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American Psycho [Paperback]

Bret Easton Ellis
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,426 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 6, 1991
Now a major motion picture from Lion's Gate Films starring Christian Bale (Metroland), Chloe Sevigny (The Last Days of Disco), Jared Leto (My So Called Life), and Reese Witherspoon (Cruel Intentions), and directed by Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol).

In American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis imaginatively explores the incomprehensible depths of madness and captures the insanity of violence in our time or any other. Patrick Bateman moves among the young and trendy in 1980s Manhattan. Young, handsome, and well educated, Bateman earns his fortune on Wall Street by day while spending his nights in ways we cannot begin to fathom. Expressing his true self through torture and murder, Bateman prefigures an apocalyptic horror that no society could bear to confront.

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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

Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (March 6, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679735771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679735779
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,426 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,152 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
456 of 497 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, An American Classic 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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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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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94 of 107 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dressed to impress on a trip to nowhere February 24, 2000
Format:Paperback
Bret Easton Ellis is a master at describing the anomie of end of the 20th century, but nowhere is that anomie more disturbingly brought to life than in "American Psycho". The book raised a firestorm when it was due to be released; feminists condemned it as misogynistic trash, and when it was finally published, it was in a trade paperback version because the publisher which was to publish the hardcover version pulled it to avoid all the controversy. All hell will probably break loose when the movie comes out, if it is in any way true to the book.

Ellis gives us Yuppie Manhattan in full effect, where the only things that count are money and designer labels; real people are faceless nonentities with interchangeable names, everyone seems to have a Peter Pan complex, dreading the inexorable approach of the big 3-0, and the defining characteristic of the time is its all-encompassing materialism. The anti-hero of "American Psycho", Patrick Bateman, is a serial killer with a penchant for torturing and murdering young women in a quest to give his empty existence some meaning. Bateman is perfect on the surface; he's young (26), handsome, expensively dressed, lives in a trendy condo on the trendy Upper West Side, makes six figures on Wall Street, and can reel off designer names at the drop of a hat. He can glance at anyone for a split second and tell who designed each item of his or her visible apparel. Bateman's life is so devoid of meaning that he thinks all this superficial knowledge actually matters. He can't love anyone, including himself; he treats friends, lovers and acquaintances with equal contempt; and he is totally devoid of compassion, tenderness, remorse, warmth, or anything remotely resembling a conscience.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars "...Nameless Dread"...
Having read the various objections about Bret Easton Ellis' AMERICAN PSYCHO over the last twenty years or so, I decided to read it for myself. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Bindy Sue Frřnkünschtein
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying And Amazing Book Must Read for horror fans
I have read a good amount of horror books but this one tops them all . The movie does not even scratch the surface of Pat Bateman's true insanity . Read more
Published 1 day ago by Teresa
5.0 out of 5 stars It's like a car crash
This book is devilishly wonderful. It's like a car crash; you want to look away, but you can't help but stare. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Rachel Birkenmeier
1.0 out of 5 stars Depavity
A terrible book. Ellis is in my opinion is not an author but a con man, conning everyone into believing he is a great writer. Read more
Published 6 days ago by T. Woods
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Not a good read.
Published 8 days ago by Shelby Kopczynskie
4.0 out of 5 stars slow to start, bazillion times better than movie
Some parts like the music description, just too long for me. But I understand the necessity. Great gore.
Published 8 days ago by annjeannette
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Get ready for a graphic adventure into the mind of psycho - readers discretion is advised
Published 9 days ago by Thomas Sears
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Terrific!!!!
Published 12 days ago by John Ashbery
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The best book and movie all the time!
Published 14 days ago by jan vala
4.0 out of 5 stars Love it.
A classic of modern American writing. Let's you long for the 80's and its extravagant and cold attitude of the new yuppies. Love it.
Published 21 days ago by Lizbeth A. Torres
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your opinion please - best new novel of transgressional fiction
Not sure his stuff is exactly "transgressional fiction" but I love the Irish writer Patrick McCabe, (author of "The Butcher Boy" and "The Dead School", his latest is "The Holy City") and I find his blend of horror and way-dark humor appealing in the same... Read More
Apr 4, 2010 by Michael Flinn |  See all 4 posts
Welcome to the American Psycho forum
As well as American Psycho, I've read Ellis's first two novels, "Less Than Zero" and "The Rules of Attraction." In case you're interested...

The first is a look at young nihilism in Los Angeles narrated by symbolically-named Clay who has come home for Xmas vacation from a... Read More
Aug 12, 2013 by McGill |  See all 7 posts
Amazon is censoring books, again.
You seem upset about what you think is a downside of freedom. Censorship? You really think that's a good thing? We all still have the freedom to buy or not to buy and that's the only thing that matters. Your viewpoint seems astoundingly un-American.
Feb 9, 2013 by SMB |  See all 4 posts
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