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American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis

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      13.11.2013 14:18
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      4 out of 5 - would recommend! Although not for everyone

      Purchased from Ebay for 99p with £1.50 postage and packaging!

      NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!!

      This book is set in the 1980's around a group of 'yuppie' wall street traders who are obsessed with money and materialistic things and think nothing less of dementing homeless people who they think are worthless members of society. To them status and bank balance is everything.

      Descriptions of clothing and items filling characters apartments are given at length in the first person by Patrick Bateman (the american psycho) particularly at the start of the book who - just like his 'friends' - is obsessed with the latest fashions, trends and gadgets as appearance means everything to him.

      I think these lengthy page(s) long descriptions are needed and play a large part in the novel as it really shows how consumed Patrick is with appearance and fine details. It helps not only to show his obsession with looks but to display his OCD side e.g. if someone is not wearing the right thing or he forgets to do something in his daily routine like return his video tapes then its no more Mr Nice Psycho!

      To those surrounding him he is seen as 'the boy next door' type as no one in his high flying circle seem to notice he is on a downward spiral despite his obvious cries for attention/help which go unheard and unanswered.

      The book at times is very graphic in its sexual and violent context and at times may prove to be too much for some readers so beware! However people must remember that this is a work of fiction and all these murders described by Bateman really help you to get into his head.
      The violence/murders starts off by being mentioned off hand in the book merely using up a sentence or two to keep the reader intrigued. Eventually the murders/ sexual violence are described in very lengthy details (pages at a time) as Patrick reaches his peak of his serial killing rampage which you can sense is building as each murder is described more explicitly and becomes more and more twisted.

      Eventually after a point in the book he seems to become less interested in murders and more confused with his own self and why he is doing what he is. His killings become less frequent or at least less written about and described.

      I believe that Patrick Bateman wanted to be found out all along perhaps merely to shock and horrify those around him which would give him great pleasure and satisfaction and because this does not happen (despite his obvious attempts) I think this annoys him and causes him to be less interested in the end. However he does not stop killing and does so whenever he has the psychopathic urge to do so.

      Overall I love this book and a real classic I am glad to say I have read which is superbly written. I cannot wait to watch the film and see how it compares to the book - although I am hoping it is not quite as graphic!

      Have to give 4 stars as I was rather disappointed with the ending!

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        20.10.2013 12:51
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        Read with caution

        I loved the film American Psycho with Christian Bale at Patrick Bateman so when I saw this book in the library I decided to give it a go.

        The story is about 20 something investment bankers in New York around the 80s and follows Patrick Bateman, a high flying banker on Wall Street who has everything, a great apartment, the most expensive suits, a fiancé. He has a dark side however, as you may have guessed from the title.

        The narrative of the book features heavily around what the characters in the book look like, and in particular what they are wearing, I have never read such detailed explanations of a man's wardrobe in fact! I found this a bit annoying at the beginning of the book but later realised that this was just the style of the book and indeed, later on through the story as the descriptions become less detailed and more confused, you get a real sense that Patrick is cracking up, and I guess in hindsight this was the intention of the author in the first place.

        The book is told in the first person, from Patrick Bateman and as a result, the book is quite disturbing at times. Because Patrick Bateman is the american psycho referred to - he enjoys torturing and murdering people. The book's torture scenes in this book are seriously graphic. In particular, there is one chapter containing a girl and a rat, that even now makes my stomach turn. I have read a lot of horror books over the years and this is one of only two books that I have ever had to put down to have a little breather from. That's how terrible this one particular scene is!

        The end of the story is strange, and even after having read it, and having seen the film a number of times, I'm still not really sure I understand it, but then maybe that's just me!

        I would recommend this to a friend, but only one who is a bit sick and twisted and certainly not to anyone of a delicate nature!

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          14.08.2011 00:37
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          Five star shock factor, two star story.

          Most will have heard of the widespread talk that surrounds American Psycho, either as a film or a book. I have not seen the 2000 adaptation which stars Christian Bale, so my thoughts are based entirely on the book I have just read.

          American Psycho was written by Bret Easton Ellis in 1991, and looks at the preppy American society in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The book's protagonist is Patrick Bateman, a 26 year old 'totally GQ' man who by day works in Wall Street for an investment company and by night is a serial womaniser and torturer. The book is told by Bateman himself, allowing us inside the mind of this clearly dark and troubled individual.

