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Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe

American Psycho

American Psycho: Bret Easton Ellis, January 27—February 6, 2016

My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊

AmericanPsychoAmerican Psycho is technically brilliant. It’s a masterclass in writer’s craft that just misses the mark in terms of readability.

It tells the story of Patrick Bateman, a 1980s American banker who is superficially excellent: the money, the girls, the drugs, the lot. But he is deeply unsatisfied and turns to murder to plug the gap of satisfaction.

The violence becomes more and more extreme to sate his appetite, and maintaining a regular life becomes increasingly difficult.

Overlooking the small matter of explicit sex, hard drug use and gruesome violence, this would be a perfect English Literature text! The first person, stream-of-consciousness narrative places you directly into Bateman’s persona, helping you identify with him – perhaps making the reader even root for his sadistic surrogate. Bateman’s obsession with lists is indicative of the superficial worthlessness of materialism, where he cares so much more about who owns what than what this colleagues are actually saying (to the point that he misses whole chunks of dialogue). Pages and pages could be written about the dynamic between Bateman and his girlfriend Evelyn, or him and Jean-his-secretary-who-is-in-love-with-him.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the novel is Bateman’s unreliable narration. People are often confused and conflated. This leads to a broader question that is hinted at, and eventually screamed out: did Bateman really commit the crimes that he claimed? The ambiguity makes it an infinitely more complex novel, and your interpretation will be symbiotic with your understanding of Ellis’s message (or lack of, perhaps).

Despite these many strings to the book’s bow, American Psycho is a challenging read. Sensitivities on taste and decency aside (you should know what you’re letting yourself in for!), the unfortunate by-product of the narrative style I’ve described makes it incoherent and disjointed. Reading six-page inventories of a character’s flat, or never-ending descriptions of the branding on every dinner party guest’s clothes makes a point, but it does not necessarily make a thrilling read.

In order to truly appreciate Psycho, you must truly appreciate Bateman. You have to understand why he is so fixated on the things, on the descriptors, on what he can see. This isn’t bad storytelling, it’s deep characterisation and that’s what makes Psycho strong; but it’s necessarily at the expense of pace and, at times, plot development in general.

A complex capturing of post-modern zeitgeist, American Psycho perhaps embodies the very message it conveys: having all the right things is impressive, but not necessarily enough.

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2 comments on “American Psycho

  1. Pingback: The Dinner | Simon's Bookcase

  2. Pingback: The Killer Inside Me | Simon's Bookcase

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This entry was posted on February 6, 2016 by in 3 star and tagged .

Author Cloud

@Queen_UK Adolf Hitler agatha christie Alan Clements Alastair Campbell Aldous Huxley Aleksandr Orlov Alex Shaffer Andrew Neiderman Anthony Burgess Arthur Miller Bateman Ben Brooks Ben Elton Bram Stoker Bret Easton Ellis C.J. Cherryh Carolyn Jess-Cooke Charles Dickens Chuck Palahniuk Dan Brown Dante Alighieri dashiell hammett david baldacci David Brin David Glattauer David Kirkpatrick David Line David Tennant David Wolstencroft Dylan Jones E.L. James Edgar Allen Poe Emilia Fox Eoin Colfer Erica Spindler Frank Peretti Gabrielle Lord Gareth Roberts Geoff Ryman George Orwell George R. R. Martin George W. Bush Gillian Flynn Gillian Slovo Graham Greene Guy Piran Harper Lee Harriet Lane Herman Koch Ian Rankin J.K. Rowling Jack Thorne Jacqueline Rayner James Herbert James Patterson Jasper Fforde Jeff Green Jeff Kinney Jeffrey Archer Jem Lester Jenny Robson Jeremy Clarkson Jerry B. Jenkins Jim Thompson John Crowther John Green John Grisham John Tiffany John Verdon Jonas Jonasson Judith Kerr Juliana Foster Justin Richards Kaci Hill Karen Levine Keeley Bolger Louis Walsh malorie blackman Marissa Meyer Mark Haddon Mark Z. Danielewski Martin Sixsmith Mary Higgins Clark Mary McNamara Matt Haig Matthew Ravden Michael Berry Michael Connelly Michael Morpurgo Michael Quirke Miguel de Cervantes Mike Lancaster Morris Gleitzman Morton Rhue Neil Sinclair Nick Hornby Nick Page Patricia Cornwell Patricia Stotley Patrick Ness Paula Hawkins Paul Johnston Peter James Phil Allcock R.J. Palacio Rachelle Dekker Raymond Chandler Richard Bachman Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Ludlum Robin Cook Robin Kirkpatrick sandra brown Sebastian Beaumont Sharon Osbourne Stella Rimmington Stephen Cole Stephen King Steve Lookner Steve Lyons Stuart MacBride Sue Townsend Suzanne Collins ted dekker Terry Pratchett Tim LaHaye Tim Randall Todd Strasser Tom Avery Tom Bower Tom Cain Tom Hoyle tony blair William Golding William P. Young William Shakespeare