View PDF. book | Fiction | US → Knopf. UK → Picador Books. ANZ → Pan Macmillan. Set in Los Angeles in the early 's, this coolly mesmerizing novel . PDF | The autodiegetic protagonist Patrick Bateman, in Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho (), is a troubling character, for he is. PDF | This article examines how matter, in Ellis's scandalous novel, is read according to the texts that inform the yuppie's etiquette, labeling the.
|Language:||English, Spanish, Arabic|
|Genre:||Children & Youth|
|ePub File Size:||25.86 MB|
|PDF File Size:||19.56 MB|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Regsitration Required]|
Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho CONTINUUM CONTEMPORARIES Also available in this series: Pat Barker's Regeneration. Bret Easton Ellis their work, everybody hates their job, I hate my job, you've told me you hate yours. What do I do? Go back to Los Angeles? Not an alternative. Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro Centro de Educação e Humanidades Instituto de Letras Luciano Cabral The fourfold serial killer in Bret Easton Ellis's.
Finally, the protagonist appears to react grotesquely even in moments when he is notably vicious. They admire competition and consumerism, praise narcissism and hedonism, and are proud of their materialistic trend. The other side of this 'assassination' is the ground-level aspect of gentrification. A homoerotic graffito over the urinal seems to contain "an answer, a truth. There can be no mistaking the irony in Bateman's uncritical embrace of a corporate aesthetic that abolishes intellectual content in the name of 'poppy and lighthearted' inanity. These understandings have raised contentions, and some scholars have gladly accepted the phenomenon whereas others have denied it altogether. In a sense, he resembles the legendary Narcissus:
Paperback —. Buy the Ebook: Add to Cart. About The Rules of Attraction From the bestselling author or Less Than Zero and American Psycho , The Rules of Attraction is a startlingly funny, kaleidoscopic novel about three students at a small, affluent liberal-arts college in New England with no plans for the future—or even the present—who become entangled in a curious romantic triangle. Also in Vintage Contemporaries. Also by Bret Easton Ellis. See all books by Bret Easton Ellis.
Product Details. Inspired by Your Browsing History. Praise "Inspired. The other, in a broader sense, is never ourselves. It can be said, then, that deictic elements shape the self: The motto that might support the foundations of identity when it comes to judge the other is the one that states that similarities are positive and differences are negative.
Although these judgments should have been treated as relative, they have become set, fixed, unalterable, for the sake of a discourse that often enhances what is white, male, heterosexual, wealthy. The outcome is that these very traits have been turned into given, natural, and immovably positive qualities. Consequently, any quality that differs from those traits, namely black, female, homosexual, poor, is regarded as negative.
Bill Ashcroft, Linda Hutcheon, and also Arjun Appadurai, to name but a few, are theorists who have emphasized that the other is repeatedly pictured as primitive, barbaric, exotic, irrational, and cannibal in order to privilege one of the halves of the dichotomy.
Such picture painted this way has propagated a point of view that gazes nothing but white, male, and rich as normal and positive. In The Tempest, the troubled relationship between the characters Caliban and Prospero recalls the clash between slave and master. Prospero, duke of Milan, is sent to an island, and once there he meets Caliban, the only inhabitant of that place.
Being skilled in supernatural powers, the duke forces Caliban to obey him and to be his servant. The word chosen to describe Caliban21 is as derogatory as mooncalf22, which stands for i a congenially grossly deformed and mentally defective person; ii a foolish person; and iii a person who spends time idly daydreaming.
Similarly, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, despite his kind disposition, the protagonist Quasimodo is depicted by city dwellers as a monstrous, hideous, and devilish being. Because of his physical features, Quasimodo23 is seen as incomplete, that is, he is not supposed to be seen as whole human, and then he can never be fully accepted. In a well- known scene in the novel, Quasimodo, in love with Esmeralda, tries to make her understand the difference between him and Captain Phoebus, the one Esmeralda fell in love with.
Quasimodo, thus, places in her bedroom an ordinary vase full of fresh and lively flowers and another vase made of crystal with withered flowers in it. The moment Esmeralda sees them both, she takes the lifeless flowers out of the crystal vase and holds them tight against her chest. After all of his gentle behavior and thoughtful attitudes, Quasimodo is still unwanted.
In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff feels just as disappointed by the time he falls in love with Catherine. Like the hunchback, Heathcliff is also punished for his traits. Despite being brought up by the Earnshaws for he was left behind by his parents when he was a child , he is constantly ridiculed for his dark skin and gipsy backgrounds. Hindley Earnshaw treats him harshly. Moreover, Catherine refuses to marry him, for such a bond could taint her family name.
Quasimodo thus would stand not only for Low Sunday, but also for a half-formed or almost-done being. These examples illustrate the recurrently detractive characterization of the other in fictional writings. Be it appearance, social status, gender, skin color or nationality, the other is molded to contrast with what is in the center, that is, white, male, wealthy, and rational.
Those who deviate from this norm become off-centered, are labeled ex-centric and then are pushed into the margin. The ones that must be pushed are the Calibans and the Quasimodos, the Heathcliffs and the Jeanne Duvals, all of whom are exotic, black, poor, misshapen, and barbaric, to say the least. The discourses uttered about them are frequently insulting, founded on negative adjectives.
