American Psycho, almost unreadable

[I have the cover on the left but the one on the right is super creepy and disturbing, don’t you think?]

I’m almost finished Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. It is as bad as they say. At times it is simply unreadable and I have physical reactions – gasping and putting hands over my eyes. It is not a book I would want my daughter to read, possibly at any age, it is so graphic and horrific. I am not easily-shocked, I would say almost ‘bomb-proof’, but… I have to put it aside and just read in small snatches.

There are things that really interest me about the book, though. The repeated, almost cyclical references to clothes and accessory designers; to restaurants and dishes served therein; to electronic sound system equipment, to bands (U2 & INXS) and musicals (Les Misérables) and pop singers (Belinda Carlisle). Also, the sinister way Patrick Bateman moves through society, methodically doing his thing, almost casually – his murders and acts of torture are narrated in a perfectly affectless way. This device is very effective, as is the way that sometimes he articulates his most ‘anti-social’ desires openly and without artifice. It’s like all of these people are all talking at once and nobody is listening to anybody else. So then when he surprises someone with a nail-gun or a knife, they are caught completely off guard.

His cruelty to women is off the chart; there are suggestions of insecurities about his own sexuality. There is a sub-theme of a man who is in love with him and being a bit stalky, a Luis Carruthers. Bateman also has a girlfriend who expects they will marry; I don’t expect her to survive. But there is a detective sniffing around now and I’m wondering what will happen. Will bad triumph or be punished? Bateman is unravelling; at times he gets teary and cries or is filled with rage. There is nothing about his background other than his father is incredibly wealthy and owns… something… and Bateman doesn’t need to work. He also hates his younger brother. There is no mention of a mother.

I tried watching the movie a few years ago and this is the point where I turned it off:


I’ve only ever been unable to watch two movies in my life: this one and the other was Frances, where I had to leave the cinema before the lobotomy scene.

American Psycho‘s been called the magnus opus of Easton Ellis, but I’ll hold my judgment until I’ve read more of his work. I bought Lunar Park and Less than Zero and Glamorama too. I haven’t read any reviews either but I do know this book was sold for a while in a plastic wrapper and was probably banned as well.

And I’m on the verge of unfollowing Easton Ellis on twitter – he seems like a real douche.

4 thoughts on “American Psycho, almost unreadable

  1. Interesting that he’s a douche on Twitter – must be the real personality coming out…

    I’ve never read the book because violence is so abhorrent to me. I read Snowtown a few year ago and that was enough for me!

  2. I have avoided Snowtown because it’s based on fact, or is fact. This is fiction and so I felt it worthwhile exploring it from a creative standpoint. I just finished it this morning, haven’t yet gone to look at other critiques BUT I suspect he possibly hallucinated it all and was suffering from a psychotic illness. I’d like to know what others think.

    Thanks for the comment Dianne.

  3. Is it considered an extreme example of satire by some people? Patrick Bateman is the logical (absurdly logical) end point when society is obsessed by labels and money and selfishness and has not time for other people and decency and more spiritual concerns. Something like that. Is that what the fans say? I haven’t read American Psycho but I’d like to. I’ve read Less Than Zero and to call it nihilistic would be an understatement.

  4. I haven’t looked up any discussions on it yet, but I could see satire which was regularly obliterated by the extreme violence. But then I started wondering whether Bateman was not just hallucinating everything. There were a couple of strong clues towards the end that suggested so.

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