First published back in March of 1991, US author Bret Easton Ellis’ third novel was the controversial and explicitly graphic ‘American Psycho’.  Upon its (eventual) release, the book stirred up quite a bit of controversy around the world, from restrictions in advertising to pretty much banning the book.

DLS Synopsis:
Patrick Bateman is a highly successful Wall Street investment banker.  At just twenty-six years of age, Bateman really is ahead of his game.  It’s the 1980’s and Wall Street is booming.  And Bateman is just riding the waves of his success, acting as Vice President at Pierce & Pierce Investment Company; living in his luxurious contemporary Manhattan apartment and attending the most exclusive of clubs, restaurants and parties.  His privileged background and chiselled good looks, along with the hours he spends toning and perfecting his physical appearance have no doubt helped him to get where he is.  He’s one of the elite.  A carefree, self-centred yuppie, with practically everything in life being handed to him on a plate.  He’s Patrick Bateman – loved by everyone.

There is very little in Bateman’s life that causes him any real hardship.  His worries mount to little more than the font and thickness of card used on his business cards.  His daily routine is bordering on the obsessive compulsive.  Hours upon hours are spent on perfecting his looks, his appearance and his whole external persona.  It’s a necessity for someone like him.  For he is a man with nothing inside.  A soulless and emotionless void, plodding through the routine of life without the slightest inkling of a personality.

His engagement to Evelyn Richards is a loveless relationship that he is very aware is all for show.  It’s because he feels that he has to conform to the ways of society in order to be accepted.  To be seen as the same as everyone else.  Even though his friends mean nothing to him.  They’re just people, moving through life much as he is.  And women are nothing more than hardbodies.  Objects to be used and abused at his will.

And behind those cold dead eyes of his is a psychotic killer.  He feels no remorse for any of his actions.  He feels no connection with any of his victims.  He just feels the desire to kill.  And so he does.  But his double-life is blurring at the seam.  On the face of it, Bateman still seems to be the same old calm and sophisticated yuppie, with everything in life going for him.  But underneath this cold and soulless exterior, the sadistic side of Bateman is beginning to take control.

Slowly but surely Bateman’s fabricated façade is slipping away.  It started with the casual name-dropping of serial killers into his everyday conversations.  But now his secret episodes of brutal violence are becoming more and more frequent.  His actions becoming more sadistic.  The boundaries between sanity and delusional madness gradually dissolving away.

But Bateman’s crimes across New York City are beginning to catch up with him.  His night-time excursions that undoubtedly end in murder can’t keep on going unnoticed.   But he can’t control the urges.  The urges to kill.  To kill, devour, corrupt and to utterly dominate.  Patrick Bateman is death...

DLS Review:
The novel is told in the first-person-perspective of Bateman himself, throwing down various pieces of a jigsaw which when pieced together forms a pinnacle in the psychotic exploits of this delusional and dysfunctional (but very successful) serial killer.  Because the tale is told exclusively from behind the eyes of the killer himself, much of the actual reality of the actions being divulged are regularly (and ultimately) brought into question.  Nothing slots together the way it should.  Is it at all possible that he could simply be getting away with everything he’s been doing?  Or, like with Hubert Selby Jr’s novel ‘The Room’ (1971), is it just the wildly-crazed fantasies of a delusional mind.

What’s instantly captivating about the novel is the way in which it’s projected upon the reader.  The bridge formed from Bateman’s ‘telling’ of the story to the reader is established from the very first paragraph.  The connection is so quick and so captivating.  It’s almost a confessional...but what is being said is nothing of the sort.  He has no regrets.  Bateman is a lost man, with no understanding of life, or of himself, other than that he exists, and in his existence, he has followed the course of success.

In stripping out all humanity from our narrator, we are left with nothing but a shell.  And in this, Ellis has gone on to create the absolute epitome of consumerism made flesh.  Everything in Bateman’s eyes is judged purely on its financial worth.  His tastes in music are clinical in their dissection of the artists and the songs.  It’s as if Bateman is himself a soulless biographer, concerned only in the facts, figures and regurgitated journalistic thoughts on the music.

In his complex and absolutely crucial characterisation of Bateman, Ellis takes the reader on a chaotic and thought-provoking journey that ultimately leads to the reader’s own prognosis of who or what Bateman is.  However, nothing’s that simple with the novel.  Questions lead to more questions.  Violent outbursts lead to heart-racing desperate measures that eventually lead to nothing at all.  The tale throws the reader around like a rag doll; never letting you get comfortable with the way the novel is progressing.

It’s true that the violence portrayed in the novel is pretty damn strong.  Many of the scenes involving Bateman’s decent into sadistic violence are hard reading.  There’s no escaping the fact that the violence is entirely unnecessary...and for that fact alone, is entirely necessary to the tale itself.  The sexual violence, even to the most seasoned of violent-fiction readers, is pretty darn unnerving, if not out-and-out disturbing.  Expect visceral depictions of rape, murder, torture, necrophilia and cannibalism.  Oh yes, the tale does take you down some pretty intense avenues.

So, how does it all come together?  Well, the purposeful stitching together of satirical wit, an inherently fractured time-line, intense scenes of disturbingly graphic violence, all of which have been detailed via an emotionless shell of a narrator, ultimately creates a chaotic and utterly mesmerising rollercoaster of a ride.  The mundane meets the horrific head-on.  Questions are left open; purposefully begging for the reader to fill in the gaps and answers themselves.  And you a way.  It’s these thought-provoking elements that quite literally force the reader to become engaged with the progression of the tale, that really make the novel such a powerful piece of fiction.

There are no perfect answers.  There is no solid stance of reasoning.  There is just the open playing field of a very emotionally crippled individual for the reader to become acquainted with.  And it’ll leave you gasping for breath!

The novel runs for a total of 399 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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