          The book begins gently, Patrick Bateman seems like a 'fairly normal' individual of the late 1980s, well as normal as could be given the circumstances, incredibly wealthy and funding a cocaine habit Bateman aims to be noticed. His obsession with his and other's physiques is evident from the start as well as his obsession with what those close to him wear and wear they choose to socialise. Ellis does exceptionally well in getting into the mind of someone who is clearly psychologically disturbed, in fact I would be surprised if Ellis himself had never come into close contact with psychosis in one form or another. The way he describes each individual components of a character's outfit does at times seem a little autistic, and the sometimes lack of a bigger picture or general aura of what is in the room is typical of someone suffering from one form of a mental health disorder. Bateman's character seems to become more vacant as the pages turn, his lack of knowledge of the names of many of his victims and descriptions more often of victim's bodies and not faces also makes the reader disconnected from those being tortured, which possibly reflects what is going through Bateman's mind as a character. Even though the book is told from Bateman's view, I never felt I got to know Bateman's character until towards the end of the book, where his flaws are finally revealed to Bateman himself.

          The build-up to the actual torture is gradual and I was probably about a third of the way into the book before this issue really seemed to gain momentum. However, once the torture starts there is little stopping it and this snowballs to the dramatic and gratuitously gruesome chapter involving the rat and the girl. It is a chapter once read that will never be forgotten. No chapter has ever made me gag, and make my stomach turn like the one in American Psycho, this is some feat for someone who has dealt with blood and guts on a daily basis. I would personally argue that some of the torture scenes are too much, and go on too long, but it seems that it is this shock factor that caused the large number of sales and film release that followed this book. This is not a book that I felt I could read before bed, as I didn't want the images of torture invading my dreams, nor did I feel comfortable reading this book whilst eating due to its stomach turning properties.

          As far as the plot goes, I found the book lacked real structure, particularly after the rat scene, the ending for me lacked any form of closure, and has in fact left me confused to what is happening to Bateman and where he is going. The chapters where Bateman reviews various areas of culture such as Huey and the News don't work for me, although it sets the scene for the culture of the time, I really don't see how this added to the plot or development of the book. I can be at times a bit of a passive reader, so some things I may miss first time round, and I regularly reread chapters to understand what is going on. However, I felt too many characters were introduced too quickly, not aided by characters calling other characters by the wrong names, and trying to keep up with Patrick Bateman's love life was a task in itself. Neither did I feel that many of these characters had much chance to develop save Jean.

          Bateman does have a girlfriend throughout the book, Evelyn, however I felt his assistant Jean was the closest Bateman came to a loving relationship, and seemed to be the only female character he respected through the book, who he wasn't using to further his sexual endeavours.

          Did I enjoy American Psycho? Well no, I can't say I did. However the 384 pages in front of me is an important work of a fiction, and should not be ignored. The brilliance of Ellis' writing, the ability to get inside the mind of a troubled man such as Patrick Bateman should be praised. The writing is certainly dark, but the theme of a society based on the materialistic can never function properly. We must look deeper, and not just take to what is on the surface and the worldly goods one owns to be what our lives are based upon. Due to the recent events over the past weeks Ellis could still teach our society a thing or two twenty years on.

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            09.05.2011 08:50
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            A brilliant book which shows a true psychopath in the 80's

            To set the scene of this book - think 1980's yuppie culture that gripped the world and a young man named Patrick Bateman who thinks he is totally invinsible. A true psychopath who thinks far more about what tie to chose than murder. This is the story of his downhill spiral.

            Now so saying that you might be thinking that this book will be a bit grim - not a bit of it - I laughed all the way through and the character of Patrick Bateman is extremely amusing in a Quentin Tarantino kind of way and I adored him. Patrick is very well drawn and I found that I got to know him very well within this novel. The shallowness of other characters just goes to emphasize Patrick's character. This will suit any reader with a strong stomach and a good sense of humour.

            After talking to friends and family, I have found that it is of particular interest to those who had their halcyon days in the 1980's and can relate to the yuppie age but all ages should give it a try!.

            On a warning note - this book does contain extreme violence and very disturbing scenes. I would advise all parents and carers of younger readers to read this book first to see if it would be suitable for their loved ones. Anyone who does not like violence and bad language should give this one a swerve and it has plenty of both within the covers.

            Also posted on Ciao

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            30.01.2011 19:36
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            A 'must read' that's well worth the recognition it gets.

