer), the text loses some of its meaning. But by leaving it open to both, we get more meaning out of the novel.


message 8: by Pam (last edited Jul 21, 2012 09:51AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pam Will wrote: "But you've hit the very mark here!"

This was my question in the first place, Will. Not which one is actually in the text, since Ellis left it deliberately vague, but which interpretation readers see in the novel. It's not that I was missing the point of the novel, I'm merely curious about how other readers interpret it, since it is unlikely that all readers will see both possibilities.

In other words, how a reader interprets the novel will dictate which of the two messages he/she walks away with, and I'm curious about which of the two interpretations has more followers.


Will IV I see what you mean.

I agree with macgregor in that the most important aspect is that Patrick Bateman thinks he's a killer. I think the most meaning can be gleaned from the novel from this perspective than focusing on whether he actually is or not.

My thoughts in the middle of reading it were that the acts were in his head, but that even so, because they play out in Bateman's mind as if they really did happen, no meaning is lost. It's still an effective critique of the society with the added message of social pressures pushing his psyche into unthinkable depths.


message 10: by Pam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pam Will wrote: "It's still an effective critique of the society with the added message of social pressures pushing his psyche into unthinkable depths. "

I like how you put this point, Will. Very apt.


Noetic_Hatter Great conversation!

My belief is that he does not actually commit the murders. The core message of the book -- to me -- is that the society in which Bateman lives forces any sense of true emotion to be crushed down and kept inside. He has no identity (see the fact that people confuse him with Halberstram and the fact that his lawyer doesn't even recognize him), and so he is forced to create one in his mind.

The terrifying thing, of course, is that these kinds of murders surely always begin as fantasies. If he has not killed, will he eventually?

And what is that saying about the souless, consumer culture that makes him that way? What is going on in other peoples' minds? And how are we to escape with our own souls intact?

Brilliant novel. (and I really like the film, too)


message 12: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will IV "The terrifying thing, of course, is that these kinds of murders surely always begin as fantasies. If he has not killed, will he eventually?"

That's a great point!


Noetic_Hatter Will wrote: "That's a great point!"

Thanks. I realize on re-reading that I may have oversimplified matters. I was really aiming for the idea that this soul-crushing world in which Bateman lives forces other kinds of outlets. And who's to say he won't kill, even if he hasn't yet? He certainly obsesses to a slightly unhealthy level.

That sort of world does not make us all killers, of course. But it does have the capacity to develop unhealthy antisocial patterns in our interactions. It dehumanizes.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Derrick wrote: "That sort of world does not make us all killers, of course. But it does have the capacity to develop unhealthy antisocial patterns in our interactions. It dehumanizes. "

To jump in here with some sources for you. You might enjoy reading Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle which is rather short, but illuminating treatise on the effect of mass culture's imagery on the psyche. As well, you would probably quite enjoy Theodor Adorno's work on what he calls The Culture Industry in which constant waves of mass produced culture numbs society into passivity, dehumanizing us. As well, Fredric Jameson, one of my personal favourites, who writes a lot on late capitalism and postmodernism. There are, in fact, a lot of critical thinkers in academia doing work in this type of thing that you might find very fascinating.


Noetic_Hatter macgregor wrote: "To jump in..."

Ta muchly! They look like fascinating reads, and I will definitely add them to my To-Read list.


Sparrowlicious Imho it's a common suggestion that the 'adventure' of a character is all in their head.
If you surf the internet long enough you'll always stumble over the theory that a character is mad or in a coma when they 'live through' whatever happens in their story.


message 17: by Joseph (new) - added it

Joseph J. Wood I never liked the idea that it was in his head. That opens the entire book up to question. In the end, it could be a guy who cleans windows fantasizing about the whole life he could have had. If you start questioning whether something's real, how do you know which bit to pick? Why would it be the violence that he makes up? Couldn't it be possible that the violence is real and he's fantasizing about having that job and those friends?

www.josephjwood.blogspot.co.uk


Sparrowlicious Joseph wrote: "I never liked the idea that it was in his head. That opens the entire book up to question. In the end, it could be a guy who cleans windows fantasizing about the whole life he could have had. If..."
Interesting interpretation. After all, no one believes him when he admits being a murderer.


