The film adaption of American Psycho staring Christian Bale is one of my favorite movies of all time. It has become something of a cult classic with a recent resurgence in popular culture, sparking my curiosity to read the novel that the film is based on.
I will not be comparing the movie and book in my review, despite my love for the film and Bales performance, I will focus solely on the novel written by Brett Easton Ellis. The book follows Patrick Bateman, a young man who works on wall street in the late-1980s during the heights of corporate, American greed and consumerism. Throughout the novel we follow Patrick as he slowly becomes more and more detached from humanity, spiraling uncontrollably into what is essentially hell, a purgatory where the only constants are the endless lists of expensive foods and extravagant clothing. Patrick Bateman is probably the most narcissistic character that I have ever read, caring only about his self-image, status, and an almost infinite consumption of designer goods and gourmet cuisine. The thing that shocks me most is how relatable Patrick can be at times. He even acknowledges this to reader, showing how Ellis understands the plight that young men face when embarking on their own journeys of self-discovery. Patrick just wants to fit in, and so does everyone else.
There are an excessive number of chapters and monologues detailing designer clothing, different high-end restaurants, and certain musicians works. These could easily be attributed to just being the ramblings of a mad man, but I personally think that they highlight the utter dullness of Patrick’s life. He longs for something more meaningful, something substantial and there are even a few instances where he even expresses his desire to be loved. I think the most haunting aspect of the book is when Patrick is almost able to show a genuine human emotion. These moments crop up seldomly throughout the novel, interspliced with Patrick’s ramblings and his violent outbursts, these short sections of the novel where we can see parts of ourselves in Bateman, stick with the reader the most.
There were a few highlights for me. The scene in the zoo had me laughing out loud at times, and the chapter where Patrick becomes totally unhinged and the perspective switches from the first to the third had be floored. There are sections of this story which are quite comedic and others that are more somber in tone. Patrick is also quite an unreliable narrator. He is “utterly insane” after all and as the story progresses, we as readers no longer know what is real and what is figment of Patrick’s twisted imagination. “I have no emotions, besides maybe greed and pure disgust.”
This book is worth checking out if you like dark comedies or if you love the film adaption like I do. Be warned though, there are some extremely violent and sexually explicit scenes in the book that were omitted from the film. There were a few sections, one scene with a rat in particular, that had me squirming while I read. Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and I think the book earns it’s cult like status alongside the film.