            I chose to read American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis as I am currently on a mission to read as many 'classic' and highly recommended books, and American Psycho appears on almost every 'must read' list. Having seen the film and based on the book's title I expected the novel to be shocking, thought provoking and profound, having just turned the final page I can confirm all of the above.
            The novel centres around Pat Bateman, a 90s wall street yuppie, whose life revolves around possessions, greed and status. All 384 pages are read through Bateman's point of view but we are left knowing nothing personal about him. I think this is an extremely effective technique on Ellis's part, it emphasises his message about the emptiness and sense of nothingness that surround the rich people at the forefront of 90s culture. Throughout the novel Ellis uses various techniques that culminate in a very strong ultimate message. Some of these techniques make the novel very difficult to read and lead to the reader requiring enormous patience to persevere. The constant lists of what people are wearing become very tedious to read but are necessary as they reflect people's obsessions with labels, appearances and social status. The flitting between the mundane society and the excitement of violence demonstrates how Pat Bateman needs to be violent to feel alive. The fact he hides this side of his personality so well from the people close to him demonstrates how superficial his relationships are.
            The novel is renowned for it's violent content and although I fully expected this and am not easily put off I did find these parts of the novel very uncomfortable to read and often found myself wondering what sort of person could write such shocking content. Overall though they are what the book is all about, some may find the sexual and physical violence off putting but without it there would be no significant point to the novel and American Psycho would not have made it to the top of the must read lists. The controversy surrounding this book is well placed.
            Overall I think people will take what they will from this novel. It's definitely a love it or hate it novel. For me I thought the violent content was necessary in creating meaning throughout the novel and I enjoyed being fascinated by Pat Bateman's behaviour. It's a novel that takes patience to get through and isn't particularly enjoyable to read as a story but when you think about what it represents and the message Ellis is trying to send there is a great sense of enjoyment and even achievement. I think the true stamp of a modern classic is that it makes you think and American Psycho certainly does this.
            American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis is widely available but I obtained my copy from HMV for £5.

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            19.05.2010 20:59
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            Proof that not all the classics have to be over 100 years old

            Published in 1991 Bret Easton Ellis satirical look at the yuppie culture of the early 1990s is still as relevant today as at anytime during it's 20 year lifespan. Told in the first person by the books main character Patrick Bateman, it covers a 3 year period in his life in which he transforms from slick Manhattan stock broker to sadistic psychopath. The book has earnt it's reputation for the manner in which it details the graphic violens and sexual content. It certainly is not one for the faint hearted. Beautifully written, it makes even the most mundane of events into the moststunning moment.

            It opens on of all days, April Fools Day. Patrick Bateman, a wealthy Harvard graduate and succesful Manhattan stock broker from a wealthy family, narrates us through his daily life from conversations with colleagues to nights out including an amusing time at a U2 gig. Throughout the first part of the book there is no specific action of violence, just the day to day life he lives. It is as if the audience is being not just lulled into a false sense of security, but instead immersed into the sheer boredom of his life and in doing so giving reason to his eventual decline.

            The books second act takes on an even more peculiar tone when through Bateman's narrative we spend entire chapters on the seemingly pointless. These range from a detailed description of a male grooming that would not look out of place in the pages of GQ to a discussion on the works of Whitney Houston and Huey Lewis.

            However the third act is where the reader's thirst for blood is sated and Bateman takes great pleasure in detailing his acts. So caught up in the crimes he has commited and with a declining sense of self control, he begins to intersperse the conversations with colleagues with graphic details of his acts. Those mundane actions of the first act take on a new light as we see what was going on behind his eyes. 'I fear my mask of sanity is slipping' is perhaps the books most memorable quote and as it reaches it's climax, the reader is plunged headlong into Bateman's insanity. The end will leave the reader question all of what he has read. Perhaps the most important thing to remeber is that this is not a book about murder or crime but rather identity, both personal and social.

            I read this book after seeing the 2000 film starring Christian Bale, and have always kept a copy handy. In recent years it has had plaudits bestowed upon it now that the original hype regarding the violence and sex has died away. Certainly this book is definitely one that should not be judged by it's cover.

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            21.04.2010 10:27
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            A slightly flawed masterpiece.