Michael T I think what he did was real, it was the vapid heartless world he lived in that was real, aka the 1980's


Hannah I never even thought that everything that's happening is happening only in his head when I first read through the book - I just saw it all as people not caring enough or paying enough attention to see the very clear signs that were being put out. It wasn't until I watched the movie with a friend of mine that I started considering that other option. At the end, he turned to me and asked if I thought it was all imagined. I thought it was somewhat ridiculous at first but after mulling it over for a little bit it would make some sense.

I do like the idea of it not making any difference, but not as much as I like the idea of him actually committing the murders in real life. To me, that messages is a much stronger one. But that's the beauty of leaving it so ambiguous! You can make up your own mind about things. I just can't believe I didn't realize that the him being a serial killer was something that could be argued as never really happening.


message 21: by Nik (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nik macgregor wrote: "Derrick wrote: "That sort of world does not make us all killers, of course. But it does have the capacity to develop unhealthy antisocial patterns in our interactions. It dehumanizes. "

To jump in..."


It's a month on (almost exactly) but, if you have a mo', do you know who are the opposite of Debord, Adorno, Jameson?

Do you know what I mean? Critics who come from a different tradition and who stand four-square opposite to what these guys are into?


Steph When I read the book, I thought that the ignorance of his obvious crimes was due to his social standing. All over the world today rich powerful men get away with crimes because they make it so hard to convict them. Good money will buy you a good legal team, which lets you play the system. Since the people who were immediately involved with his crimes, such as the prostitutes who escaped and his maid are below him socially, so he has the power. What real good would his maid tipping the police do? They could build a case, but a man with Patrick Batemens money would be difficult to convict, and she could possibly loose her job. If the prostitutes went to the police, they would have to admit their felony which put them in that situation. I think the police chase and the cab driver saying that he saw him on a wanted poster was his own paranoia, and I think that Ellis was further promoting the idea that all the yuppies looked the same. I thought that Ellis was demonstrating that the power he held kept him free of charges, and demonstrating the evils behind typical blue collar people. This book made me look at the people I know a little differently, because you never know who's a serial murder under it all. Yet, reading other thoughts I have to say that I agree with both arguments, I think this book was designed to spark conversation and make you look further into the world around you, and in that I feel that it has done its purpose.


message 23: by Joe (new)

Joe A quote from an interview with director Mary Harron: "Harron ultimately felt that she had gone too far with the hallucinatory approach. In an interview with Charlie Rose, she stated that she felt she had failed with the end of the film because she led audiences to believe the murders were only in his imagination, which was not what she wanted. Instead, she wanted ambiguity; "One thing I think is a failure on my part is people keep coming out of the film thinking that it's all a dream, and I never intended that. All I wanted was to be ambiguous in the way that the book was. I think it's a failure of mine in the final scene because I just got the emphasis wrong. I should have left it more open ended. It makes it look like it was all in his head, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not"


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Nik wrote: "It's a month on (almost exactly) but, if you have a mo', do you know who are the opposite of Debord, Adorno, Jameson?

Do you know what I mean? Critics who come from a different tradition and who stand four-square opposite to what these guys are into? "


Well... no I don't know what you mean. Adorno and Jameson are working within schools of Marxist thought, so I suppose a totally opposite thinker would be like a Randian or a financially conservative thinker? I have to admit that I'm at a loss to provide alternatives! It's simply my ignorance!


message 25: by Emma (new) - rated it 3 stars

Emma I love threads like this, it’s great to see what other people get from open texts. I read this quite some time ago, along with a couple other of Ellis's texts. All of which I struggled to read, made me furious and then pulled me into read another.

Personally, I believed it was all real for the majority of the book. This was probably a choice on my part as I have always found it very interesting that as a society we have no fear of authors like Ellis along with other gruesome thinkers such as the makers of body-horror films, who are able to fantasise in detail about such macabre outcomes and share those thoughts with the world without being questioned or considered dangerous-minded, but instead be accepted as part of modern-culture, art-wise. Therefore, the idea that he is actually cold enough to not only fantasise about these actions, but carry them out with such cunning and malice was more terrifying and interesting to me than someone who fantasises about extreme death. At the end of the day, his fantasising about this horrific events would make him no more disturbed than the author, who let’s face it, thought of them first.

