BBC Big Read #185 – American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis


Publication Date: 1991

Publisher: Vintage Books

ISBN: 978-0-679-73577-9


American Girl:

I do not have many feelings for or against this next selection on our list.  I have heard of the movie starring Christian Bale, and I think I saw it but have little recollection of the movie (if any).  Regardless, I use to be a fan of true crime novels in my younger years, and after the chore of Trainspotting I am looking forward to a completely different style of novel.

Brit Boy:

Once again our list throws us a curve ball (like my American quote??), and we have a totally different genre and type of literature from our list. I have heard about the film and how it is fairly graphic in its portrayal of the actual crimes, but beyond that I don’t know anything else. You’re more knowledgeable than I on this one American Girl as I didn’t even know Christian Bale was the lead.



Let me just start by saying that I consider it to be a huge accomplishment that I actually finished this novel. Many times I set it down convinced I would not pick it up again. The only thing that pushed me through to the end was the fact that Brit Boy had finished it and I wanted to be able to have a complete discussion with him on the novel (and ending), which would have otherwise been impossible.

I’m really glad that I provided the impetus for you to finish this American Girl, it would have been such a shame if you’d fallen at the final hurdle. However you have given me the final push on some of our subsequent books so its only fair that I helped you, its very definitely a massive bonus of us embarking on this journey together. I have to admit though, there were times when I struggled to read on, especially early in the book. It was very difficult to get passed the interminable catalogue of product placement which filled many of the pages. I really don’t think it added to the book, until I figured out that we were party to the rambling thoughts of our psychotic main character Patrick Bateman, with everyone and everything being analyzed.

This book has so many different facets to it, none of which I enjoyed.  First, there are the parts that attempt to depict the typical “yuppie” lifestyle of the 90’s.  Which includes a constant barrage of brand names, restaurant reviews, and mediocre conversation between young men constantly discussing their superiority to women and their peers.   Next, is the complete and total psychosis of our lead, Patrick Bateman, in which he brutally and descriptively murders, mutilates, and tortures women showing no sense of humanity.  Finally, scattered amongst this mess are random and complete album reviews, which I still do not understand had anything to do with the book at all.

I’d forgotten about the album reviews….. it was completely random and I guess its not until you look back on the book do you realise how out of place they are in the book as a whole. In fact they generally came after something particularly nasty or dark. Maybe it was to lighten up the novel…? I’m not so sure.

This book is regularly described as a satire, but I failed to find any humor in it. I feel this book is completely derogatory towards women in the worse ways possible. Even in the parts where Bateman is not murdering the women in his life, he is constantly referring to them as “hardbodies”, and is a constant philanderer. I guess the book did its part in the sense that it will stick with me. I will forever have terrible images in my head of the brutal torture of women being nailed to a floor, raped, dissected, all while still alive (and honestly, these are the LESS gruesome parts of some of the murders depicted in this story, other things I will not even bare to repeat).

You’re right American Girl there was absolutely no satire in this book, no rye smiles crossed my face, no slight chuckles, I was aghast in places, horrified and sickened in others. Satire suggests some form of entertainment, and this certainly wasn’t.

This book has drawn a lot of controversy, being banned in many countries, or at the least only sold to adults over the age of 18. A notorious serial rapist from Canada “Paul Bernardo”; called this book his “bible” (Wikipedia). Throughout the story Brit Boy and I had regular conversations with each other regarding how crazy Bret Easton Ellis must be in order to “make up” the horrendous attacks that are portrayed in this novel.

I wasn’t aware that this was held in high esteem by real-life psychopaths, it makes you wonder whether in this case the book should have continued to be banned. I’m not sure what it has to offer as a piece of literature, as its not entertaining, and not even really that thought provoking. The attacks are sick, mindless and horrific and as stated above can’t have been created by someone with “normal”  thought processes, Bret Easton Ellis cannot be completely stable him self.

Honestly, I would not recommend this book to anyone.  It is horrible.  The ending was horrible.  It is completely violent and degrading towards women.  The only thing that was slightly interesting about this book was that it did create a “time capsule” for what life would have been like for the rich in the late 1980’s (barring the constant killing).  I will probably have nightmares around this book for years to come.  I do not think this book deserves a spot on the list. The book could have accomplished all it was meant to without the complete brutality.  Nothing was held sacred in this book, children were murdered, animals murdered, women murdered.  Women were raped, tortured, and cannibalized.  There is enough murder of this degree in the world that it doesn’t need to be made up as well.  Writing about a real life serial killer would have been sufficient.  I do not think making a mockery of killing women should ever be considered a “satire”.

I agree this book doesn’t deserve a place on the list, and I can only think it mads its way on here because of its notoriety. This isn’t a book I will read again, and I certainly didn’t gain any pleasure from reading it. That being said I am glad I persevered till the end and it does give me another view on the diversity of “literature” (a term I use in the loosest sense of the word for this book). I would also not recommend this book to anyone and I am also wondering whether it actually deserves a place on our bookshelf, I certainly do not what any of the kids picking it up. This was very much a case of one book down on the list, I do hope that the next one has something to offer…. this list is never dull!!

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2 Responses to BBC Big Read #185 – American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis

  1. Pingback: #236 Manhattan (1979) | IMDB Top 250 Films

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