American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Allegedly, my generation is one that has been largely desensitized to violence and gore. We are harder to shock and gross out, which explains why film, television, and literature have become increasingly graphic. That being said, American Psycho is one of the most disturbing novels that I have ever read. This is not a compliment.

Patrick Bateman is a successful investment banker living in Manhattan. He is also a serial murderer. Ellis is rather formulaic in his discussions of Patrick’s day-to-day activities. Bateman will provide a lengthy and tiresome explanation of what name-brand attire he is wearing. He will then discuss how long he worked out at the gym and how perfect his body is. This is followed by a discussion of his meals out with important colleagues, and his evenings at fancy restaurants and clubs with gourmet food and designer drugs. Finally, Bateman will partake in sexually explicit and/or vividly gruesome murders. If the murder takes place at his apartment, he will go on for pages and pages about the desecration of the corpse. The whole book follows this format. The whole thing. It is over 400 pages. It is terrible.

I don’t consider myself a prude and I’ve never been bothered by some gore here and there, but American Psycho is just too much. American Horror Story: Coven necrophilia is one thing, but elaborate descriptions of sex with dead bodies and that body’s subsequent mutilation are just not something I am interested in. I listened to this book on Audible, and I was under the mistaken assumption that it was only ten hours long. I was so relieved when I only had 15 minutes left; until I realized that there was a whole second part. Misery. I felt like one of Bateman’s later victims, the murder drawn out so that the anguish was extensive.

We are meant to question the reliability of Ellis’s narrator – it seems unlikely that he murders so frequently and yet no one notices something is going on. I did question the sincerity of Bateman, but the story is so convoluted with unnecessary carnage that narrator issues are completely overshadowed. I get what Ellis was going for – shock value can get you a lot of attention for your book, just look at Fifty Shades of Grey. But it doesn’t require much skill to be that disgusting. Less is more (remember Psyco?). You don’t have to elaborate on every repulsive detail to make something scary; in fact, that sort of description typically has the opposite effect. That was the case here. Ellis’s writing is not bad, but his content certainly leaves something to be desired, and the nature of that content leaves his skill level to be questionable.

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