By Bret Easton Ellis
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780679735779, 1991, 416pp.)
The Short of It:
Highly stylized, sophisticated and gruesome.
The Rest of It:
I read this one as part of the Dueling Monsters challenge. Having read its competitor, Red Dragon years ago…I expected American Psycho to be a walk in the park. I don’t think I could have been more wrong.
The book opens innocently enough and to be fair, the dastardly deeds don’t even begin until several chapters in, but what you get by way of introduction is that Patrick Bateman, with all his yuppiness and OCD tendencies is a piece of work.
Each chapter begins with a paragraph long description of what Bateman is wearing, along with what everyone else is wearing. All the designer labels are represented here as well as every household brand you can possibly imagine. The story takes place in the 80’s and Ellis makes sure you know this by dedicating entire chapters to the music of that time. As frustrating as these constructs were, they did serve their purpose because for every mundane entry, there is a gruesome counterpart and if it weren’t for those well-placed breaks, I’d have given up on it.
Patrick Bateman is one sick puppy, but at the same time he’s smart and dare I say it? Charming? Yes, he is that and the women seem to know it. Both the women in his immediate circle, as well as the prostitutes he picks up to satisfy his thirst for blood. He’s a modern-day vampire except he has better clothes, a tan and perfect teeth. There were times where I thought him to be quite funny. His days are spent on Wall Street doing what, I really have no idea; he does very little in the way of work, but at night it’s one posh restaurant after another and it all happens after much conversation over who has the better reservation and whether or not that restaurant has easy access to drugs. These parts were highly amusing. And although he has a thing for the ladies, he does not discriminate.
In between the partying, there is horror. Lots of it. Bateman’s need for human blood and flesh is not easily controlled. At times, he openly admits to his horrible deeds, yet no one takes him seriously when he admits it. After having his way with his victims, he tortures them mercilessly in the most horrific ways possible and sometimes he kills them. Other times, he just pays them more to endure it. These scenes are incredibly graphic and I have an iron stomach. At one point, I told another blogger that I sort of liked Bateman. Then, I read a chapter that I could not “unsee” once I had read it and I immediately went on Twitter and told her I was out of my mind for saying what I did.
To give you an idea of the torturous acts he performs, here is a tiny list that doesn’t even go into the real depravity contained within its pages:
- Stabbing homeless people and then hurting their dogs
- Inserting live animals into body orifices while the victim is alive
- Utilizing tools such as drills and nail scissors to mutilate and cause pain
- Hooking up car batteries to various parts of the body (while alive)
- Using a Bic lighter to boil someone’s eyeballs (yes, while alive)
And that my friends, is just a small taste of what Ellis cooks up for Bateman and his victims and I haven’t even mentioned the sex scenes which are very detailed and include penetration into every possible orifice imaginable.
I was literally shaking when I finished the book. I saw those images for DAYS, weeks even. I could not get them out of my mind and what troubled me the most is that Ellis actually thought this stuff up. The last 100 pages were incredibly hard to read but I felt as if I had to know how it turned out, and having finished the book, I can say that the ending does not surprise me.
I am conflicted over this one because it was highly disturbing to read, yet at the same time, I was fascinated by Bateman. I wanted to get into his head and Ellis provides lots of opportunities for that. In fact, there were some moments where I really felt as if Bateman wanted to be caught. That he too, felt badly about the outcome of his trysts and that in his own way, he missed those women. I guess it’s that “charm” thing coming through again. I’m not sure.
One thing that is for sure, is that this book has a huge following. After talking about it on Twitter with some of the other bloggers, a guy with the name Bateman started following us! That totally freaked me out. Reading about a serial killer as twisted as Bateman, and then some random guy with the same name starts following you?? I almost stopped tweeting about it at that point.
In addition to the book, a movie was made which stars Christian Bale and a bunch of others including Reese Witherspoon. I’m not sure I can work up the courage to see the movie but I have to admit, I am a little curious to see how it was done.
If you have a weak stomach, this book is definitely not for you but if you appreciate dry humor, pokes at consumerism and love a good psychological thriller, you might be okay with it. Just know that you will NEVER “unsee” the scenes portrayed in the book. Weeks ago, I was stuffing a roast with garlic and what I thought about while doing it, was what it would be like to stuff garlic into a dead body. Seriously. How wrong is that?
Pitting Bateman against Hannibal, I’d say Bateman wins hands down. It’s not even a fair match, if you ask me.
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