I then changed my opinion around quite suddenly in the last third of the book, probably in the space of a page or two. The book itself slipped (for me) from horrifying and hard to read, to tongue in cheek and almost humorous. I felt the pace changed when his paranoia heavily kicked in and that both the character of Patrick and his actions became far too ludicrous to be real and not in his head. Once I came away from the novel, it occurred to me that quite possibly the character and the book itself didn’t actually change too much, but instead my attitude towards the material I was reading did.

I realised that this is most likely Ellis's intention; the idea that we become so desensitised to horror and evilness that it becomes almost humorous and has an unreal nature to it. And that different people probably had a similar thought process but at different points in the book depending on their level of cynicism, insight or how much they are already desensitised to this type of material. I am sure this book is Ellis’s nod to the effects of the media on society in general (news, film, etc and the ongoing arguments about realistic violent computer games) and whether or not our constant bombardment of gruesome and cruel images makes us numb to all those things in the world that should make our guts crawl.

I hope this all made sense :S


Gregory Rothbard Will wrote: "I see what you mean.

I agree with macgregor in that the most important aspect is that Patrick Bateman thinks he's a killer. I think the most meaning can be gleaned from the novel from this perspe..."


I like your critique... I also think that he is dealing with Imperialism and our notions of coming out of the American (u.S.) Imperial Age!


Gregory Rothbard Derrick wrote: "Great conversation!

My belief is that he does not actually commit the murders. The core message of the book -- to me -- is that the society in which Bateman lives forces any sense of true emotion ..."


When I told people, in high school, this was my favorite book they gasped. I was scoffed. But I still think this book deserves to be in my top ten books of all time. The rawness of the book is what gets me.


Gregory Rothbard Emma wrote: "I love threads like this, it’s great to see what other people get from open texts. I read this quite some time ago, along with a couple other of Ellis's texts. All of which I struggled to read, ma..."

You made perfect sense... To bad Ellis has not written a book at this level so far again. I keep hoping for one of his books to grab ahold of me. I was disappointed with Imperial Bedrooms and bought the first edition not waiting for the paperback. I was so disappointed in that book that I gave it to the library for their friends sale. I still think American Psycho should be in my top ten books of all time.


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Gregory wrote: "Emma wrote: "I love threads like this, it’s great to see what other people get from open texts. I read this quite some time ago, along with a couple other of Ellis's texts. All of which I struggle..."

Lunar Park is quite good. Same sort of textual complexity, but with a more human theme.


message 30: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul Harris Let's get one thing clear, it's far too reductionist to simply ask whether or not the violence is 'real'. It's certainly not 'realistic' but the question of whether it takes place in 'the Real' or 'reality' is again troubled by the implications using such terms brings. The violence is, for Bateman, Real: at least insofar as Lacan conceived of it as being not synonymous with traditional concepts of reality but neither is is entirely an imaginary state. The reason why the question of whether or not Bateman's violence is 'in his head' is fundamentally different to that of 'is it real?'. In a Lacanian sense, everything he does takes place in the order of the Real. It is not a symbolic gesture as the detail is too great for that, however, this does not mean that his account of what he does is entirely fictional (insofar as it is fiction within fiction - the entire novel of course, being fiction). The matter which is at hand is thus, when we envision ourselves committing an action, does it then become real for us? And, especially in the case of a novel such as this, does it matter what impact our thought process has upon those with whom we interact?

I would argue that, on one level, everything we get in the novel takes place 'in Bateman's head' this is because we only get his perspective on what is happening and this naturally means that everything we read is taking place inside of his head. Whether or not things 'literally' happen is perhaps a better way of posing the original question. As this seems to be addressing the degree to which things take place within the space that everyone is aware of. The nature of Ellis' work is that to worry about dividing up what happens 'for real' and that which only happens 'within the mind of the protagonist' is arguably futile and misses the point of what Ellis' is trying to achieve.

