American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis (1991) — If anyone needs me, I’ll just be in the shower until Halloween

I’ve mentioned before my disdain for books that are slow going out of the gate. My patience is short if something doesn’t happen right away. If American Psycho’s reputation hadn’t preceded it, I may have given up on it as I read 40, 50, even 60 pages in and nothing of note had happened yet. However, knowing there was a lot coming down the line, I stuck it out and kept reading. Man, am I glad I did.

AmericanPsychoBook

I saw the film version a long time ago (so long ago that it was in theaters), and I didn’t remember a lot about it. One thing I did recall was some people calling the book ‘unfilmable.’ I never really got why until I read it. This book—the tale of Patrick Bateman, a yuppie Wall Street serial killer—is freakin’ crazy.

First, the good news: once you’re far enough into it, this book is completely captivating. It’s a bit like watching a train wreck—you may not want to look (read), but damn if you can’t take your eyes away. It takes some time to get there, but once it does it sucks you in like few books I’ve read do. Even though there are really no likable characters in the book, you still find yourself fascinated by them.

Now the bad news: it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a good book, but only if you can stomach it. Sex, violence, animal cruelty, all described in incredibly graphic detail. I would put it just slightly below The End of Alice on the skeevy scale I just made up. Which makes it all that much stranger to say, yes, it’s a really good book—you know, that one with the torture and cannibalism? Yeah, really good.

And while it’s not necessarily every reader’s cup of tea, I would recommend any writers out there read it, just to see how far Ellis pushes the reader. The narrative is kind of all over the place. One chapter has no real beginning or end, there are chapters devoted to 80’s pop music, and at one point in the height of the action it jumps inexplicably from 1st to 3rd person, then back again a couple pages later. It’s actually quite amazing what he does with this book.

It takes you on a ride, and whether you like it or not—the ending leaves you with more questions than answers—you won’t soon forget it.

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