            The first thing you need to know about this book is that before it was even published it caused such a uproar that it almost wasn't published. The first publishing company author Brett Easton Ellis (Less than Zero, Lunar Park) dropped it. Fortunately, it was picked up by another company and published. There was so much controversy, that Ellis even received death threats.
            That's how much of a storm this booked caused.
            Told in the first person by the character himself, the story revolves around Patrick Bateman, a man born to such a wealthy family that he doesn't need to work. Yet, he chooses to and we pick the story up as he has found work as an Investment Banker in New York. On the face of it, he is a normal yuppie, who arrives late for work, who indulges in long lunches and conversations about business cards. He is at times the envy of others, but at times he envies others. When asked why he works, he simply replies that he 'wants to fit in', almost creating sympathy as we learn that he feels lost and doesn't know what he wants from life.
            The suddenly, it all changes and we are introduced to his 'night' ego. We learn that with all his success, his inability to fit in he has become intensely warped and psychotic. He indulges in extreme violence and sex is very graphically described in the book as a means of escaping his own life. Specifically his violence is aimed at women, perhaps showing that in his own childhood he had a problem with his mother (there are two or three subtle references). This continues throughout the book, culminating in a subtle but interesting twist right at the end which suggests something else about Bateman.
            This is a masterpiece, there is no doubt about it. I think probably it was one of the milestones of the 1990's. It literally shows the American Dream gone wrong. A man who has everything, yet is so lost he has to go to extremes to get away from his life, which he doesn't really understand.
            In many ways this shows the feelings of youth today. Many who have had nothing, and never get a break. Or those that have had everything and are totally lost because they don't know what else to do with life. However, though the plot and idea can't be faulted, I do feel the way in which is was written at certain points means that the message is lost. The subtly in some of the chapters is superb, but in others where there is extreme violence or sex, you get the feeling the author was merely writing to show he could write about violence in that way.
            Well worth reading if you have an open mind and are very interested in literature, as many of the character points are very subtle, or are in the extreme.

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            28.01.2010 13:45
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            Contentious and grim

            American Psycho is a novel with a reputation as one of the most challenged works of fiction of the last 100 years. It is an incredibly disturbing book about a successful yuppie named Patrick Bateman, who moonlights as a sadistic murderer and sex fiend. While the novel begins slowly and timidly, by the 200 page mark, you'll be reviling the incredibly graphic depictions not only of sadistic torture and murder, but sexual violence.

            However, this isn't to miss the point of the novel; it is at its heart a satire of the emergent yuppie culture in the 1980s that came about after the fervour around the 1970s counter-cultural upheaval movement died down. Young people with a lot of disposable income appeared in leaps and bounds, and a lot of the novel has Bateman describing his various clothes and shower products which hs absurdly obsesses over, as though these material possessions account for him as a person. Admittedly these long sections are not the most intriguing in the world, but they in many ways reinforce how dull and robotic his commodity-driven life is.

            I wouldn't dare to push this book on anyone, not merely because of its graphic content, but because it does require a lot of patience. However, Ellis proves himself an important voice on the state of society, depicting Bateman as a product of a society that is becoming increasingly more apathetic towards humanitarian issues and becoming far too obsessed with the right pair of shoes and the perfect haircut. With our ability to view beheading videos with a few clicks, is this not a vital message? We are becoming too desensitised with our capitalist invention, and while we're not all going to go around hacking people up with chainsaws, we lose some of ourselves spiritually if nothing else.

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            25.01.2010 21:57

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            An interesting read and life changing read

            American Psycho is a novel based on the character of Patrick Bateman, a young, wealthy and somewhat successful investment banker from New York. The book covers a span of 3 years in his life in which you see him develop from a seemingly normal character, with the odd mention of murder, to an all round psychopath. There are many violent and down right disturbing scenes in this book and if truth be told, I could barely get through the ones I managed to read. For those that have read this already, you may be familiar with a torture scene involving a Rat? Well, I couldn't get past it. Never before has a book made me feel so sick that I couldn't carry on reading it.
            Up until that point though I have to admit that it was actually not bad a read. Patrick is a funny and witty character, and the conversations he has with his friends were humerous. The random mentions of a TV chat show also managed to get a smile on my face. Although it is quite scary how well Easton-Ellis manages to portray the murder/sex scenes. I can't believe anybody can have that a vivid imagination.
            Overall, I would rate this book very highly. If you are not easily disturbed by violence I would reccommend this to read, just brace yourself the more you get into it and do not read before bedtime!

