"American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis

I tried. I really did but I just could not get into this book. Not that it was terrible, mind you, but it was just hard to maintain my interest throughout. There are strengths, of course, especially Ellis’s depiction of the 1980s and Yuppie culture (if you can call it “culture”). With that he was dead on, capturing every nuance, every iota of how these insipid beings actually were at the time. I should know. I used to work around them back in the early-mid 1980s.


American Psycho” perfectly captures a time and place in American culture, a time when greed was king and selfishness ruled. It is a world inhabited by men and women who care only about labels, high end consumer goods, meticulous attention to appearance, so much so that they often mistake one another for someone else. It’s as if they don’t care enough about anything other than their own personal space that they have an inability to remember who another is. It is a world where even the quality of a business card is enough to have one seething with envy.


The writing style is not what I had a problem with. It was crisp, flowing, and his command of dialog is amazing. However, the weaknesses I found made it extremely hard to maintain my interest for very long. For example:


The excruciating minutia of what each and every character was wearing. This is ok if you want to establish a certain characters mindset and/or traits, but literally each and every one the protagonist came across, sometimes for a half page or longer, disrupting the narrative flow quite often. Ok. I get it. They’re Yuppies. That was established on page one. Perhaps Ellis was trying to make a larger point with this. If so, I didn’t get it.


The 4 page chapter on the rock band Genesis. Really? What purpose did that serve? It seemed as if he had written an article about the band for Rolling Stone magazine and decided to insert it into the novel. I couldn’t get my head around that. Again, maybe I just don’t get it.


The story itself wasn’t bad and the I like the idea that you don’t really know for sure if the protagonist is really a crazed psychopath or whether it’s all in his head, dark fantasies he has to help cope with the world he lives. At least that's how I interpreted it.


All in all, having heard so many great things about this book, I was disappointed. Perhaps if Ellis didn’t spend so much time on the trivial minutia of the Yuppie lifestyle, I would have enjoyed this more.

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