Book review: American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis.
I love this book.
There is some controversy attached to the book and the film of the same name. I can see why this is not an easy read or can be triggering for so many, with brutal violence, often aimed at women, appearing throughout. This being fictional and metaphorical doesn't change the realness of what's on the page.
Patrick Bateman is young, rich, works on Wall Street and is obsessed with perfection, status, and possessions. Among his seemingly perfect life, he is apparently compelled to commit horrific violent crimes as his life spirals out of control. And no one seems to notice or care.
What follows is my interpretation of what the book means. I am not book smart, so it's likely these ideas are both unoriginal and full of holes.
The acts of violence represent corporate and financial crimes. Early in the book they are less frequent and seem to require more effort and planning, even reluctance. As his crimes increase in severity and frequency they take more of a toll, with passages that describe madness and headaches and physical repulsion to his delusions and actions. We never hear anything about what Patrick does at work, only ever what happens around his rare appearances at the office. The smell he complains of in his apartment is not from decomposing bodies, but the stench of his possessions bought with stolen wealth. Killing a co-worker is him stealing his business. When he openly admits his crimes to his peers in some effort to unburden himself, they don't respond or dismiss it. Pat thinks he's admitting to murder and torture, but he's admitting to insider trading and fraud which is an every day activity among his circle of vapid friends and colleagues who are too self absorbed to care.
To illustrate Bateman's obsessive nature there are huge portions of the book dedicated to describing clothes, products, and music in minute detail. Almost everyone's outfit is carefully broken down by appearance and brand, HiFi equipment is analysed by the features and quality and why one might opt for one CD player over another, and there is an entire chapter dedicated to a fews albums in the career of Huey Lewis and the News. Each of the albums deconstructed and analysed in a style that seems very eloquent and put together but is filled with inaccuracies and a misunderstanding of music and artistry as a whole.
This taste in and understand of music maps with his life beyond work. Wanting to fit in, desperate to exceed the status of his peers, be a member of the most expensive health club, have assertive opinions on bottled water and rules for wearing a cummerbund or pocket square. All incredibly shallow and without meaning, yet valued and envied by society.