Thursday, 14 April 2016

'American Psycho', by Bret Easton Ellis

Title: American Psycho
Author(s): Bret Easton Ellis
Release Date: March 1991
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Bought

Patrick Bateman is handsome, well educated, intelligent. He works by day on Wall Street earning a fortune to complement the one he was born with. His nights he spends in ways we cannot begin to fathom. He is twenty-six years old and living his own American Dream.


This is, without a doubt, the most confusing, mind-bending and fascinating book I have ever read in my life.

I should probably explain why right away, before I get the police called on me.

This book follows the life of Patrick Bateman, a twenty-six year old Wall Street person (and I say person because it's never mentioned what he actually does for a living). This is pretty much the totality of information provided about the protagonist: he is obsessed about his age so he mentions it frequently, he's obsessed with appearances so there are chapters and chapters detailing his workout and grooming routines and of himself describing how good looking he is... Obsessed is certainly the perfect adjective to describe Patrick, but my favorite thing about him (and the book) is how much he is an unreliable narrator.

In fact, he's probably the most unreliable narrator that has ever existed.

The reading of this book becomes incredibly frustrating when you start questioning at every corner if what Patrick is doing actually happens. There are time-jumps and lapses of memory, and before you know it you become the newest member of CSI collecting clues to try and figure out if Patrick actually is a psycopathic murderer.

Oh, did I mention he kills a lot of people?

Well, he does.

Throughout the course of the book, Patrick slowly unravels. What begins as boredom and repetitive resort to pornography to keep himself entertained starts escalating until he is inflicting pain and distributes death left and right in a way that would make George R.R. Martin blush.

This is an incredibly gory, violent and descriptive book, so if you have a weaker stomach I would definitely recommend you skip this one. I can usually deal with this sort of content rather easily, but several times throughout reading this book I had to put it down because it was making me physically ill.

However, if you manage to get past that, this is an incredible satire of America as the land of opportunity and of how it is nothing but a front hiding poverty, racism, lack of justice and the biggest consumerist culture in the world.

What really convinced me to put in the effort to finish this book (at over 400 pages and considering the style and content, it is a challenge that took me several weeks) was the writing. While in itself and considering language it might not be something out of this world, I have gained an incredible amount of respect for Bret Easton Ellis for managing to pull this story off. As I mentioned before, the whole story is completely unreliable, to the point of the theory of Patrick Bateman not even existing at all being a possibility. This is an incredible work of writing, and while I would be probably afraid to ever meet the author in person, one wonders how uniquely his mind must work to put together such a book!

Definitely not for the faint of heart, 'American Psycho' is definitely worth the challenge it brings to the table. If you have seen the movie adaptation (some of Christian Bale's best work in my opinion) and enjoyed it, I would definitely recommend this read since even with it being a quite good adaptation, the layers upon layers that you will find in Patrick Bateman are impossible to pull away from its pages to any other medium.

Do be prepared to be left confused and putting together theories about it for days after you finish it. You have been warned!

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