Ellis' characters or often consumerist, materialist and narcissistic to the point of being parodic. However, this does enable me to make a key point: they construct their own identity out of 'things' literal, 'things'. They do not have their own sense of identity outside of these material objects and are therefore lost without them. Consider the scene in American Psycho where they compare business cards or the numerous references to beauty products made by Patrick. Everything which he is doing is a process designed to make him feel 'connected' with a world which is increasingly 'imaginary'. It is a world where people are forced to make tangible connections between objects and reassert their sense of self-worth through the constant consumption of whatever it is that they are surrounded by. They do not exist in reality, but in a world which they have imagined for themselves.

Clearly there are some aspects of the novels more unpleasant sections that feel patently unrealistic when put in any normal context. I can't fathom how a rat could really do what it does, neither can I see someone being allowed to disembowel a dog on the street, blind a homeless man or be talked to by an ATM . Therefore, these things are most definitely 'absurd' but, the fact that Patrick is so sure that they happen makes them Real. They are as real as any other experience because they are felt by the person who goes through them.

I don't want to reduce this novel to being another 'Jacob's Ladder' as I don't think it's that straightforward. I would always encourage people away from falling down on either side of the argument too quickly as this simply closes off too many interesting Avenue's without giving then the proper time of day. The world of American Psycho is not our world, it exists within the novel and although there are similarities between *our* 1980's and the 1980's of Patrick Bateman, they are not synonymous. It is therefore, entirely possible that within this version of reality all of these things happen and for whatever reason they do not have comparable consequences to what would happen for us. The Real of the novel is Patrick Bateman's Real, it is both Imaginary and Symbolic - ultimately though, it is a paranoid space: "the essential object which is not an object any longer, but this something faced with which all words cease and all categories fail, the object of anxiety par excellence." (Lacan)

My personal view of the text is that not only is it ingenious, but it is also hilarious. Bateman is repulsive yet idealised. He lives out all of his desires yet in doing so finds himself unsatisfied. As a reader we are granted access to those thoughts which he deemed worthy enough to share with us. There are aspects of his lifestyle which people envy and those by which they repulsed. The movie adaption made him into too much of a caricature, it drew too heavily on 'A Clockwork Orange' and, in my opinion, was too heavy handed in putting across it's perspective that 'it's all a dream'.

Everything which happens, happens for Real, precisely because it happens in his head.


message 31: by Alex. (new)

Alex. Hello,

It's certainly an interesting topic of discussion. What is interesting is that there seems to be a 50/50 divide between "it was fantasy" and "it really happened". And then on each side I find mild views and I also find some in-depth views, most of which are valid and interesting. However, I'd like to discuss two points of view from my opinion:

--> None of it was real: it all happened in his head.

In some ways we're all guilty of this. We hear something on the news and think, "what a so-and-so, if I had a small room and a piece of hose, I'd teach him a few things." Taking that concept, AND coupled with the fact that Patrick was suffering from OCD (take, for example, his morning procedure, how many push ups, what he washes his faces with and in what order, for how etc), he could have taken the "killer thoughts" to a point in his mind where he organised, step by step, each bit of "punishment" he would mete out - in his mind.

I've had moments where I've taken someone apart piecemeal in my mind and felt perfectly fine for doing so, in my head. But in reality, that person is still alive and I've addressed my anger-management issue and walked away contented.

Perhaps all this was the same thing that happened to Patrick, with the exception that he believed his "day dream" and only realised towards the end that nothing actually happened but believes everything really did happen. Perhaps in the last moments he was trying to make sense of everything but losing it ....

--> All of it was real, nothing was imagined.

Patrick went and killed all of them exactly as described. It may have been a form of release for him as he may have felt a prisoner of his own OCD. I'm not a doctor by any means, nor profess to be one - but that's just my two cents worth.

According to James Ellroy, certain people can disappear really well without much suspicion. Based on some of the character types in the book, some are prostitutes (who disappear apparently all the time, a part of the nature of their work, apparently), other office types may have just run away (unlikely but then 30,000 people disappear in Australia every year - people of all types), and then there's the rich.

The rich have their image, reputations and status to protect. All those murders did happen but as was indicated by the landlord (I think, pardon), they didn't want any trouble from anyone. So, having found trouble in the form of Patrick, the rich do what they can and effectively sanitise everything about Patrick in order to keep their status in society. Their concern about bringing Patrick to justice is very remote.