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            01.01.2010 12:39
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            Insight into a disturbed mind - not for the faint of heart!

            Yuppie-culture is in full swing in 1980s America. Patrick Bateman, the novel's protagonist, is a hugely successful business man, obsessed with using much of his hefty salary on the trendiest restaurants, the latest gadgets, the most fashionable and expensive clothes. However the other side to this gleaming, glamorous existence is, as evidenced by the title, that Patrick is a psychopath who gets his kicks from killing as many people in as horrific ways as possible.

            A first point to note about this book is the violence. Patrick murders repeatedly but unlike in many other serial killer novels these incidents are not glossed over or even briefly described - instead you are taken through them in extreme detail... and lets just say Patrick starts to get much more 'creative' with his methods as the book goes on. I've got quite a strong stomach for these things but still found it a bit too intense - there being one passage in particular that made me feel physically sick. I guess the point is, be prepared, and don't assume that just because, for instance, you've sat through all the Saw movies, that this book won't still have the power to shock. It was certainly unlike anything I had ever read before.

            The book mostly appears to alternate between rather monotonous descriptions of Patrick's daily life and sudden bursts of frenzied violence. When not committing horrendous murders Patrick spends most of his time with fellow yuppies going out to the trendiest clubs or restaurants and discussing their designer brand clothing. These parts of the book read often just like a list of 'items': characters often appear interchangeable and faceless and are usually followed by a lengthy description of what they are wearing and what designer it is by. Nights out are characterized by descriptions of what is on the menu and whether the position of a table in a restaurant is desirable or not.

            What Ellis effectively manages to create in these sections is the idea of everything (and therefore everyone) being viewed as commodities, which is in line with the materialistic culture Patrick exists in. The other characters are shallow and Patrick appears to mostly be interested in how expensive their clothes are rather than anything they have to say (which is usually drivel anyway). There exists also, between Patrick and his 'friends' a strong culture of jealousy, whether it be over getting tables at a new restaurant or the fanciness of their business cards. In Patrick at least this provokes a strong hatred, emphasizing his obsession with material objects. In a world where that is all that matters, having the best is everything.

            As the book continues, without wanting to give too much away as spoilers, you do see a deterioration of Patrick's mental state, as shown in more extreme killings and various cries for help. This is all easily ignored by the other characters in the book, given that they don't really listen to anything each other says, having a psychopathic killer in their midst goes largely unnoticed.

            Overall, in my opinion, Ellis has created a very effective, if gory, book. Patrick's daily life is so horrendously dull and meaningless that you find yourself almost waiting for, albeit dreading, the next spree of killings, if only for a break in the current monotony of lists and names. In this sense I think Ellis effectively captures the idea of Patrick's mental state - whereby life has become so devoid of anything that the only way to feel alive is through the most brutal means.

            I would recommend this to anyone who feels that they could stomach the gore contained within it, as I feel that if that sort of thing is not for you, you will just come away from the book sickened and it is probably not worth reading in that case. If you can look past the gore the book provides a shocking view into a disturbed mind and an underlying message of critique on capitalist culture.

            I give the book 4 stars rather than 5 because I did feel that it was overly long, at well over 300 pages, which made it certainly tough going in places. Also the levels of extreme gore, while part of the point of the book, are highly disturbing, and have certainly put me off reading it again... at least for a little while.

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              13.11.2009 21:36
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              Not for the faint hearted!

              It's 1980. It's America - Wall Street - and the Yuppie is king. Double breasted power suits, slicked-back hair, leather briefcases and executive toys - in the land of the highly-paid, workshy executive, image is everything.

              The image Patick Bateman give off is a professional - he has the designer underwear, the des res, the expensive artwork and the six figure salary. He's a guy who eats a three hundred dollar meal and thinks it's cheap and has a gaggle of cronies. He has a girlfriend (and a mistress, and any woman he wants). He has power.

              Of course this image papers over the cracks which betray the real Patrick Bateman - paranoid, schizophrenic, addicted to drugs...and a homicidal maniac. Patrick mainly murders women, usually of a lower status than him (prostitutes, models, ordinary people) but also murders people on the street, beggars, people he's jealous of...and, shockingly, and disturbingly, a child.

              Throughout the book, Patrick becomes more and more deluded and more unable to keep his mask in place, and the reader is constantly thinking 'is he going to be caught?'. I won't spoil it, but I personally love the end.

