Tuesday, October 7, 2014

American Psycho - Marie's Review

In 1991 I was a middle-schooler watching Fresh Prince, listening to Roxette and ripping pages out of TigerBeat to post on my wall. My reading list was comprised of school assignments, and it most certainly did not include the newly-published American Psycho. I didn't even know this book existed until nearly 10 years later when it was adapted to film. Another 14 years passed before I actually read it.

American Psycho is Bret Easton Ellis' critique of America's consumer culture, and Patrick Bateman is the ultimate consumer. He makes a ton of money on Wall Street and then spends it on brand name products - skin care lotions, silk ties, tailored suits, sleek furniture, gourmet meals. He knows the only acceptable bottled water to drink and always has his trusty Zagat guide handy when planning meals. He walks into the room and can tell you the designer for every stitch of clothing that everyone is wearing. What he can't tell you is who anyone is...not even in his own circle of friends.

That is because people and products are the same thing to Bateman. Identities don't register. To him, you're just another chunk of meat in an Ermenegildo Zegna pant suit. This is also how Bateman justifies his violent tendencies. And they are very violent. In between his expositions on Genesis albums and exhaustive lists of menswear and accessories, Bateman tortures and kills animals and people in gory detail. 

This made the book very hard to read. I found myself skimming entire passages, but here's where I have to give BEE some credit. I realized that I was experiencing what it was to be Patrick Bateman at a very basic level. The endless descriptions of Bateman's morning toilette, exercise regimen, shopping trips, and debates over the coolest bar, club or restaurant were numbing me to the horrific scenes of violence.

Although I can't recommend this book and I certainly would never describe it as enjoyable, I do think it's a valid commentary on consumerism and madness - one that remains relevant even when read 23 years after publication. I don't think I would have ever become a serial killer, but thinking back to those middle school days, I do remember being really concerned about having a pair of Girbaud jeans for every day of the week. 

The Last Word - Successfully portrays the dangers of obsessive consumerism but hard to read due to violence and exhaustive description of absolutely everything - including said violence. It also gave me really disturbing dreams.

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