Thoughts?


message 32: by Will (last edited Nov 27, 2012 08:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will IV Alexander wrote: "Thoughts?"

My problem with settling on "All of it was real, nothing was imagined" is how to explain the fantasy sequences. And I'm referring to the sequences that are obviously fantasy, e.g., Patrick clutches the labels of a fruit vendor after crashing into his stand, breaks into a song, and then eats several vials of crack (which one who is not already addicted to it could not conceivably survive without inducing vomit or having their stomach pumped).

Once one sees that there are obviously fantastical parts, how do you separate which parts are fantasy and which are not? Obviously, the author wished us to question this, and in turn, the question itself informs us about Patrick and his untold (from his perspective) battle with separating fantasy from reality. I think this was part the author's insight into the culture and into the human condition itself.

That said, I stick with my response in message 2, that the real answer is: it doesn't matter.


Jonathan Dennis I think it matters and I've also believed it's all supposed to be real at least as far as Patrick Bateman's concerned. That said I reserve the right to modify my view next time I read the book.


message 34: by Alex. (new)

Alex. Will wrote: "Alexander wrote: "Thoughts?"

My problem with settling on "All of it was real, nothing was imagined" is how to explain the fantasy sequences. And I'm referring to the sequences that are obviously f..."


I like that response. I also like Jonathon's response in the sense that, well *I* will reread the book again (no problem, am looking forward to the Music Review section - an entire chapter!!) and keep in mind all of this and comment appropriately.

Mind, any excuse to reread the book, right? ;-)


Jonathan Dennis Agreed, I haven't read anything by Ellis that comes close to the quality and power of the writing in American Psycho.


message 36: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will IV Jonathan wrote: "I think it matters and I've also believed it's all supposed to be real at least as far as Patrick Bateman's concerned. "

That's sort of what I mean when I say it doesn't matter. It's real as far as Bateman is concerned and that's what matters.

Jonathan wrote: "Agreed, I haven't read anything by Ellis that comes close to the quality and power of the writing in American Psycho."

I haven't read anything else by him full stop. This one was so good I will definitely get around to at least checking out some of his other books, though.


Jonathan Dennis Will, I can't recommend anything else by Bret Easton Ellis sadly but Deliverance by James Dickey, although a very different book, has writing that is equally powerful and shocking so can I suggest that instead? I'm sure you'd enjoy it immensely.
As for the debate around whether it not it matters if Bateman's life is real or fantasy I think my view that it DOES matter comes from my position as a writer rather than a reader. I've been through a period when writin where I asked myself if I should make my story 'fantasy' or at least interpretable as such and part of me just concluded that that would be a cop-out.
That said Ellis may have always written with something like that in mind so I'm not sure how much that adds!
Bottom line is American Psycho is a phenomenally well crafted piece of writing.


Bernie Dowling I prefer to think Bateman did commit the murders. The murders become allegorical in keeping with the general tone of the novel. If Bateman imagines all the murders, they become psychological and to my mind less satisfying as a literary device.


Lorenzo Marks Didn't quite understand the chapters about the rock groups. (Whitney,Genesis,Huey Lewis etc.) Were they supposed to be there, or was it an editorial mistake?


Brock Yarbro The chapters on music I basically skipped. As for the violence I think Bateman did it. Everyone seemed too self involved to notice things around them. Everyone looks alike so no one stands out. I like the chapter about the Thursday afternoon where he basically runs around like a madman and pukes on someone, but they keep talking!


Daniel Reading it, I thought he was committing the murders up until the chapter with the pursuit from the SWAT team and the police where he starts to show the most prominent elements of duality between his real self and his imaginary self. Then it all became clear that the fake Bateman, the film-star/celebrity/model is the one that's committing the murders as the films Bateman enjoys are all these kind of films, gory horrors, etc and its all in his head.

However, you can interpret it two ways, Paul Owen might very well have gone to London as the lawyer says he's had a meal with him. Whilst the lawyer isn't particularly reliable given he doesn't know its Patrick (you could argue the opposite that the lawyer's confused him with someone else). Note how the private investigator disappears, it also explains the problem with the apartment and how everything disappeared (again, you could argue that his parents and family have covered it up, hence the hostile estate agent).

