This article originally appeared on Lit To Lens on July 5, 2016.
Title: American Psycho
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Year Of Publication: 1991
Genre: Fiction, Satire
Darkly funny, grotesquely violent, American Psycho is a disturbing piece of fiction that absolutely captures the essence of a comically materialistic and vapid time, place, and a people – the 1980’s, New York City, Wall Street.
The plot, as it is, relies on the goings of Patrick Bateman, Wall Street yuppie, socialite, deranged and dangerous. He’s outrageously wealthy and consumeristic, and regards his status and physique perhaps more highly than just about anything (except his hair…is it thinning? He turns 27 in the book. How does the hair look?). He spends his time eating at upper echelon Manhattan restaurants, shopping for silk ties, funneling his inner madness into the torturing and killing of named and unnamed people, and, oh yeah, sometimes he goes into the office. Though he doesn’t need to. He’s a trust fund baby.
Reading the near 400 page work, one gets the sense that Ellis intimately knows of what he speaks – not just that he knew how to flip through old issues of GQ or Zagat guides. The clubs, the drugs, the nasty sounding entrees at Delmonico’s or Dorsia, it’s all part of Ellis’ well-conceived vision of NYC as a yuppie paradise.
Of course, it’s all extreme – the violence, the sex, the platinum American Express swipes. It’s all fetishized. But what kind of satire isn’t? The violence turns stomachs. It’s thorough and perverted and erotic and makes the reader think twice about reading it in public (or on the bus into work like I did).
But it serves its point. Bateman murders – conservatively – fifty people over the course of the work and by the end of it he’s yelling at people, telling them what he’s done and not a single person believes him. Why? Because no one gives two fucks about him, or anyone else, and won’t spare a minute otherwise. Everyone is too far up in their own business.
It’s a pressing read. It demands patience and the understanding that there’s no real point to any of it. Things happen. People die every day. But the mechanisms of consumerism continue. Money is made. Money is lost. Xanax are popped like Pez. Heads are put in freezers. Teeth are brushed, flossed, and re-brushed. Hair is moussed. Skin is cared for. Moisturizing is important; after all, Patrick Bateman is 28. How’s he look?