American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – Reviewed by Guy Portman
American Psycho is a highly controversial novel that brought its 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 associates is characterised by shallowness. This is even the case 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. At times the narrative is horrific. 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’.
This satire of the yuppies culture of the 1980s is a complex, bleak and comical work that adroitly explores the mind of a psychopath, whilst at the same time questioning the very essence of capitalist culture.