Author: Bret Easton Ellis (novels consist of Less Than Zero and The Rules of Attraction, among others)
Publisher: Vintage, 1st edition (1991)
My own brief summary; The book is narrated by Patrick Bateman, a young man living in Manhattan during the late 80’s. He is a successful businessman who is indulgent, class conscience and parties excessively. To the observer, he is nearly flawless, perfect in every facet of his life. But to the reader, privy to his darkness... he is a serial killer.
The reason I chose to read this book was because of a blog post that someone had done, naming their top films based on books. American Psycho was one of them. Having seen the movie ages ago, I briefly remembered the general plot to the story. Never did I ever imagine, the book would go into such depth regarding the sickness that the main character harbored. There are many arguments behind this book and I will have to warn you, that if you attempt to read this book, understand it is very graphic. But as I found... you cannot take key scenes out of context. They are to be pondered as a whole and it is not until you get to the very end, can you truly appreciate this book. What started off as hatred for this character, this author... turned to adoration for a unique and politically poignant novel. This review may have to be broken up into sections so I can clearly gather my thoughts.
My review; To be honest, a short blog post will not do justice to this book. It is so deeply convoluted, that I truly believe only the author can really explain his intent behind the character. But, I will do my best.
On the surface, you’ll find the first part of the book really mundane. I mean, REALLY dry. Narrated by Bateman, you get a glimpse into his very structured, but very extravagant life. Set in 1989, Bateman is the epitome of yuppie (so much so, that I found myself gagging at times). He has expensive lunches and dinners, has an affinity with high end labels, loves to rent videos, does an ungodly amount of cocaine and describes people in detail by their designer clothing--down to their sock. He is consumed with only having the “latest" and “best" and it is apparent in his decor at home, his office and what he, himself chooses to wear. Just to warn you, this is repeated through the entire book. At first, this really worked on my nerves because I found him to be so superficial, but the more I read, the more I wondered if the novel was trying to say something deeper--was it trying to show an era of decadence, of consumerism at its worst? Dunno.
Then it seems somewhere in the middle of the novel, Bateman begins to change. We get a sense of disenchantment from the peers that Bateman has surrounded himself with; the conversations become strained and it seems that there is a sense of anonymity among the group. Bateman tests this many times by slipping murderous confessions during their banter, only to find his friends ignore him or not believe him--some don't even recognize him.
But by the time you reach the last half of the book, you are completely thrust knee deep into the psychotic, evil and demented mind of Patrick Bateman. In the end, there is a sense of ambiguity as the author leaves you wondering if Bateman has even committed any of the murders, or are they merely demonic illusions of his imagination.
Just some fair warnings (much easier to list):
1) There are a lot of racial slurs in the book and a lot of crude remarks in reference to homosexuals and homeless people. It can be disturbing, but keep in mind the content is in relation to the character, Bateman and how he views the world.
2) The murders are sadistic and graphic; genital mutilation, cannibalism and necrophilia. I was very worried that I would not be able to read most of the chapters, but surprisingly, I survived. Again, set in the context of the novel, it works. Singularly, it would blow you're freaking mind and make you want to bleach your brain from such horrors.
3) There are three chapters I refused to read: The chapter dedicated to Genesis and Phil Collins, the chapter dedicated to Whitney Houston, and the chapter dedicated to Huey Lewis and the News. Patrick Bateman obviously has bad taste in music.
So how to summarize such a unique book?
Well, it took me getting to the end of the novel to realize that I liked the book. More than I thought I would. It’s not an easy read, by far, and let me tell you the constant labeling is overwhelming, but I imagine at the time when it was written, relevant.
In a nutshell, the story is about a serial killer in the late 8o’s, early 90’s. Though he has moments of lucidity, by the last half of the book, he's clearly insane. He’s hallucinating, indulging in devilish activity with his victims and has a full-on panic attack, which leads to his confession via phone to his attorney. In the end, his attorney (who does not even recognize him), thinks the message left on his machine is a prank. On top of that, the attorney informs Bateman that the co-worker that he thinks he has murdered is alive, residing in London. For what purpose, is unknown. But Bateman confirms that the co-worker’s apartment is vacant and in the process of being rented/sold. There is a moment of confusion, as Bateman has used this apartment to kill other victims, even storing some of them in the apartment. As Bateman loses his grip on reality, he becomes increasingly sloppy with his killings, diving deeper into his insanity... yet he is never caught for any of his crimes and disturbingly, the book ends with a casual lunch.
As a reader, you are left to ponder this: Did any of the murders even occur?
So, that was one of the most confusing reviews I've ever done. What do you think? In the end, I'll go beyond my comfort zone and say this book deserves four stars for its creativity and willingness to push the political boundary of our society. It is not for the faint of heart and it will require you to think beyond the final chapters of the book, maybe even making you feel little psycho yourself...