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American Psycho Paperback – March 6, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This review is based on the galley issued by Ellis's original publisher, Simon & Schuster, before it cancelled the book. The book is now going through the editing process at Vintage. There may be some changes in the final version. The indignant attacks on Ellis's third novel (see News, p. 17; Editorial, p. 6) will make it difficult for most readers to judge it objectively. Although the book contains horrifying scenes, they must be read in the context of the book as a whole; the horror does not lie in the novel itself, but in the society it reflects. In the first third of the book, Pat Bateman, a 26-year-old who works on Wall Street, describes his designer lifestyle in excruciating detail. This is a world in which the elegance of a business card evokes more emotional response than the murder of a child. Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, Bateman calmly and deliberately blinds and stabs a homeless man. From here, the body count builds, as he kills a male acquaintance and sadistically tortures and murders two prostitutes, an old girlfriend, and a child he passes in the zoo. The recital of the brutalization is made even more horrible by the first-person narrator's delivery: flat, matter-of-fact, as impersonal as a car parts catalog. The author has carefully constructed the work so that the reader has no way to understand this killer's motivations, making it even more frightening. If these acts cannot be explained, there is no hope of protection from such random, senseless crimes. This book is not pleasure reading, but neither is it pornography. It is a serious novel that comments on a society that has become inured to suffering. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/90 and 12/90.
- Nora Rawlinson, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“Bret Easton Ellis is a very, very good writer [and] American Psycho is a beautifully controlled, careful, important novel…. The novelist’s function is to keep a running tag on the progress of culture; and he’s done it brilliantly…. A seminal book.” —Fay Weldon, The Washington Post
 
“A masterful satire and a ferocious, hilarious, ambitious, inspiring piece of writing, which has large elements of Jane Austen at her vitriolic best. An important book.” —Katherine Dunn
 
“A great novel. What Emerson said about genius, that it’s the return of one’s rejected thoughts with an alienated majesty, holds true for American Psycho…. There is a fever to the life of this book that is, in my reading, unknown in American literature.” —Michael Tolkin
 
“The first novel to come along in years that takes on deep and Dostoyevskian themes…. [Ellis] is showing older authors where the hands come to on the clock.” —Norman Mailer, Vanity Fair
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 399 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (March 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679735771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679735779
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,549 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bret Easton Ellis is the author of five novels and a collection of short stories; his work has been translated into twenty-seven languages. He lives in Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

483 of 526 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on September 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Bret Easton Ellis, more than once, captured the essence of America in the 1980's. In his books, most notably "Less Than Zero," Ellis codified the look, sound, and feel of the Ronald Reagan, MTV watching, Yuppie 1980's. Ellis was not nearly as interested in showing the flashy glitter of that time as he was in revealing the dark side of excess in an America spiraling into total chaos. In "American Psycho," Ellis attains the rank of a master satirist, viciously skewering a culture that reduces life to power lunches, Armani suits, personal hygiene, and video stores. Ellis is an American Dickens, holding a mirror up to the face of America and daring us to look deep into its depths. Needless to say, the reflection is not pretty.
Ellis's protagonist in "American Psycho" is one Patrick Bateman. Patrick is at the pinnacle of power: he is young, buff, tan, and filthy rich. He works, when he feels like it, at a powerhouse Wall Street firm. Most of his days are filled with parties, dating, dining out, renting videotapes, and buying the best of everything. Why not? Patrick can afford to do whatever he wants in an America that not only approves of his behavior, but ardently wants to emulate it as well. There is one slight quirk in Bateman's well coiffed persona, one small, minutely unpleasant ritual he feels he must engage in from time to time: Patrick likes to rape, torture, and murder people. His usual victims are prostitutes and homeless people, although he isn't above killing an occasional cop or child. That Patrick is, inside, a raving lunatic of epic proportions doesn't matter as long as he can maintain surface appearances. This he manages to do by keeping up on all the latest fads, doling out fashion tips to those less fortunate, and hanging out with the guys and gals on a regular basis.
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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read "American Psycho" only reluctantly, having been led to believe that Bret Easton Ellis was a coked-up "fad" writer whose works were stylish trifles with little literary value. I was wrong -- I now know that Ellis is a genius and "American Psycho" is a work of disturbing brilliance. I started reading it and didn't stop until I had reached the last word on the last page.
I want to point out something that I don't think many people have said -- that what is so menacing and intriguing about Patrick Bateman is that he is so seductive. Yes, of course, we are repelled by Bateman's vacuity (his love of Huey Lewis and Whitney Houston, his inability to have a meaningful relationship or even a decent conversation), but we are also SEDUCED by Bateman's enviable control over the little details of his life -- he keeps in perfect physical shape, he has encyclopedic knowledge of food, he's tremendously informed and assured about the proper attire for any occasion. I'd even venture to say that we envy, in subconscious way, how he is a paragon of grooming and restraint while at the same time giving vent to unspeakable urges. We admire the outrageously poised way in which he goes about satisfying his needs -- whether he's selecting just the right porno movie, a two-thousand-dollar suit, or his next victim. There's something strangely enchanting about his smug self-assurance, even when it's employed in such violent ways. We find ourselves entranced by this perfect, reflective surface of Bateman's life -- just as Bateman is entranced with himself, staring into the perfect surface of his life like Narcissus gazing into his own reflection in a stream. We long to have that kind of confidence and control ourselves.
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful By jim rice on November 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
I just finished this book for the first time. I was given it by a friend who said it was the only book that has actually made him physically sick by reading it. Although my gag reflex didn't kick in, the gore was, at times, certainly overwhelming. These were not, however, my main focus in the reading, and I don't think they need to be. The details, the descriptions, the style, and the subject matter commented upon by the narrartor were all extremely engaging. I wasn't privy to the objections to this book when it was originally published but it seems as tho those objections were focused solely on the descriptive gore of the novel.

Anyone who suggests this should be banned or censored simply needs to read the book again. For me, it wasn't a masterpiece nor will the substance of this novel become a central theme of my own social vision. Much of the core satire in this novel can be found in less shocking prose (God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut), but I am still taken by the beautiful style and coldness of the narrartor that the author conveys. A wonderful lesson in literature and clever poignant commentary although not for the weak at heart nor should you expect to learn anything you shouldn't already know.

Still, recommended. For the serious reader.

If you're looking for cheap thrills and detailed descriptions of lude acts, go elsewhere. 400 pages of descriptions of fashion sense will quickly dull whatever rush you're looking for from the seven descriptive murders of the novel.
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