The darkest of dark humour

American Psycho- Bret Easton Ellis

First off, I’m not a squeamish person. Watching House M.D. and Hannibal has given me a stomach of steel. But my stomach of steel couldn’t stand up to this killer of a novel.

Book starts with a day in the life of Patrick Bateman. He and his group of Wall Street friends are vain, self obsessed, racist, sexist, name dropping yuppies. They squabble over reservations at the newest restaurants in New York, and discuss fashion while checking out women. Bateman seems relatively charming, except for his unpleasant habit of mauling/ murdering homeless people and prostitutes.

Being the nitwit that I am, I was immediately put off by the graphic violence. Almost banished the book to the murky depths of my Recycle Bin when he painfully dissects a dog (Cold bloodedly murdering a puppy makes you a psycho in my books! Unless it was a Pom, of course). After a while, though, I got the hang of the satire. Bret Easton Ellis captures the perception of the yuppie lifestyle of the 1980s, when Wall Street started booming, and twists it into a dark comedy. Patrick Bateman is a metrosexual man, long before it became mainstream. He keeps himself abreast of the latest fashion trends and designers, and spends hours on manicures and facials. His lavish lifestyle is starkly contrasted with the beggars he attacks. This particular aspect of the book (plus the psychological twists that are thrown into the plot in the second half) reminded me a lot of Fight Club, a book I particularly like.

Unfortunately, as I began to appreciate the humour, the story got more and more violent. I had to skip many of the sex-and-violence scenes that were described in particularly gory detail, but I didn’t have any trouble following the plot later. There are a couple of interesting revelations towards the end of the book that give the plot more depth, but these are not dwelled upon, as Bateman spirals rapidly into complete madness. The ending is abrupt and keeps you guessing.

This book is an entertainer that will keep you up at night. The satire leaves one with something to think about, too. I definitely felt uncomfortable the other day when I met up with a bunch of friends who were discussing the fancy restaurants they’d visited- it seemed worryingly similar to the shallow conversations of Bateman and his colleagues. Have we become stereotypical yuppies?!

I’d have given it a 4, but it kind of took away my innocence (what was left of it). 3.5/5.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return some videotapes…

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