              In fact, I love this book. It's not for the faint-hearted - the murder scenes are as gross, disgusting, violent and perverted as you'd expect - but it's so well written, so eloquent, that you can't, in part, help liking, sympathising with even, Patrick's obvious to fit in, desire to be normal, and hatred of his obvious mental illness. It's not an easy read - the best books never are - and it's one of those books that I personally love reading and re-reading.

              I would recommend this book, but only if you have a strong stomach!

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              03.11.2009 21:24
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              Serial Killer. New York City. Tons of victims. Tons of killing.

              Right. Serial Killer. New York City. Tons of victims. Is there anything else to this book?
              Well, all the characters are extremely shallow, partially because they are not alive long enough for the reader to gain and insight into what they are like as a person. But even the main characters (they dont die): Evelyn, Jean, Paul Owen excert a very weak sense of personality.
              In an almost overwhelming contrast, the main character, Patrick Bateman, a successful buissnessman, Harvard graduate, yuppie, and, of course, serial killer, is so complicated and intricate in the mind, that I doubt even Easton Ellis understands him.
              Perhaps this is intentional, and this shows the shallowness of the society where Ellis bases his killer, but the reader may spend hours trying to figure out Mr. Bateman, and come up with very few finds.
              The book is essentially filled with graphis scenes of violence, sex and drug abuse. Elsewhere, there is very little. Ellis finds pages and pages of inspiration in describing the Patty Winter's show, or the clothes that Pat Bateman is wearing, and though this may add to the effect of shallowness that he may be trying to create, it is not fun for the reader.
              I advise not buying this book unless you are a psychologist, looking for a very difficult case.

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              30.05.2009 02:08
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              Just thoroughly brilliant. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

              Worryingly (as you may tell by the books title) this is my favourite book.

              To give a small, non-spoiler preface to the events in the book this is a story about Patrick Bateman, the epitome of the 1980s yuppie. He is obsessive compulsive about the various things that he either loves or requires to fit within his self styled idea of perfection. As the title would suggest, there is a lot more to him than that, but this is best left untouched for maximum impact when reading it.

              What I will say (again, this is not a spoiler) is that the book as a whole subtly encapsulates what I envisage when remembering the 80s. This is quite an achievement considering the oldest I got to in the 80s was 5 years old. It's so hard to put my finger on why the scene seems so right without referencing tenuous links such as multi-story car parks, neon lights, multi-national corporation branding, trouser braces and money clips. Yet hopefully once you read it (which I highly recommend you do) you will understand what I mean...it just feels right.

              The story is fascinating, and one that encourages insight and varied perception.

              I have my own ideas about many of the themes throughout the book, and even the stylistics that influence the way in which you read, again encouraging further ideas for the reader. I am almost at pains to not self indulgently divulge them, but I wont for fear of spoiling the readers own views on this.

              Suffice to say, I love this book and cant recommend it highly enough.

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                24.11.2008 22:06

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                Get past the reputation as a gore fest, and enjoy it for what it is.

                What a quality novel. To enjoy this fully you need to move past the gore, blood and quite frankly sickening parts, and look at the underlying message and themes of the book. Sure, you can read this for a cheap thrill (if this kind of stuff floats your boat). But to get more out of it, think of the setting and think of the main character. Ellis' creation of Patrick Bateman is superb. Patrick could be ripped out the pages of Shakespeare. I can't think of a darker but more comic character than him. Because for everything he does, and all that he has, you just can't take him seriously.

                Bateman portrays everything that the young and financially mobile stood for in the 80s. The obsession with image. The trophy girl. The gym membership. The bars you drink in. The food you eat. The importance of your business card. But what lies beneath it all? A vacuum. And that is the point of the book. For most that the vacuum that exists will be filled with nothing. With Bateman he fills it with murderous deeds and heinous acts against fellow humanity. But at the end of it, what is his identity? Who is he? What does he stand for? What does he have? Nothing, nothing, nothing.

                Read this. Engage. Enjoy.

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                21.10.2008 17:39
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                Psycho Yuppie kills lots of women. Er, that's about it.

                Being one of those odd people who is truly fascinated by violent crime and people's motives for it (mainly because I can't possibly imagine anything motivating me to commit a violent crime...), I thought I'd really enjoy reading American Psycho. Hailed as a literary masterpiece by many, an unnecessarily gory romp by others, it seemed to contain all the ingredients to become one of my all-time favourite books.

