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American Psycho

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    American Psycho

    So many people down the years have recommended this book to me, in a 'you really have to read this' way, that I finally bought a cheap copy, and now have ventured in to it. I did read 'Less Than Zero' when it came out, and I suppose it made some sort of point that rich Californian teenagers are bored, blase, decadent and contribute very little to the vast sum of human experience. How urgently that point needed making is another question.

    Maybe it's just severely dated? I get what he's doing with the endless listing of brand names, but I'm bored to fuck after 60 pages, and annoyed by almost every sentence. I know there's tons of explicit gore and sex to come, and I can't say I'm looking forward to it.

    Take the dialogue with his equally vile and vacuous circle of friends and colleagues. Couldn't it at least be a bit funny, instead of just making them seem like hardcore wankers? Just for the purpose of entertaining the reader a bit?

    Please supply me with some reasons why I shouldn't toss this straight into the paper recycling bin.

    #2
    A copy of it was found in the bedroom of schoolgirl rapist and serial killer Paul Bernardo. Apparently it might not have been his, but may have belonged to his wife co-killer. (I've never read it.)

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      #3
      If you're only 60 pages in I'd throw it in the trash right now before unless you want to read on and be sickened and (depending on your propensity for depictions of extreme torture and murder) haunted for some time having read it. You've already got the central tenet: Bateman is a highly successful American banker, living the American dream, but is in reality or in his fantasies, a deeply unhinged sociopath, not traits we are conditioned to think could exist in the same individual. Or at least weren't, until so many subsequent and real life examples of real Batemans came to public prominence. But seriously, some of the shit at the back end of that book is just warped.
      Last edited by Rogin the Armchair fan; 09-09-2019, 13:05.

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        #4
        I loved it when I read (and reread) it in the nineties and found it very funny.

        I'm not sure I would be comfortable with it if I returned to it now. I'd rewatch the film though.

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          #5
          At the time I read it, when I was in my teens, I thought it was brilliant, transgressive art. But I've never felt compelled to return to it and I suspect that re-reading it would confirm that Ellis' primary motivation for writing it was to shock for no reason. Maybe that's a valid artistic impulse in a Situationist kind of way but the whole book is basically one joke, one conceit stretched beyond coherence. There are three (four?) genuinely amusing chapters where Bateman turns his hand to music criticism and "reviews" the work of Whitney Houston, Phil Collins and Huey Lewis & The News and some other fixture of Eighties pop music. Read those and then be done with it.

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            #6
            I keep meaning to re-read it. I did find it very funny (think it's been over 20 years), and very much enjoyed Bale's version of PB, and how well it was adapted for the screen. I'll probably find myself repulsed by it now that i'm older and wiser.

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              #7
              I love the book and I've read it a few times. But I can completely understand why anyone wouldn't get into it .There are huge swathes that you can effectively skip through (although I wouldn't as they just build the sense of mundanity and dislocation that runs through the book and makes the graphic violent more shocking.) There is sexual violence that was extreme even for then and the type of extreme outlier that Bateman was supposed to be then would now end up running the country, as if it was completely normal, so it's lost some of its satirical punch.
              It's a book of its time too. I read it in 1992 when it came out in paperback so the yuppie thing was in the recent past and seemed ripe for the kind of smug self-referential satire that was the thing then. In that context, AP is quite a nuanced, subtle pastiche. In hindsight, it's less so.
              That said, there's something about the hypnotic repetition and the pacing, interspersed with ultraviolence that may or may not even be real, that sort of leaves you off kilter but makes it for me an incredibly cleverly written book. And even now I want a pair of Oliver Peoples glasses even though I don't wear glasses.

              I also loved Less Than Zero, but that was for different reasons. The ultra rich, disaffected, hollowed out-ness of it all was incredibly, bleakly romantic to my 16 year old self. I sort of saw myself as a poor, provincial version of the protagonist and I longed for that sort of decadent, pointless lifestyle. Still do, sometimes.

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                #8
                I liked the movie - or parts of it, at least - but as soon as I picked up the book, I found it so upsetting - I mean, just turning to a random page - that I knew I'd never read it.

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                  #9
                  Hobbes describes it better than I can, and unlike Less Than Zero which I recently re-read it has not aged well. In terms of being transgressive I would argue that Denis Cooper does it much better and unlike Ellis he comes from a world where he was not born into privilege. Also misogyny is absent from Cooper's work as it is set in a poor white gay culture where women are largely absent from the narrative. The violence can be just as harsh (see 'Sluts') but is never deployed for shock value, instead as means to work through his demons. He is also a big Husker Du fan which is another feather in his cap.

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                    #10
                    It worked a lot better I feel before Easton Ellis became/revealed himself a not even ironic horrendous reactionary. Now those incredible passages on Huey Lewis and Phil and brand conscious idiocy seem like they could have come from his Moleskine diary.

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                      #11
                      I think there are one or two brilliant set-pieces in it. The famous business-card scene from the film is based on one of them. But I never got it as a funny novel overall, even at the time. Depressing, repulsive, upsetting - those are the descriptions I'd agree with.

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                        #12
                        Originally posted by Lang Spoon View Post
                        It worked a lot better I feel before Easton Ellis became/revealed himself a not even ironic horrendous reactionary. Now those incredible passages on Huey Lewis and Phil and brand conscious idiocy seem like they could have come from his Moleskine diary.
                        I was just reading about that. What a dick.

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                          #13
                          The scenes that make it worthwhile are the bit about his morning routine, the card scene, and the conversation with Willem Dafoe in Bateman's office. The whole business about getting tables at restaurants is kind of amusing in a "rich people suck" kinda way.

                          But otherwise, even the film is too violent to stomach and it doesn't really add up to much. Knowing what Ellis is really like makes me wonder if he thinks Bateman is actually some kind of ubermensch.

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                            #14
                            One of the people who recommended it was my eldest (23), who showed me a pertinent passage where Bateman lauds Trump as his role model, so I guess there's relevance. Normally I'd read anything she recommends, but she's also told me that if I haven't got anything out of it up until now, then things are not going to get better. Might seek out the music passages and then dump it.

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