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American Psycho

A book by Bret Easton Ellis

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Display in the Yuppie Museum

  • Apr 18, 2000
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It's all been said: Parts of this book are disgusting and/or hilarious; you can take your pick between calling it a deranged male revenge fantasy and a brilliant satire; the mere fact of its publication is cause either for hope and joy or for an agonizing reappraisal of our previous standards of judgment, etc. I'm not about to waste anyone's time rehashing the controversy. Unfortunately, that leaves me with nothing to consider - this book basically doesn't exist.

How exactly is one to assess American Psycho, anyway? It violates all the traditional rules of fiction, to be sure, but that's not necessarily a bad thing - plenty of experimental writers have produced great art by violating the traditional rules. The problem here is that Ellis left out all the traditional virtues, like plot and character and theme, and replaced them with nothing but a number of laundry lists - lists of suits and dresses, lists of appetizers and entrees, lists of body parts. (The writing style is exactly the same for all of these lists, but that's part of the conversation about the book, and I promised you I wouldn't go into that.)

In short, American Psycho is a sort of post-ironic Sears Catalogue. Any assessment of it as a scathing indictment of materialism, an antifeminist manifesto, a psychological thriller, seems tacked on - the book doesn't really read like any of that. Consider that the narrator's level of involvement in his own life when digging into his lunch is exactly the same as it is when digging into a woman's body with his bare hands - to wit, nonexistant. Satire is a comment on something; American Psycho is no comment on nothing.

The novel has its fascinations - it haunted me for a few days wondering just how far it would go - but it's ultimately unnecessary. Once you know that it's about a rich young Wall Street yuppie who murders people in his spare time, you don't need to read the book. It doesn't exist. The controversy over it will last long after it fades out of print. It's a historical artifact, not a novel.

So American Psycho gets two stars for provoking some interesting discussions, and loses the other three for failing to participate in those very discussions.

Benshlomo says, When the story about the story is more interesting than the story, there's no story.

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More American Psycho reviews
Quick Tip by . June 26, 2010
Nice take on Reagans 80's. Not as good as Less than Zero though
review by . June 14, 2006
Bret Easton Ellis is undoubtedly the most underrated author I ever have come across. People misinterpret his style as amatuerish and arrogant. This is simply not so. Ellis' stories are abnormally devoid of action because he is telling a story, a realistic story, a piece of an everyday person's life. His sentences are overlong so as to accentuate his characters' sense of bewilderment, to accentuate how dizzy this world makes them. His writing is brilliant, but many readers see only the lifeless narration …
review by . September 04, 2000
I give author Ellis 1 star for fashion tips, and another star for his ability to use language skillfully. However, when I read a novel I try to appreciate the intent, skill, dialog, and PLOT. I finished this book and took a shower to clean the misogny from my memory. The main character spends his time spiraling into the disintegration of a personality that mirrors the crash and burn of American society. Ellis' lengthy descriptions of sex, gore and body parts fills me with loathing that I am actually …
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This review is based on the galley issued by Ellis's original publisher, Simon & Schuster, before it cancelled the book. The book is now going through the editing process at Vintage. There may be some changes in the final version. The indignant attacks on Ellis's third novel (see News, p. 17; Editorial, p. 6) will make it difficult for most readers to judge it objectively. Although the book contains horrifying scenes, they must be read in the context of the book as a whole; the horror does not lie in the novel itself, but in the society it reflects. In the first third of the book, Pat Bateman, a 26-year-old who works on Wall Street, describes his designer lifestyle in excruciating detail. This is a world in which the elegance of a business card evokes more emotional response than the murder of a child. Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, Bateman calmly and deliberately blinds and stabs a homeless man. From here, the body count builds, as he kills a male acquaintance and sadistically tortures and murders two prostitutes, an old girlfriend, and a child he passes in the zoo. The recital of the brutalization is made even more horrible by the first-person narrator's delivery: flat, matter-of-fact, as impersonal as a car parts catalog. The author has carefully constructed the work so that the reader has no way to understand this killer's motivations, making it even more frightening. If these acts cannot be explained, there is no hope of protection from such ...
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ISBN-10: 0679735771
ISBN-13: 978-0679735779
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Vintage
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