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“American Psycho” is the story of a psychopathic murderer. Written in the first person, it recounts the life of Patrick Bateman, a young, wealthy investment banker. His life revolves around the right choice of clothes, the right choice of restaurants, the right kind of shaving mousse, aftershave and hair lotion, going to the gym, watching videotapes on his expensive a/v system, and going out with his yuppie friends – who are so wrapped up in their own life that they sometimes mistake him for one of the other cookie-cutter yuppies. Coming from a wealthy family, Bateman does not have to work for a living, but he maintains the façade anyway, because his life would be even emptier if he did not.
In order to vent the frustration of his conformist life, and to pierce the boundaries of civilised life around him, he starts torturing and murdering people – starting with a bum that he slashes on the street, and progressing to more and more elaborate torture scenes and murdering more and more in the open. His surroundings completely fail to notice anything out of the ordinary about him. In one scene, he tells a female acquaintance that he works in “murders and executions", and she thinks he said “mergers and acquisitions".
The torture and murder scenes are described in excruciating detail and form a stark contrast to the empty shell of a life that Bateman leads otherwise. The terror of the book does not arise from the descriptions of the murder and torture scenes, but from their contrast to Bateman’s mundane life.
Is it a good book? Some people praise it as a modern classic, some say that Ellis should have put it on the shelf for another ten years. I think it is an important book – it captures an important aspect of the society in the eighties and early nineties, the yuppie culture, and the terror that can lurk behind civilised society. I’m glad I read it.
Oh, and I’m reading Electroboy at the moment.