Book Reviews

This week I finished reading two quite remarkable though very different books.  The books were Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.  Please find my reviews for them below:

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

First published in 1970, Dee Brown’s masterpiece is a testament to the plight of the Native Americans in the years 1860-1890.  The author successfully employs a compelling and emotionally charged narrative, as he outlines the history of the various tribes during this turbulent and merciless period in American history.  As the flow of white immigration became an insatiable surge, it pushed ever westwards, encroaching onto the lands of the original inhabitants of this vast country.

This fascinating and compelling account details the noble efforts of individual Native American tribes to maintain their way of life through a multitude of broken promises, treachery, violence and greed that was to ultimately lead to the loss of their liberty and in many instances complete obliteration.

The book allows the reader the opportunity to gain an intricate understanding of these various struggles, including Sitting Bull’s efforts to retain control of The Black Hills and the Apache chief Geronimo’s highly effective guerrilla war.  The author is also equally adept at narrating the less well known yet equally captivating histories of other tribes during this period, such as the Modocs in California, the Utes of Colorado and the flight of the Nez Percés under their charismatic chief Joseph.

The book ends with the massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee in 1890, a tragic and avoidable incident, which was to mark the end of an era.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho is a highly controversial novel that brought its young author Bret Easton Ellis instant fame.  The book is written from the perspective of a young Wall Street financier, Patrick Bateman.  Patrick is intelligent, well educated, wealthy and good looking, in addition to being a psychopath.

The anti-hero’s bland narcissistic existence revolves around activities such as fretting over dinner bookings at a host of Manhattan’s finest eateries, a rigorous and very particular fitness regime, a dizzying array of beauty products and an underlying obsession with materialism, particularly clothing; his own and others.  Patrick’s relationship with his numerous hedonistic male and female friends and acquaintances is characterised by a universal shallowness, including that with long-time girlfriend Evelyn.

As the book progresses we are drawn into the mindset of a killer plagued by periods of psychosis and an increasingly voracious appetite for debauchery on an epic scale, which includes torture, mutilation and murder.  At times the narrative is truly horrific in its unrelenting scope for savagery, barbarity and misogyny.  Yet the book is often humorous, particularly the numerous comical scenes in which Patrick attempts unsuccessfully to shock people.  Examples of this include asking for a ‘decapitated coffee’ and when referring to mergers and acquisitions as ‘murders and executions’.  The dark comedy lies not merely in the clever word play, but also in the fact that the parties concerned remain utterly oblivious to what is actually being said.

Essentially the book can be viewed as a satire of the yuppies culture of the 1980s, as it is evident that the author is commenting on society’s obsession with the meaningless and trivial, such as our obsession with fashion accessories.  American Psycho is a fascinating, complex, bleak and often comical book that allows one to gain an understanding of the inner workings of a psychopath, whilst at the same time questioning the very essence of capitalist culture.

2 Comments

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  • I seem to recall that the book ends with the protagonist looking at an Exit sign in a cinema and reading “this is not a way out” or similar, a surprising amoral conclusion. A similar degree of amorality was later exhibited by Tarantino, and more recently in the film Drive. In the film ‘Drive; the murdering protagonist does not land in jail or anything, just drives on. You would expect the murderer to end up killed or in the nick or meet a similar demise, but the main character does have any real retribution in the end. Have I confused this with the ending to Glamorama?

    • An Exit sign is indeed the last scene in American Psycho though it is outside the bar Harry’s not a cinema if I remember correctly. I haven’t read Glamorama yet but hope to soon. Might also have been interested in watching Drive, but as I now know the rather unpredictable ending I’ll give it a miss. Thanks for the comment!

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