Bret Easton Ellis
American Psycho (1991)
Reviewed: 1997-10-24

New York City, the late 1980s. Or rather, an exaggeration thereof. I hope. Because this is a sick society, rotten to its core. Patrick Bateman is a yuppie. Intelligent, educated at Harvard, handsome and well-clad and obsessed about both, he works at a nondescript Wallstreet job making obscene amounts of money. The things in life that most concern Patrick and his friends are managing daily reservations in the most hip and expensive Manhattan restaurants, getting drunk, snorting coke, and getting laid. Everything is appallingly superficial. People don't know each other, they have no ideals, morals, or purpose in life. Everything anybody cares about are appearances.

The book starts out harmless enough, although the depicted society is despicable. It takes some time before we notice that something is wrong with Patrick. Very wrong. As much as he enjoys drug stupor and casual sex, his real pleasure is derived from torturing, maiming, and killing animals and preferably people. At an ever accelerating pace American Psycho takes us into the mind of a serial killer, a realm of utter madness. The novel becomes increasingly surreal with Bateman's mounting insanity. Losing touch with reality he is driven to killing sprees of incredible cruelty and sadism.

American Psycho is a book that goes to the limits. Not to the limits of what is socially acceptable, but to those of what can be expressed in words. The ill-disguised bloody trail in Bateman's wake attracts little attention in a society that doesn't care. Homeless people, hookers, colleagues, they all die under Bateman's knife and assorted other tools. Nobody notices their disappearance or people are too occupied with themselves to give a damn. The real horror of this book aren't the graphic descriptions of what Bateman does to his victims but the society that helped to form such a creature and now sustains it. If we recognize the world of the novel as (close to) our own we have reason to worry.

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