Then there's the poster, well, its pretty much drummed into the reader that everyone looks the same, Bateman wants to fit in and becomes the perfect identkit 'yuppie', so its probably someone that looks like him.

Another bit of support for the dream idea is the constant drugs he's taking, he's probably tripping for about half the book. This is evidenced by the part where he's wandering around the city all weird and confused with the chapter just cutting out with no explanation - like waking up from a dream or cutting from place to place.

All in all, I'm so amazed by the depth and scope of this novel. It's quickly become one of my favourites after being such a slow-burner.

As for the reviews of the bands such as Huey Lewis and Genesis, this is the satire element coming through, giving an insight into Bateman's mind. It shows how Bateman is fitting into the perfect stereotypical '80s' ideal of very 80s bands and artists. It also shows how truly he doesn't really fit in, as these groups were often laughed at for being commercial and uncool, Bateman notes that the commercial nature of Phil Collins made him more satisfying.

This also ties in with the consumerist commercialist ideal of the novel which Ellis is criticising.

In short, a brilliant piece of literature.


Daniel Emma wrote: "The book itself slipped (for me) from horrifying and hard to read, to tongue in cheek and almost humorous."

It's funny you mention this as I felt exactly the same, I felt terrible for laughing at how grotesquely ridiculous the whole starved-rat scene was. Then, when I read it to people out of context, they were horrified that I could read that. But, that's one of the things with this book, the constant, progressively worse torture scenes build you up so that by the end it becomes part of the joke that you're used to, like the black humour of the trenches in World War 1, and the book's running gags like "I need to return some videos"


Stephanie I felt like this novel had a Gatsbyesque quality. Did anyone else on this thread feel that way?


message 44: by Jet (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jet Will wrote: "Alexander wrote: "Thoughts?"

My problem with settling on "All of it was real, nothing was imagined" is how to explain the fantasy sequences. And I'm referring to the sequences that are obviously f..."


Most of you seem to be hung up on the fact that it has to be an either/or. I have to admit while I was reading the book, there were some instances which made me doubt the realism. However, after seeing the movie and reading the book I have come to the conclusion that it is both.

Think about it, we all have fantasies. Just like a painter may have fantasies of paintings he has never painted, a serial killer can have fantasies of murders he has not commmited. I believe that some of the murders really did happen and then some others (mostly near the end) like the cop chase may have been in his head as a result of his ongoing paranoia and drug abuse (also some of which were in his head).

With that being said I don't believe that this was the point of the book and as the first poster said "It doesn't matter". The fact is, Pat Bateman is terminally ill but not just that, the world around him is and he is just a product of his environment (a very homogeneous, materialistic and egocentric environment).


Marie It has been several years since I read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The last parts of the book really were off putting in that it made little sense. I just figured that Ellis needed to work on his writing style, he was all over the place at the end. He showed some signs of poor writing during the novel due to the detailed rants about particular singers that Patrick liked.

I tried summing it up to him just showing how disturbed Patrick's mind was but it could be a sign of poor writing.

All the killing may in fact be in all in Patrick's mind but there are many serial killers who get away from the law so it could just as well all be real. Then again I still think it may just be a sign of holes in Ellis's writing.


Sarah I was in the "for real" camp until the jolting moment when the narrative switched from the first person to the third person and then jolted back just as suddenly. That's when I started to feel as dislocated as I thought Bateman must be. We can never really know if the murders had any reality outside Bateman's head as Bateman himself is left not knowing for sure - he knows that he killed Paul Owen yet he's talking to a character who has since dined with him twice in London.

The nature of surface appearance, underlying reality and the value we place on both is a running theme throughout the book. Bateman knows the price and provenance of every item named and described while showing no inkling of the true value of any of them, the same would seem to appear to life as much as the material objects that pass before him. And Huey Lewis And The News.


Leland Pitts-Gonzalez I think it's about what Bateman unveils from within: violence in-line with the 'ugliness' around him. He believes it, and so should we.

