This Is Not An Exit: a review of American Psycho

 

I’m wearing a plaid shirt by Revival, black double-breasted coat by Kenji, maroon chinos by JayJays, and leather dress boots by Shubar.

 

In 1991, Bret Easton Ellis released what would be his most undisputedly controversial and iconic piece of literature: American Psycho. It is rated R18+ nationwide and is a Category 1 publication, therefore it’s technically still banned in the state of Queensland. As you may have heard, the book was recently in the news after Police raided an Adelaide bookstore for selling the novel without it’s plastic wrapping. Before its release, it lost its publisher (Simon & Shuster), eventually got another, and ended up facing many boycotts. Restricted ratings on novels have always confused me. Placing letters in a certain order forms words, place those words in a certain order and BAM! You can no longer read said text unless over 18.

 

The novel follows a 26-year-old Wall Street investment banker named Patrick Bateman, and his escapades as a serial killer. It begins inside a New York City taxi; Patrick is listening to the rants of his friend Timothy. This scene is probably my personal favourite in the entire book. It’s disconcerting, unnerving, and vividly claustrophobic. It sets the themes for the rest of the book; as Timothy’s rants contain numerous racist, violent and depraved observations of living in New York City.

 

Throughout the book, we learn more about the conscious being that is Patrick Bateman. He has compulsive tendencies, which become evident at the beginning of each social interaction, as he flawlessly describes to the reader the attire of himself and everyone sharing his company. These compulsions are reiterated as he lists his morning cleansing/moisturising routine, describes the specifications of his new stereo, and gives whole chapter monologues about Genesis, Whitey Houston, and Huey Lewis and the News. As I first began reading the novel, it did become painful to read constantly the lines ‘suit by Armani’ or ‘linen pocket square by Ashear Bros.’. Though it is this frustration, which allows the reader greater insight into the world of a neurotic, yet stylish, psychopath. On the outside, Bateman is just a suit that can blend into the generic culture of businessmen; an aspect that causes you to contemplate how many psychos you might pass on any given day.

 

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about real life Rambos.

 

The novel, while shunned by many, is a rich observation concerning the shallow materialism, consumerism and violence found in western culture within the second half of the 20th century, and that continues today.

Written in a first-person stream of consciousness style, we soon learn that Patrick is an unreliable narrator. We are told his thoughts, his feelings, and witness his actions as he engages in sexual, violent and anthropophagic acts: sometimes all at once.

 

It is heavy. It’s the only book that I have ever NEEDED to stop reading and take a break. Having said that, I love it. It’s 400 pages of pure, no-holds-barred genius. While being nearly 25 years old; the era-specific elements are still relevant. The superficial culture of greed on Wall Street is still present; amongst other things it caused the GFC. The violence in society is of course still blatantly evident. The themes explored, and the way in which Ellis chose to present them causes constant reflection; repeatedly asking yourself “what the hell did I just read?”.

 

Without giving too much away, American Psycho truly is a modern classic. An unsettling, yet thoroughly engaging and entertaining narrative as told by a psychopath. It’s a thriller, an autobiography, comedy (yes, dark, but yes), and a documentary; one that I couldn’t recommend enough.

 

By Cameron McCormack