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madbkwm

madbkwm

American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis So, I can't say that I enjoyed reading the whole of this book, but I do appreciate what Ellis is doing with it. I did see the Christian Bale movie when it came out years ago and vaguely remembered it, but certainly the novel does quite a bit more and quite a bit better than the movie (as novels always do).

In the beginning he makes his brand name craziness so apparent, this tames out as the novel goes on. We still get all the up-to-date technological gadgets, but fewer random brand names, except for the clothes. The clothes are always mentioned in precise detail. Certainly the point is that the clothes are more important than the person who is wearing them. In fact, every person is interchangeable (not only do they constantly call each other by the wrong name/misidentify), but the clothes are perfectly presented and always correctly identified.

It is not until page 52 that we first see Patrick's violent side and even then it is in an undertone (I have a knife with a serrated blade in the pocket of my Valentino jacket and I'm tempted to gut McDermott with it) such that the reader almost doesn't believe it. Which, of course, is just pure genius since none of the characters believe any of Patrick's confessions either.

Extending the interchangeability and unidentifiability of individuals, Patrick even confuses (and mixes up) Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks in the review of Genesis...at one point he calls them Mike Banks and Tom Rutherford. I wasn't completely sure what the Genesis, Whitney Houston, and Huey Lewis and News reviews were all about. Certainly they were fairly accurate (if slightly biases and too praiseworthy in my opinion) assessments of the artists, but I am not sure I got the purpose of including them in the novel.

As if the inability of any character to correctly recognize any other character isn't enough (really in every group interaction there are at least two people who get called by the wrong names), but the whole Marcus/Patrick mixup is a great alibi for the Paul Owen murder. I found it even more enlightening that Patrick doesn't exploit this when he talks to the detective. He is not out for Marcus (or even Paul for that matter), in fact the only person in the book that I would argue that he actually hates is Luis; everyone else is just expendable...as is everything in his life. And coming off of that is a great quote: "Since it's impossible in the world we live in to empathize with others, we can always empathize with ourselves."

I loved all the Les Mis references. Certainly, Les Mis was new to NY during this time and part of it is simply another brand-name, trendy sort of dropping. But, there is great irony in the fact that Jean Valjean is a gentle, loving man who is persecuted unnecessarily while Patrick Batemen is seen as the "boy next door" and a "brown-nosing goody-goody" despite being completely evil.

I loved watching Patrick slide from minor distortion (while the novel is not completely clear on this point I believe that when it starts he has only murdered a few people) to complete psychopath (by the end he can feel his grasp on reality to be unhinged and admits to multiple murders daily? and even resorting to drinking his own urine). Along the way, we see self-assessments that have to be somewhat accurate: "There wasn't a clear, identifiable emotion within me, except for greed and, possibly, total disgust. I had all the characteristics of a human being--flesh, blood, skin, hair--but my depersonalization was so intense, had gone so deep, that the normal ability to feel compassion had been eradicated, the victim of a slow, purposeful erasure."

Further, after killing the sax player and during the ensuing police chase scene the narration jumps from first person to third person. When the cab crashes into the Lotus Blossom, he emerges from the car as Patrick (no longer I). This is right before his confession to Harold Carnes (which, of course, is thought to be a joke). And, by the time he is in his office leaving the message, he has resorted by to first person narration. My understanding was that during the course of escape, when Patrick was most likely to get caught he depersonalized and fragmented enough so that he was simply not Patrick any longer. Once he is safely back in his office and confident that his lifestyle is not threatened, he can take credit once again for his devious acts.

Two more poignant comments along Patrick's slide into degradation: "How could she ever understand that there isn't any way I could be disappointed since I no longer find anything worth looking forward to?" Great line (especially coming from the serial killer)...in such society where everything we want is at our fingertips (including things that are not appropriate to have), we no longer want anything and of course, the lack of wanting is what makes for the ultimate depression. And, "there is an idea of a Patrick Batemen, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there. It is hard for me to make sense on any given level. Myself is fabricated, an aberration." I love it...as his depersonalization is complete he is nothing but a place holder. There is no Patrick (and of course neither are there any of the other people that he kills); there are simply pieces of flesh and meat and bone that exist so that clothes and objects can move throughout the world.

I didn't like the summary at the end. "Another one: everyone is interchangeable anyway. One more: it doesn't really matter." At this point in novel, if you need Ellis to tell you this then you shouldn't be reading this book.

Certainly, this is one of the most gory books I've read. There were parts where I could feel the grimace on my face; but overall I think it was well done and makes some interesting points about the importance of consumer culture and commercialization of the individual. I think if I bought into it completely I would have to give it a 5 star, but the fact that I hope that I am not completely de-sensitized myself forces me to only give it a 4 star rating.