Good evening, folks!
Just like how we’re forced into its depths, I’m going to jump right in with a few thoughts on American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. This book is not for the faint of heart. Seriously. But, I’m happy to announce, having finished it a few days ago, re-reading a few passages, and letting it all sink in, it was a story of pure strange delight.
Let’s start with a rundown. American Psycho features narrator Patrick Bateman, a twenty-six-year-old bank investor who lives in Manhattan during the Wall Street boom of the late 1980s into the early 1990s. The story is narrated in a present tense, stream-of-consciousness style, and I found that having that style really emphasized the elitist New York atmosphere.
Throughout the story, we find ourselves trapped into Bateman’s personal thoughts, just as much as Bateman’s thoughts are trapped into his own head. This character is attempting to live his own version of the American Dream, and piece-by-piece, we see just what that entails.
We see everything. From his cocaine adventures, to criticizing people based on their choice of attire, how he consistently and effortlessly describes designer clothing in ridiculous detail, and seeing the slightly grotesque details of him sleeping with his girlfriend as well as sleeping with the girl who’s dating the guy who’s actually gay and in love with him. We also see, from mostly hints and a few sentences dropped here and there, just how much Bateman is in love with death. I mean, this guy really loves murder. He’s obsessed with famous murderers like Leatherface and John Wayne Gacy, and he also enjoys talking about killing people, like how he would love to cut some woman’s throat at the bar and let her bleed all over him.
So yeah, he’s, uh…interesting.
But in all seriousness, I love this guy. I know it sounds weird, but his character is stellar. I’ve always enjoyed the movie, but the book shows us so much more (obviously) about Bateman. I’m all for books that are character-driven, and this book is certainly in that category. Ellis allows the reader to quickly move along with Bateman in his drug-filled, sex-crazed, and blood-thirsty life, day-by-day and night-by-night. There were even a few times where I laughed out loud because the guy is so self-obsessed and crazy, and no one else seems to notice, possibly because they’re just as self-obsessed and crazy as he is. Which is sometimes very hard to accomplish in writing, when you think about it.
Just as you’re finished laughing though, you find Bateman is darker than you thought (I know, it seems impossible, but it’s true), and elements of the story shift. You discover how much he’s at war with himself, not just with the people in his life, and even the relationship with his family (we actually only ever meet his brother) is also extremely toxic. The character is harsh on himself and everyone around him, he is completely sick, and his desire to kill and torture is so overwhelmingly frightening, that as a reader I literally felt my mouth fall open in certain chapters. When a book can make a reader react physically, you know that the author did something right.
Looking at the story with elements of style in mind, I honestly felt like all of the words and sentences given in the book were meant to be there. In other words, Ellis omitted all needless words–even the writing that made you think “Why would he mention that?” (such as all of the details about what different designers people were wearing) was meant to be there. It was as if we were reading Bateman’s actual brain, and there was no escape until we reached the last page.
The imagery was flawless. In fact, it was so flawless, that I almost wished it wasn’t so flawless. The details were so disgusting that sometimes I had to look away from the book to slowly absorb what I had just read. Gruesome details of how he cut off a woman’s lips and tongue, the smell from another woman’s head sitting on his kitchen counter, the crackling of a homeless man’s dog’s legs as he bent them in half–and those are only a few details. The book is PACKED with stuff like this, and like I warned before, if you’re more into happier books with stable, reliable characters, then you may want to stay away from this one. If you want to try out a book with unstable characters, fearsome gore, insanely explicit sexual encounters, and rich people so full of shit and themselves that they can barely function when they can only get a reservation at a restaurant that’s rated “average,” then this book is for you.
Overall, I loved this story. I went into it with a pretty good attitude because I enjoyed the movie (seriously though, Christian Bale’s performance is brilliant), but I also wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the same time. If you decide to give the book a go, I advise you on one thing. Don’t hold it with slippery fingers or read it with heavy eyelids. Absorb all that you can. If you’re going to get involved with a frightening, horrific book, then you don’t go into it half-assed, am I right? Grab it by the reins. Don’t give up. Stick with Bateman to the end. You won’t regret it.
If you’ve read this book, please tell me what you thought! This may have been the best book I’ve read so far this year, so I’d love to hear other opinions.
Have a wonderful Wednesday, guys.