American Psycho By Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

(Release Date: 1991)

3.5 Stars, Funny but unnecessarily Sickening!3.5 Stars, Funny but unnecessarily Sickening!3.5 Stars, Funny but unnecessarily Sickening!1/2

The Darkest and Funniest of the Black Comedies!

J.C. Mašek III... Psychotic Entertainment Critic!!!
J.C. Mašek III
Alter EgoThe World's Greatest Critic!

It's Monday, March 1st, 2004 (I think). I'm wearing a Tommy Hilfiger Plaid Oxford Shirt, A T-Shirt by Starter, a Gold and Silver-toned watch by Citizen, a Wedding Ring by the Keltic Jewelry Company, my High School Class Ring by Jostens, Khaki Slacks by Old Navy, a black leather belt by Wrangler Hero, Blue Underwear by Fruit of the Loom, Black Socks by Hanes and Black Shoes by (interestingly enough) a company called "Brown Shoe." My deodorant is by degree, my Hairspray by Suave, my Hair Gel is by Long's Drugs and my Cologne is by Stetson! Both my Conditioner and my Shampoo are by Clairol's Herbal Essences.

You should have to pass an IQ Test before reading this stuff!

It's SATIRE, not a Training Manual!

Ladies and Germs, I'm probably the Human Being LEAST oriented to Censorship you'll ever find on the net, however, during my reading and reviewing of American Psycho I started wondering what sort of person might be reading this book. While it is indeed a novel of satire and humor, its main character also is a murderer and a true psychopath whose nightly escapades include cannibalism, rape, necrophilia and torture.

Here's the problemmo: You and I read this book, and to us it's a hilarious social satire with some nauseating, but appropriate, scenes of violence and gore to underscore the cut-throat and superficial world these late-80's Mergers and Acquisitions guys lived in.

But, for some of the intellectually challenged people out there, this is the some heroic triumph, and its desensitizing nature might tell some of the less "quick" among us that not only is this sort of action okay, but "Cool," "Awesome," and maybe even something to be aspiring to.

Ellis is a remarkable writer, and in his way he is able to bring the reader into the mind of an American psycho and to make you feel for the guy in a rather ironic way. At the same time, there's no doubt that Ellis doesn't have the bodies of young women and men stored in his closet in New York, either.

The ability to differentiate "Satire" from "Suggestion" should be a prerequisite for checking this book out from the library or buying it from your local Books-a-million! Same goes for Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club or Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange! I think all three of these are great books for people to read and to learn from, but the idea isn't to learn how to eviscerate a prostitute, rape a writer's wife or make Napalm from Orange Juice and Gas.

So, in short, if you have "issues" with reality; if you have ever watched Sesame Street and said I wish Oscar was My Neighbor!" and you're more than 10 years old; if you've ever watched "rasslin'" and really, really, really bought into the "Story-Line" I urge you to maybe not read this book. At least... not if you live in my neighborhood!

Got something to say in response? Write it! However, I'd urge you to take my comments with the grain of salt I recommend you take Ellis' Words with! Thank you and God Bless!

Ellis, Bret Easton. American Psycho: A Novel. New York, New York: Vintage Books (A Division of Random House, inc.), 1991.

[First Edition]
Not exactly Christian Bale... Worse!

What's all this superficial (and ironically humorous that I'd be bragging about it) tripe in here for? Oh, just keeping in touch with the Satirical Superficial name-dropping of Bret Easton Ellis' novel American Psycho! Yep, this is the story of Patrick Bateman, whose long list of labels I can't even spell and have numbers on the price tags I can't even count to! You know his type I'd wager! He's one of the upper-management suck ups on Wall Street in the late 1980s who made Gordon Gekko look like a guest on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Bateman's the handsome "boy next door!" He loves his Girlfriend, The Patty Winters Show, Cristal Champagne, Designer Clothes, Cocaine, the finest restaurants, Genesis, Huey Lewis, Whitney Houston, and, lest I forget, chopping people up in new and original ways up in his apartment.

This much you probably could have Gleaned from the title, or the Previews for the Lion's Gate Films adaptation of the novel. There's a lot more to the complexities of this novel than simply some wolf-in-Armani-clothing story that floats above a stock plot. American Psycho is very much a book about Addiction, and Ellis, in a distracting and surprising way, uses the quest for inner peace that Patrick Bateman embarks on as a reflection of addiction in real life. In that manner, American Psycho isn't all that much different from Ellis' earlier work Less than Zero. The first detail of any murder (although the old secret life is hinted at early on) doesn't take place until a full one hundred thirty pages of this three hundred ninety-nine page work have gone by. Initially Bateman is a trendy yuppie with a secret life of murders and other atrocities, however as the end of the novel approaches, Bateman is a Serial Killer who happens to have a day job too. When we first meet him, murder is a moment of weakness, when we close the book, normalcy is a moment of clarity!

What Ellis has done is create a story more compelling than some late-'80's satire really could be on its own and leaps and bounds above anything about a fictional slasher Serial Killer might add up to. At its core, American Psycho is a social satire that pokes vicious fun at the excesses of the "Me Decade." Irony rules the narrative as Bateman silently decries the superficiality of his surroundings and his peers, while in actuality is simply waiting to talk in order to outdo their superficiality with his own. (He might at one minute become outraged at a peer making a racist joke, and the next minute say something incredibly prejudiced). It gets downright hilarious at times as Patrick's frustration with keeping up with (and exceeding) the Joneses at work, in dress in knowledge of dress and in designer brand names becomes a roil in his well-coiffed head.

