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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