"From some forgotten box under Patrick Bateman's bed comes this rat rod of a novel: ragged, supercharged and wildly inappropriate."--Grace Krilanovich (author of The Orange Eats Creeps)
The Blood Poetry by Leland Pitts-Gonzalez


message 48: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will IV Jonathan wrote: "Will, I can't recommend anything else by Bret Easton Ellis sadly but Deliverance by James Dickey, although a very different book, has writing that is equally powerful and shocking so can I suggest that instead? I'm sure you'd enjoy it immensel"

Thanks for the book recommendation. I will check it out!


message 49: by Marc (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc Brown ....it may be nothing more than a brutally honest metaphor from Ellis ...it's a cut throat world we live in and you must make your mark to be remembered.

as Ellis has done with this story....it's brutal and messed up but it stays with you...he's 'made' himself with this book. Pushing the boundaries and extremeties of life will always leave a mark on society.


Jordan I found myself unwilling to believe some of the things that Bateman told us about himself and his life in the novel. I find his whole account of every affair unreliable (and not just the murders themselves). I've read that some people believe his murderous comments casually dropped in to conversation as a statement about the self-absorbed nature of American society, and whilst I still take that as something the author wanted us to infer, I also believe that we are being shown Bateman's delusional, idealistic view of how his interactions are occurring. His drops of conversation aren't actually spoken sentiments, but his mind detailing the scenario as he wish it had gone, with himself saying what he really wish he could say.

Particularly towards the very end of the novel, I felt quite sure that his image wasn't nearly as pleasing (at least to himself) as it actually was - that he wasn't living as classy a life with as much money, dinners, drugs and sex as he can get through. He is definitely a psychopath. I think that his account of his life is severely skewed by his delusions of grandeur. The murders were a fiction spun by the wants of his mind, and that he is not just lying, but believes his account is (at least almost) entirely accurate. A big indicator for me was in all of the public ones murders - that they are entirely implausible. Witnesses, blood etc. all state that he would be at least questioned by the police (who seemed to just shun him away from a child who had bled to death underneath him). He slits a bum's eyes and has so little blood on him that he can simply stroll into McDonald's, and a customer takes precedence over a bloodied man with a smug look on his face?

His interactions with women also seemed unreal to me. Not impossible, of course, but they always begin so well. Perfectly, actually. He has willing participants for a threesome, he can get as much as he likes and then they fall asleep quietly and calmly in his eyes? What a night! But that's only where the fun apparently begins. I rather think that he doesn't experience any of this. He tells us of his playboy lifestyle in which he can get with any woman he wants, and do anything he wants to her, but I do not find myself convinced of much (or any) truth in his words.

Notice that even in the beginning, people always seem to be one-upping him. The man who can
afford anything, get reservations anywhere, is made jealous by people with better things. The man doesn't even have a tanning bed! And it seems ludicrous to me that the man who can apparently get reservations anywhere can't, over the course of the entire book (which spans, what? Nearly two years?), get a reservation to his most desired restaurant. And of course, there's Paul Owen. We receive word that he is in fact alive and well in London, which is supposed to be taken Bateman's lawyer covering for him. I'm more inclined to believe that he really IS alive and well.

Luis Carruthers is an interesting point. Is he really a mistaken man, who took Bateman's murder attempt the wrong way? I could believe that Luis somehow mistook their first interaction the wrong way, but wouldn't he get the point after that? Bateman's murders seem to have been going on for a while before the novel, which I take as his delusions going on for a while before the novel. I think that Bateman has had some past gay experiences with Luis, but is deeply in denial about them. He tells us about interactions which are incredibly heterosexual - handsome women crawling over him, threesomes with said women etc., but I feel as though he's just trying to cover up this nature - another attempt at lying to us. His womanising persona to us and those around him is him lying to himself.

One questionable aspect of my interpretation is his interaction with the cab driver who tells Bateman he killed Solly (or is it Sully? Google won't give me a clear answer as I try to recall). I do, once again, believe that Bateman's account of this event is fictitious. Whatever happened during that moment - whether a cab driver saw a severely mentally ill man and took advantage, or whether the scenario was entirely fabricated by Bateman - we know that in the aftermath, everything was fine. He wasn't concerned about the event. He didn't suffer financially. In fact, he even had the exact same kind of Rolex (thanks to 'insurance' - sure, Bateman, sure).

In conclusion, I believe Bateman is the most unreliable of narrators, almost an author penned by an author. For all we can be sure of in the end, P&P might ACTUALLY be a shoe shop.


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