American Psycho

Posted: September 5, 2010 in My Bibliophilia

I came across the title when I saw the movie with the same name and based on the book itself. The lead was played out by Christian Bale…… but wait that’s not relevant…..whatever it is, I was intrigued (and rather confused) by the movie’s plot so I decided I would read the book.

The author of the book is Bret Easton Ellis, whom I confess I had never heard of before this. The story is set in the yuppie culture of the early 90s. It is about a young highly placed investment banker called Patrick Bateman (remember Norman Bates, from Psycho? I caught that one immediately) and his life, the whole story being narrated by Patrick himself. The first part of the story we come to know about the everyday life of Bateman, as he gossips with his colleagues, ogles at random “hard bodies” , goes to rave parties and fusses over music. The book is definitely a treat for music lovers as every now and then , Bateman goes on to give lengthy descriptions of different genres of music popular at the time, sometimes even describing a particular band or a song. The first part is thus mostly mundane, with Bateman giving only the slightest hint of the insanity that he is holding down beneath the surface.

As the story progresses, we see Bateman’s mask of sanity slowly slipping away. He starts giving in to his violent desires at whim, and shocks us as he randomly chooses his victims. The thing is, he “descends” into madness. It’s a slow process. At first, he shows some vestige of control, which weakens throughout the book. His treatment of his victims grows more sadistic and gory.

As the story progresses and Bateman is slipping, we can get a feel of it from his narration too. The world grows more and more bizarre. Bateman claims that he is being followed wherever he goes, despite evidence to the contrary. Also, he fills up an entire cross word puzzle with the words “bones” and “meat” and does not realize it. The concept of time in the story is confusing, as he keeps on mixing up his appointments and dates.

There is another element of surrealism in the fact that the characters keep on confusing people’s names. Bateman himself is many a times referred to as Marcus Halberstam.  This occupies quite some space in the book. Since it is his own narration, we can thus understand his madness, yet understand nothing of the world.

In my opinion, Bret Easton Ellis has churned out a classic. The first part of the book was rather boring, since the author describes mundane activities to quite some length. But as the story progresses, we realize that the first part gels well with the rest of the story. The author has attached a lot of importance to the whole process of Bateman’s descent into madness. It’s a slow process. At first he attaches some motive with his kills, like professional envy. But as the story progresses, he does it on impulse.

It was a brilliant book, a good story with an awesome narration. Kind of slow paced, but it goes well with the overall plot.

This story gets a 4.5/5 from me and if you are into psychological books then this one is a must read. It’s a psychological book though, not a psycho-thriller. Keep that in mind.

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