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Book 120: "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis

Title: American Psycho
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Read in: Nook ePub (eBook)


WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
(Which I figure isn't too big a deal since the book was published in 1991)

This is not a book for the faint of heart. In fact, it is the most graphic book I have ever read. It is graphic in every possible way; it is violent, sexually explicit and violent, verbally explicit, racist, and sexist. But it works. This book, for many reasons was very hard for me to read. I'm very glad to have read it and really have enjoyed tearing into it. It is not something I will ever read again.

The book is (mostly) told in first person narrative by Patrick Bateman. Bateman is very wealthy from both family money and his job as a wall-street exec. His friends are all also wealthy. They live in New York City. The majority of the book takes places in restaurants and clubs where they do nothing but rack up exorbitant checks and tabs of food, alcohol, and drugs- constantly talking and ignoring each other while looking about the room for other people they may know. It is a constant stream of conciousness narrative about what people are wearing, where they are going, eating, drinking, etc. Bateman has an alternate life that his friends don't know about; he's a serial killer. Although he often kills people randomly on the street (including a horrific scene in which he stabs a child at the zoo), his favorite murder activity is to engage in very explict sex acts with one or two women and then brutally torture, murder, dismember, and sometimes eat pieces of them.

The theme of this book is pretty obvious; it's mostly a statement of the shallow and unobservant tendancies that capitalism and the upper-class can breed. It is shown by the focus on image, brands, designers, and the 'it' new places the characters just have  to visit. The shallowness of it all is cemented by the fact that no one notices when people disappear or that their friend is a serial killer. In fact, Bateman is described by most of his friends as quiet and shy- a gentleman.

What struck me most, and is not discussed online, is that at the end of the book, Bateman is turned into an unreliable narrator. There is a chapter, just one, that is written in third person narration following Bateman. This one chapter shows that Bateman is not reliable, perhaps not even basing any of his story in reality. So the question the reader is left with is: How much of Bateman's narration is real? Has he killed anyone? Or is it all in his mind?

I'd love to discuss this book, so if you've read it, please let me know what you think!


*If you're interested, adaptations include: a movie (which I have not seen) and, most recently, a stage musical in London (opened December 2013).*

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