Book Review: American Psycho

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Happy Banned Books Week!

  •  Book 59/80 of my reading challenge
  • Popsugar Challenge: a banned book

4.5/5 stars

To celebrate Banned Books week I thought I’d post my review of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis which is heavily regulated for a book in Australia! In fact, it is still banned in Queensland (besides Brisbane because they’re special). Even in the other states it has to be shrink-wrapped and often there are signs telling you to go to the counter to collect it I kid you not.
To be honest, I think this just adds to the allure of the book. I do believe it is wildly unnecessary. Nothing mentally scarring happens for at least the first 100-150 pages, which is probably long after anyone under the age of 18 has lost interest anyway. This book wouldn’t be picked up quite so regularly by people below that age if it was not banned. They’ve probably seen the movie anyway!

And speaking of the movie: I assume a lot of people have seen it. It’s definitely one of my favourite movies. I am a horror fan so blood and gore don’t bother me but let me just tell you right now, the book is worse (in that it is much more descriptive and your imagination will work against you here.)

Synopsis:

Patrick Bateman is a young, handsome, rich yuppie working on Wall Street and described by his colleagues and acquaintances as “the boy next door”.  And to top it off, you guessed it! He’s a psychopath! American Psycho is a satirical work set in the 90’s but with plenty of relevance in today’s world.

This book was funny, horrifying and almost too real, especially as I read it on the peak hour train into Melbourne city each morning, sitting between business suits- hoping the men in them wouldn’t see what I was reading.

Patrick Bateman is such an interesting character, exaggerating the typical ruthless yuppie businessman. He was sometimes an unreliable narrator, with a fascination with movies and viewed his life that way (once or twice slipping from first person into third- reminding you that he is not reliable, he is not stable). The way the supporting characters acted, you wondered whether they were psychopaths just like him too. Patrick and his colleagues were so superficial that even though Patrick could recognise the designer brand of every single item of clothing a person is wearing (and its fabric and fibre content), he and his colleagues could not distinguish themselves from one another. They routinely mix up names and assume one person is someone else entirely.

And now onto the ‘psycho’ part of American Psycho
BE WARNED: IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH, DO NOT CONTINUE

Here are a few of the most disturbing moments from the book:

  • animal abuse (dogs leg stomped on)
  • boiling an eyeball with a lighter
  • decapitation
  • necrophilia (including with decapitated head)
  • medieval torture using rats (the old bucket and hungry rat scenario)
  • genital mutilation
  • cannibalism

That’s just some of it. There were times when my stomach was turning and I had to skim read to get through it.
There were multiple times in the book where Pat would say to his acquaintances “I’m a psychopath- I’m thinking about what it would be like to murder you.” and other things along those lines (he straight up tells his lawyer about all the people he murdered and his lawyer thinks it’s a great joke!) but nobody ever listened, further suggesting how superficial they were.

And the best line: “I’m into… well murders and executions mostly.”
“well most guys I know, who work in mergers and acquisitions, really don’t like it.”

I gave this 4.5/5 stars because it was a really entertaining read that I’m glad to have read. It was an uncomfortable reflection of society, even being set 20 years ago, but the black humour was ever present. The disturbing parts were truly disgusting and yet sometimes you had to remind yourself that Patrick is not a good guy- hell, he wants you and everyone else to know he’s a psychopath but no-one will listen!
If you think you can handle those disturbing scenes above, give this a go. Especially fun to read on peak hour city-bound trains!

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