Book Review | American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Abandon all hope ye who enter here…

If you don’t approach this book as the most wicked of dark comedies, it’s easy to understand why there are so many people who find it offensive. This book, however, had me cracking up. From the chapter-long rants about music to the gratuitous gore and pornographic smut that grace some of the later chapters, this book was a roller-coaster of fun. As Mike Elgan said“Don’t tell jokes. Expose the humor of reality and truth…”. I think that’s exactly what Bret Easton Ellis did with American Psycho. He didn’t bother being polite, he wasn’t worried about being offensive; he wrote about the issues that we all secretly face – trying to fit in, shitty coworkers, relationship problems, the fact that most of us want to kill a lot of people around us…and really, when you read this book, you have to ask yourself did Patrick Bateman really kill anyone?Or was it all in his head…

Welcome to Hell

The book begins with the line Abandon all hope ye who enter here, which is the supposed inscription at the entrance of hell, and ends with This is not an exit, which is a reference to Sartre’s No Exit (which you can read for free here), wherein several individuals are trapped in hell. If you missed it, these lines add a whole other layer of depth to the meaning of this book. In Sartre’s No Exit, one of the characters exclaims “Hell is other people!” because he is trapped in a room with two people he hates. By reading the first line of the book, one assumes that they are entering hell, and when they read the closing line, there comes the terrifying notion that you can never leave, and you, like Patrick Bateman, are trapped in this hell forever. (“This hell” being 80’s New York, surrounded by a bunch of Wall St. yuppies)

Technically, this book had a unique way of telling the story. It starts normally enough, but the farther in you get, as you begin to see Patrick’s sanity slowly slipping, the author too seems to break down the structure of the book. Sentences that trail off into nothing, incomplete thoughts, missing punctuation; it all helps to add to the growing conclusion that Patrick Bateman is losing his mind, slipping further into madness.

Other than that, it was rather enjoyable to read because it was fast paced, didn’t linger on descriptions, and what I really really liked about it was the fact that it used a stream of consciousness approach to tell the story. And that stream of consciousness just happened to belong to Patrick Bateman, our dear narrator. As far as characters go, Patrick Bateman is my favorite kind, but I’ve always been a real fan of antiheroes, assholes, and morally dubious brats, so that may be a bit bias.

Should you read it?

If you can’t appreciate dark humor, get squeamish easily, get offended easily, or don’t like books about men sitting around talking about suits, don’t read this book. However, if you are a fan of all of these things, read it. If you are a horror fan, read it. If you enjoy the character Hannibal Lecter or the Silence of the Lambs books, chances are good you will enjoy this book, so read it. If you like rich bratty characters who are really mean, read it. And if you are into sadism/masochism, you will love it; read it.

Happy Reading,
The Literary Kat

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