On Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho

I’ve been putting off reviewing this novel, but now I’m done with all my deadlines and the extended period of procrastination that I experienced, I really can’t offset it any further. What else can one say with a novel that makes the readers feel the immensity of nothingness? And take note, this is not the nothingness that reminds one of the existentialist and nihilistic pseudo-philosophical perceptions of reality that gained popularity in the 20th century. The nothingness one acquires from this novel is simply a void, a a hollowness, a black hole in one’s mind and soul, and nothing else but that.

The novel begins with a statement scrawled on a wall saying, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” which not only sets the mood of the highly-disturbing novel American Psycho, but also acts as a suggestion, before anyone pursues reading this piece. The intelligent reader would do well if he/she does “abandon all hope,” because here is a narrative where that abstract, highly-idealistic concept is not found. It is ultimately irrelevant once we enter Patrick Bateman’s head. There is no hope for Bateman, for the people he surrounds himself with, and finally, there is no hope for the fictive world brilliantly and accurately rendered by the author.

Most of us are already familiar with the plot of this narrative due to its film adaptation starring Christian Bale (I doubt anyone can forget that scene where he whacks Jared Leto with an axe while discussing the fine points of the newest Huey Lewis and The News album, while the band’s single, “Hip to be Square,” blares in the background). Patrick Bateman, the protagonist, is an executive at Pierce and Pierce, a very important business firm in New York City. Publicly, he spends his days obsessing over the latest trends in men’s fashion and trying out the newest and most promising restaurants in New York City. On nights, he hangs out with his friends drinking scotch, snorting cocaine in bathroom stalls, in luxurious nightclubs all over the Upper East Side. He works out frequently, makes certain his tan is just right for his skin, and ensures that he preserves his good looks and masculine appeal. Finally, he holds a great fascination for The Patty Winters show and its brand of cheap gossip masking itself as relevant news. His private life is a different story altogether. Bateman possesses a contempt that could rival that of Adolf Hitler’s. He hates the sight of beggars and bums; he treats women as if they’re objects, and thinks that all homosexuals should meet the sharp end of his knife. In addition, he’s not simply those angry, prejudiced pricks that repress all their rage and hatred. He is the one who finds utter pleasure in letting it all out. He goes into killing sprees and revels in the whole process. Worst of all, he is imaginative, devising new ways to torture men, women, children and dogs.

A good half of it is a discussion on men’s fashion and subjects regarding lifestyle, including the beauty of a well-made business card, the functionalities of suits and pants, what to wear to match the article of clothing one is sporting on, and the many benefits one gets from using a particular type of moisturizer or facial mask.  It reads like an issue of a men’s magazine like GQ, Esquire or Men’s Health. But then, we see something that would make a French Transgressive Film look like an episode of Dora the Explorer. All of Bateman’s unconscious intensities, the nonchalant manner he has when threatens people, his fascination for serial killers and psychotics, and the anger he hides in daylight, all comes  out whenever he has chosen for himself a prey. An old girlfriend lies naked on the floor, her hands nailed to the apartment floor, her jaw torn apart, holding on to the last breaths she still has as Patrick continuously curses her and takes advantage of her. A prostitute and another girlfriend is drugged into making love with each other, and after, a horrible series of torture occur, including one which involves a rodent entering someone’s anus. A gay man and his puppy are shot in broad daylight. A child in a zoo is horribly slashed to death, leaving his pitiful mother to wail as he loses blood. Everything he does is, for a lack of a better term, fucked up. It’s disgusting, commanding the hair of the readers to stand on end. One finds no pleasure in reading these scenes, but at the same time, one doesn’t have the strength to actually put the novel down. Nobody can truly ever know the extent of Patrick Bateman’s psychosis. Nobody can ever really tell if everything he’s saying actually happened or is a product of his delusions, his dependency on drugs, or the vapid nature of his existence, which makes the novel more troubling as it already is. The sole fact that we don’t know, the idea that we can never be certain of his motivations, is disturbingly unsettling. Certainty is always one’s connection to reason and rationality, and if that is missing, one is left grappling with an unknown enemy in the dark, is more terrifying than facing a monster we can see.


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