University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Books you should have read: American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis)

The Badger

ByThe Badger

Nov 22, 2010

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American PsychoEllis’ chronicle of three years in the life of Wall Street yuppie-cum-psycho killer Patrick Bateman isn’t for everyone. In fact, 7 out of every 10 readers will probably consider flushing it down the toilet before they reach the third portion of the novel.

The book begins a sharp satire of eighties ‘me me me’ culture, and ends a symposium of massacres and various sex crimes, all the while retaining a highly comical edge. The main character, despite being an example of pretty much everything that’s wrong with humanity, is somehow still easy to empathize and even laugh with as he goes about his days; dinners at fancy SoHo restaurants, assistants who aren’t quite pretty enough, expensive cigars, crap cocaine, stabbing the homeless, dissecting prostitutes, and generally being utterly insane.

One of the most moving segments of the book includes a paragraph in which the protagonist (or anti-hero, whichever way you want to put it), weeps for the failures of mankind whilst watching a street musician perform, then proceeds to give the man a dollar before shooting him in the face. For the faint of heart, this book is definitely not.

One will find moral ambiguity, sexual degeneracy, and a scene involving a starved rat which it seems inappropriate to detail here. A far cry from the mundane and predictable romance, stifled, morally motivated action, and repetitive, easily solvable mystery we expect from modern novels. Despite American Psycho being published in 1991, the book does not seem dated at all, although the financial zeitgeist of Bateman’s world seems a long way away from our era of the credit crunch, David Cameron, and Sainsbury’s basics. However, American Psycho remains a crucial and important lesson in class, taste, greed, money and murder. A definite page turner, but the slightly squeamish may want to avoid the chapter aptly named ‘tries to cook and eat girl’.

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