Ellis flips the coin, however in his rapid subject-matter change. With the same tone (but without a milliliter of humor this time) Patrick Bateman's first-person narrative describes escalating horrors at his hands and details ever more elaborate methods of trapping his prey and doing more and more horrifying things to them. There are descriptions in this novel of the most terrible and nauseating things I've ever read (or even could imagine) done to the Human Body. One almost wonders if Ellis himself is an American Psycho in that he even thought of some of these things. Patrick Bateman simultaneously out does Leatherface, Hannibal Lecter, Son of Sam, the Night Stalker and just about ANYONE else you can imagine. In the spoof of excess, Ellis himself is Excessive in his imagination, and he takes the urinal cake as having written the first book ever to make me put it down for Nausea.

Beyond these frank descriptions, Ellis nearly dares you to keep reading, as he immediately throws in a completely funny chapter showcasing Bateman's missing-his-own-point and superficially embracing commercialism in just about everything, while concurrently mocking its very existence. The reader goes from cold nausea to stark hilarity at the drop of a hat, as if they've gone from a Hot Tub into a Swimming pool nude on Christmas in Maine. Shocking and uncomfortable though it may be, only a truly good writer can pull this off without devolving into a slasher scare 'em tome.

One subtle question that I find in this book has to do with what is really real in Patrick's world and what is not. Ellis makes it clear that Patrick is both addicted to murder, and completely sick in the head in ways that go far beyond "simple" homicide. True, like Ministry's industrially operatic "So What" wealth and excess has led to boredom and finally homicide, but Patrick is also shown to hallucinate and to become confused about his own identity. In moments of confusion the book changes from first to third person and Patrick distances himself from himself. He also makes it clear that he is writing, not thinking what we read because he specifically addresses a reader on page 275.

However, digging deeper, one way of interpreting this book is that none of this really happens at all. Ellis never specifically makes this a part of the book, but in subtle ways hints at this possibility (and it is just a possibility!). For example, Patrick details loud, loud screams for mercy in his apartment, yet no one contacts the police. He also details the smell of death becoming prevalent in his home, yet the Maid still shows up and disposes of bloody towels and stands the smells. He even gets his bloody sheets cleaned at the Dry Cleaner's! I know this is a black comedy, but it's not plausible.

Furthermore, there is a distinct timeline that the attentive reader can pick up on, but toward the end, as Patrick becomes more confused the timeline is broken completely. Patrick was born in October of 1962 and is turning 27... that makes it 1989, right? Right. As Christmas and New Year's pass (a second time, mind you) it must be 1990. Later Patrick describes the Bush Inauguration having taken place "earlier this year", which must mean earlier 1990. The problem is that Bush was inaugurated in January of 1989. It's hard to believe that this would be a flub of the author considering his care in depiction of everything else, so unless Patrick simply forgets what year it is (and that's possible, my Mom still thinks she's 22) then this must be a clue to his confusion. There are many other examples of this to be sure, but this one specifically doesn't work out. For all Patrick's Hedonism, in the 3 years of this book never details a single Birthday of his. Ellis makes it clear that he was born in October, but Patrick talks about Halloween in October, and never about the celebration a guy like him surely must have had! Is my Math wrong, am I reading too much in to this? I'd wager Ellis is inviting just this sort of Zeal!

In a lot of ways American Psycho is a more modern (rather than assumed post-modern) version of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange. In this respect, it's an even bleaker and more cynical view of humanity than Burgess', or even Palahniuk's (in Fight Club). The Chapter "a glimpse of Thursday afternoon" certainly has a post-Ludovico treatment feel to it in Patrick's Alex-like reaction to his surroundings, but there's no attempt for improvement or redemtion here and there's no view of the "greater good" in the novel on the whole! It's simply more and more of the devolution of the "bored white male" into an unstable social monster. American Psycho is a great and fulfilling read, but it's much more a novel of mistrust and addiction than it is of actual crime or serial murder. You'll find a lot more ironic comedy here than you might expect, but the detailed and unrelenting descriptions of disembowelment and toture will make you wish you had skipped lunch. Be prepared before you read this book!

When actor Christian Bale completed the film version of this book the first part he accepted was the role of Jesus Christ in the Television Mini-Series Mary, Mother of Jesus, and not surprisingly, as I came to the final pages of the novel American Psycho, I headed straight to the earliest possible showing of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ Penance, you know! And if nothing else, that's what Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho does to you... it makes you feel pretty damned rotten. I feel like petting some kittens or donating my entire pay check to an orphanage or maybe just feeding some ducks! Three and one half Stars out of Five for American Psycho. It's a very well written and hilarious comedy, but it's also a very frighteningly realistic slasher book.

You know, it's funny, I didn't picture Christian Bale at all in this role! You know who I picture? Conan O'Brien! Yeah, don't laugh, picture it! The Business Suit, the humor covering a dark stare, the hair! Give old Conan a Chainsaw and a vat of Acid an you've got yourself a Pat Bateman, there, Sparky! Ah, yeah! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go find a homeless person, give him or her all my money, buy him or her some new clothes and put them up in a hotel for the night. Penance.

Well, that, and I have to go return some videos!

Look, you can trust me, come on in to my world!
Click here for more reviews! What's the worst that can happen? Truuuuuuuuuust me!

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his own views and for his almost complete collection of Marvel's Micronauts Comics! How's THAT for a Name Brand dropping!
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