American Psycho: Bret Easton Ellis

So guys I’m not drinking this week and on top of that I read this book and also it rained for like two days and I’M SUPPOSED TO BE LIVING IN A TROPICAL PARADISE so seriously I am feeling super serious.

Ok so this book has the briefest synopsis ever: shallow 90’s yuppie Patrick Bateman intersperses talking about designer clothes and wanky New York  restaurants with dismembering and brutally torturing his mostly female victims.

The most disturbing part of this book is when he talks about wearing a plaid suit with a cashmere tie WERE THE 90’S REALLY THIS DISGUSTING.  In all seriousness, the bloody murder scenes were pretty gruesome and rank. There is a point near the end where it looks like Bateman is going to be caught and brought to justice and I was all like “yeah! I fucking want a cliched and ‘happy’ ending to this book! I want Bateman to rot forever because he has AWFUL dress sense, shit taste in food, like Donald Trump, and murders loads of people!”

But of course it doesn’t go like that and supposedly he escapes and continues on his merry way, but after that chase scene the story becomes so disjointed, convoluted, nonsensical, that it hits you (me at least, sometimes I’m a bit slow) that was any of this actually happening? Was Bateman actually murdering people, or was it all just some elaborate fantasy? And he becomes a pathetic, vapid character, comical in his seriousness. Was he even a Wall Street banker? Maybe he’s just some homeless bum somewhere and equally as deluded about his choice of restaurants as about his choice of victims.

One of the biggest criticisms this book gets is that it’s alternatively skull-numbingly boring and gut-churningly gruesome, and I can see where that’s coming from. But what these critics don’t seem to realize is that without this odd juxtaposition, this book would not be what it is; it would not be as powerful. It is what it is because that’s the way it needed to be. Myself, I found the ‘boring’ bits at least as interesting as the gory bits. The Wall Street/yuppie lifestyle as odd and foreign as the serial murderer life. Like looking in windows on two opposite ends of the spectrum that nonetheless mesh in  some disturbing ways.

I’ve also heard Bateman described as a comic character, as pathetic as he is dangerous. (Or is he? Is he even as attractive as he says? Are women really falling all over him, as he says? His narrative becomes increasingly unreliable as the story goes on.) I didn’t really get this comic side of him on my first reading, but after I finished I was left with so much WHAAAA in my head I went back to have another look, and yes, I can see it.

Recommendation: Read it. Be prepared for gore and violence and misogyny and really awful dress sense. But be aware that Bateman probably isn’t what he’d like to be seen as. This book is tongue-in-cheek. Also, ignore the feminists who say reading it makes you anti-feminist. I’m pretty sure I like equal rights for women and men, so pretty sure I’m a feminist, and once I finished reading it I didn’t suddenly feel any urges to go out and rescind my right to vote or anything. Trying to keep people from reading something because it might change their ideas is just pure censorship, and I don’t stand for that.

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