                I was wrong. I shall never judge a book by its cover, or indeed its hype, again.

                I have a very strong stomach. It takes an awful lot to make me feel even remotely sick. I regularly watch the goriest of gory horror films for a giggle and have read a lot of shocking literature over the course of my education and my interests. Nothing has affected me like the super-violence contained within this book. I mention this before going on to a full assessment of the novel merely as a warning. This book is not suitable for many people at all. I would not recommend it to any reader as I wouldn't want anyone else to have to read the utterly disgusting descriptions of extreme sexual violence in it.

                Ok, now on to a little more about the concept of the book...
                Patrick Bateman is a highly successful New York businessman, completely immersed in the greed culture in existence in the late 80's and early 90's. He is, essentially, a yuppie (wow, I haven't used that term in a while!). He works hard, plays harder: spending a large chunk of his gigantic salary on dining at the trendiest restaurants; clothing himself in the most expensive clothes available; and buying the newest "status symbol" gadgets. He lives a shallow life, as does everyone he associates with. So far, so familiar. We all know of the yuppie movement - like it or loathe it, it was a real phenomenon back when this novel is set.

                In a fairly obvious satire of the meaninglessness of yuppie culture, Patrick Bateman, our central character, is also a psychotic killer. Now, hands up, who didn't see that one coming in the title?!

                The whole of the narrative in this book is in the first person, a well-known ploy to make a story feel more real, and encourage the reader to engage with the narrator. I'll admit, in this instance, the first person narrative can add a slightly more worrying edge to the brutal murder scenes, but they still manage to read like bad pornography for the most part (predictably enough, most of the murder victims are women, and yes I have read my fair share of bad pornography!). Engaging with the central character, however, simply will not happen with this book. I was of the opinion that this was deliberate, and that Bateman was intended to be viewed as an entirely remorseless and psychopathic character. This does not appear to be the case, however, as there is a vague attempt later on within the novel to introduce some feelings on Bateman's part with a couple of feeble and ignored "cries for help" which feel a lot like an afterthought on Ellis's part. This seems to fall flat on its face, however, and we are left with no more insight into Bateman than the old "Psychotic Businessman" cliché. The whole book is ruined by this one thing for me. Without an attempt to humanise Bateman the book would be powerful and hold its message successfully. The inclusion of this half-hearted cry for help really did undermine the whole book for me, turning it from a book with a message into a pile of pointless violent pornography.

                You may have gathered that I did not particularly enjoy reading this book. I fully appreciate that to many, this is a significant black comedy, satirizing the greed culture that we were all living in in the late 80's and early 90's. I can even see why many hold this view of the work. It is an effective black comedy on some levels. I cannot help but think, though, that on top of being unnecessarily violent, it is not particularly well-written and is incredibly repetative. The reader is not given enough credit to have "got the joke" before having endured all 385 pages of dinner, clothes, music, gadgets and brutal murder. It really isn't that complicated a concept to pick up - he's a shallow yuppie killing machine, and no-one notices, despite the fact he tries to tell people on a regular basis. There is no noteable deterioration in Bateman's psychological state, excepting the pitiful attempt to hint at some genuine feeling for his secretary (i.e. he tries his best not to chop her into little pieces or feed her brain to his fish...) and the entirely unconvincing "oh but I want to be caught really"-ness of the failed cries for help. There seems very little point in writing at such length about a character who could have been studied in sufficient depth in, say, one or two murders and a couple of nice dinners - why on earth did I need to read about countless nice dinners and so damn many murders?!

                So, would I recommend this book? Well, I would recommend it if you have an incredibly strong stomach (the murders really are some of the worst things I've ever had the displeasure to read about - made all the worse by the fact they're in print and have to be brought about by your own imagination - *shudder*), and if you can cope with being patronised for 385 pages or alternatively are a little bit slow and feel you may take 385 pages to pick up the central "yuppies and greed are bad and money will corrupt you until you have no values at all" message. It might be worth reading if you are unfamiliar with capitalism and how evil we are supposed to believe it to be. It might also be worth reading if you're a bit of a psycho yourself and like the prospect of reading detailed accounts of gruesome, sex-related murders.

                If, however, you don't like reading bad porn; aren't particularly fond of bloody murder; are perfectly familiar with yuppie culture and aren't very slow, I seriously would recommend that you steer clear of this novel.

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