American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – Book Review

Patrick Bateman is a Wall Street guy in the eighties, and a psycho killer. He is obsessed with being the most up-to-date with everything, whether it is fashion, cosmetics, the right place to dine and the right people to be seen with. But unbeknownst to them, he regularly brutally murders people, mostly women.

It is so violent, with such detailed descriptions of brutality that I, again (as I did the first time I read it over 20 years ago)had horrible dreams. Yet the violence highlights his disconnection with everything – sometimes he gets sexual pleasure from his acts, but as the books goes on, it becomes clear that there is a compulsion to murder and torture but that any release that he could get from it has gone.

After finishing the book, I went back and read the foreward by Irvine Welsh. The book was heavily criticised on its release for the way women in the book are treated. Given how much serial killers and some pop-culture understanding of their actions is now in TV series and films, I wonder if it would be as widely criticised. Yes, his actions are horrific, and he is an extremely misogynistic character – even the way he treats the women in his life who are not victims of his violence shows a complete disregard of them as anything other than another, different possession. But overall, I read it as a book which shows the height of obsession during the 80s, during the ‘me generation’. It’s a forerunner to where we are now, and it’s a fascinating if deeply disturbing, read.

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