Reading history and reviews
Finished on 3rd February 2011It's the early 1990s as Patrick Bateman narrates episodes from his daily life. He spends his days (in between elaborate grooming and exercise regimes) working on Wall Street, and his evenings having improbable dinners with an interchangeable collection of colleagues and acquaintances - all while ogling "hardbody" waitresses, trying to score drugs in fashionable nightclubs, and having unlikely sexual encounters with his various female friends; and his nights torturing and murdering people.
Ellis' infamous book oscillates between (almost cartoonish) satire on the vacuousness of his protagonist's life (the endlessly detailed descriptions of clothing, meals, Hi-Fi equipment and music contrast with his inability to tell his acquaintances apart from each other) and the increasingly sickening and gruesome scenes of murder (equally detailed and appallingly graphic). As the book progresses Bateman seems to become more and more unhinged, however we can never really feel sure whether he's really committed the acts that he describes or whether he's just imagining them. For example in one almost hilariously deranged episode he recounts a public killing spree and ends with him leaving a full confession on his lawyer's answering machine - which the lawyer later congratulates him on as a "great joke". As with the majority of Bateman's actions, there seem to be no consequences, and we have no way of knowing if they are fantasy, or if he really has committed these crimes and they simply don't matter in the wider world. Ultimately nothing he does seems to leave any trace.
I don't think that this is a book I can really say I enjoyed reading, but in terms of the thoughts and feelings it provoked I'm glad that I did. There's definitely a humorous streak running through "American Psycho" - but it's a very black kind of comedy. Spending so much time inside Bateman's head I think does something to your own, and I was reminded of reading "The Catcher in the Rye" a few years ago - another book where you're completely immersed in the central character's world view. Bateman's complete lack of any hint of morality in the end disturbed me even more than the horror. Not an easy book then, and not for the squeamish, but recommended with those caveats.