Review–American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis


American Psycho

by Bret Easton Ellis

Summary: Patrick Bateman is handsome, well educated, intelligent. He works by day on Wall Street earning a fortune to complement the one he was born with. His nights he spends in ways we cannot begin to fathom. He is twenty-six years old and living his own American Dream.

Source: I purchased a paperback from a used bookstore.

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American Psycho was the story of Patrick Bateman, a sophisticated psychopath. I absolutely love the movie and have been wanting to read the book for years. Bateman was such a self obsessed person who displayed antisocial personality disorder so well and is one of my favorite roles I’ve seen Christian Bale play. I couldn’t wait to delve deeper into his head by reading the book.

Parts of American Psycho were so unbelievably graphic and disgusting, I couldn’t believe there were more descriptions on the page. Other parts disgusted me because he had such a complete lack of empathy for anyone and was obsessed with his appearance and his status.

I expected both of these things to happen.

What I didn’t expect was to feel so bored while reading.

Despite reading a book narrated completely by Patrick Bateman, I didn’t feel like I knew him at all. I wasn’t expecting him to care or to always know why he did what he did, but I expected some sort of introspection in the narrative. However, to display his lack of empathy and his obsession with material things, the author chose to have his narration describe what he wore, looked like, did, and said, as well as what people around him said, without telling the reader WHO anyone was, WHY he was with them, or anything remotely interesting. I completely understand why this was the way the book was written. Of course it makes a great point about his disconnection to the world, not just from his antisocial murdering tendencies, but because of his rich and privileged attitude and status. The book serves to show quite an interesting character, but it also attempted to make a point about society in general and I appreciated that aspect.

I get the book, but it doesn’t change the fact that it was very difficult to get through. It was so bogged down by his shallow observations that his attention to detail during the murder didn’t even shock me because I just didn’t care anymore. I think the movie did a much better job at conveying the story without boring viewers and I hate that I just said that. I’m not a movie over book person, but I do think the movie was better.

Close to the end of the book, Bateman spiraled a bit more out of control and became bolder in his murders and sexual acts with women and corpses and chose to discuss those things in as much detail as the head to toe fashions of everyone he encountered. Despite finally getting to the nitty-gritty, I felt exhausted by the time the book started to explore his murderous nature and I still felt just as lost as to who he was, why he did things, or what joy/feeling he got from anything. While in the movie, I felt like his worry about his appearance and status was conveyed more clearly.

Yes, American Psycho is incredibly graphic and shallow and exactly what you’d expect in that aspect, but it was infinitely more boring to read than I would have ever imagined. I wouldn’t recommend the book unless you’d like to experience a situation in which you are disconnected from characters. It was a smart move to make the reader feel that way because that is largely what antisocial personal disorder is (a disconnection and lack of empathy to the world), but despite being impressed by that, it still didn’t make the book enjoyable.

I dislike when authors come up with great ideas for literary tools but still fail to deliver compelling stories.


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