Monday, April 29, 2013
Not for the faint of heart
Title: American Psycho
By: Brett Easton Ellis
When a book incites controversy, as was the case with American Psycho when it was originally published in the early 90’s, my instinct is to read it. I am not a squeamish reader, and I decided that I could handle a novel that has been denounced as not only completely vile and immoral, but also moronic and artless. I was taken aback when I actually had to force myself to continue reading. Turning the page required physical effort. My eyes blurred as though begging me to stop.
American Psycho is a first-person narrative from the perspective of Patrick Bateman, a Wall St. executive in his mid-twenties, impeccable dresser, and psychopath. This book is the darkest of black comedy: Bateman, an irredeemable human being, is the only one of his friends who objects to racist jokes or mentions issues like poverty or the impending threat of nuclear war. Yet he only seems to do these things because of the horrified reaction he gets from his soulless yuppie “friends.”
Entire chapters composed of a single paragraph outline every piece of furniture and technology in Bateman’s living room. Every character’s outfit is listed in its entirety, designer and all, every time they interact with him. The same clinical point of view is employed when Bateman stabs a homeless man to death or dismembers a prostitute. It was not the gruesome, meticulously detailed scenes of homicide that turned me off, not even the detached tone used to describe the murders. It is the painful attention to minute detail that makes the writing so dense and difficult to read. Yet it is also this aspect of the novel that makes it so satisfying. Bateman’s total contempt for every thing and every one and the consistently nihilistic perspective American Psycho offers proved challenging for me as a reader. Still, Ellis’s prowess as a writer and his masterful handling of utter depravity as comedy prevailed in the end.
This book is not for the faint of heart, and even readers who are believe they are brave enough to endure nearly 400 pages of emotionless evil might not emerge unscathed.
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