The characters I have just pointed out do not partake in American Psycho evidently. But they share the same traits with many of those Patrick Bateman victimizes. American Psycho is set in one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the world. These are the ones cast economically aside and, thus, regarded as ex-centric. They are at the margin, too far from Patrick to be worried about, so much so that some might think this margin cannot threaten him. In the novel, oftentimes they are compelled to coexist.
We readers at first cannot understand why he does so, but later we are told that those numbers refer to the quantity of homeless people he has seen on the streets on their way to the party: He supposes that poverty is self-made; hence, the homeless are not to be assisted, a conclusion that truly recalls an interview delivered by Ronald Reagan at the end of his second term Unwilling to admit that the Reaganomics were responsible for the issues of homelessness, Reagan declares that some people do choose to live on the streets.
He bases his claim on the number of shelters cities offer as well as on the job ads newspapers publish to make his point. He ignores, nevertheless, problems with mobility and the qualifications many lack to hold a job.
The main counterargument provided by the columnist is, above all, economic, not volitional: What Price says, though, does not appear to reflect the opinion of a single person only, but the opinion of a whole class. Donald Kimball interrogates the protagonist about Owen, but no agent comes into the narrative to inquire about the ex-centric victims. There is a sentence, by the end of the novel, which I think that validates this tendency to division.
While in a cab, Bateman happens to be recognized as a killer by the driver, Abdullah, who points a gun at him and does not let him go. My mouth tastes metallic, then it gets worse. My vision: The absence of a spatial gap causes yuppies and ex-centrics to coexist — that dome has no physicality to hold the other outside.
So, they stumble, bump, clash into one another, this encounter inciting distress, tortures and murders: The protagonist can barely narrate the accounts without referring to beggars or immigrants.
Equally, Timothy Price complains harshly about the pervasiveness of the homeless. A sentence from Divine Comedy opens up the novel, but this is not the only work of fiction27 mentioned overtly in American Psycho. The lines by Dante set the scene. The title by Hugo reinforces the presence of the other. This might make readers think of a proportion: It should be noted that some characters have contrasting attitudes towards difference. Evelyn, for example, as she believes people do not diverge at all, is incapable of acknowledging the existence of ex-centrics.
Through her eyes, the other is nothing but an invisible being, nonexistent, because her gaze does not transcend her yuppie class. The protagonist, on the other hand, can see them all. The ex-centrics are all over his narrative, omnipresent, in close touch with him. The puzzle is about why the relatively small numbers that give the word minority its most simple meaning and usually imply political and military weakness do not prevent minorities from being objects of fear and of rage.
Why kill, torture, or ghettoize the weak? These opposite terms have become universally connected to a concept of modern nation-state, which implies ideas about nations, populations, representation, and enumeration.
They have also acquired a deictic status since their existence is interdependent: Besides, the moment an identity believes to be representative of the purity of the national whole, it longs to eliminate the potential smudge. Their very presence warns him of the possibility of losing the contest. Their ex- centricity has frightened him, so that he has become a predatory serial killer.
The first murder described minutely and graphically takes place when Patrick leaves a black-tie night party. Right after he sees it, he meets Al, a black homeless man who sleeps at the doorway of a store, next to a shopping cart full of newspapers, bottles and cans.
I was laid off. Who do work?
It is actually equivalent to saying that one is irreversibly and permanently excluded, refused, superfluous, useless for any job, and hence sentenced to a never-ending economic inability. Subsequently, this inability leads to a rejection, a marginalization. In a consumer culture, a person is supposed to consume. The one who cannot come up to this expectation is to be relegated to ex-centricity. Bateman knows it better than anyone else for his credit card has split in two due to overuse: He plays, for this reason, the quintessential consumer, the extreme spender, and competes to keep this position.
Unable to be a consumer, Al plays the expendable, the disposable, a role which outrages yuppies. In a time of economic uncertainty, of workers being laid off, Al represents the dichotomous half the protagonist abhors. Bateman really wants that dome to grow thicker whenever he copes with the other, and even signalizes a want of being followed. In a later scene, he assumes he can easily coax a support out of his secretary Jean for his discriminatory posture: I want to add, nonetheless, that this process of gentrification in the novel only becomes lethal because Patrick realizes he may happen to be gentrified as well.
Immigrants are the ones to make it clear that walls can be torn down and borderlines can be dissolved BAUMAN, , p. In American Psycho, the cabdrivers are foreigners: He thus roams until he stops at a restaurant doorway, topples the delivery biker who is coming out, and murders him: Bateman aims his blow at an immigrant, but hits another.
This mistake, however, is not to be regarded as a setback. Whether Japanese or Chinese Patrick cannot even tell the difference , both are Asians and must be killed for merely being so. His assassinations appear to be democratic if taken as a whole. In a closer reading, though, he has many unequivocal targets. The third type of ex-centricity Bateman fears is homosexuality.
Once a patriarchal culture obtrudes a narrow view on gender, only two options are left to be chosen: Preconceived notions fill up the narrative all along. Preconception is what makes the protagonist fearful of anything that might clash with his sexual norm. So, he goes back to his apartment and tortures a dog to death. Preconception is also what makes the protagonist go away from the Yale Club after an inglorious attempt to kill Luis Carruthers, his yuppie workmate.
In humorously surprising lines, we readers find out that Carruthers is homosexual: His right hand reaches up and tenderly touches the side of my face. The critic highlights that Patrick fails to choke Luis, but he is, on the other hand, very skillful at many other crimes, including the murders of an old homosexual and his dog, in another scene graphically described. Carruthers is a yuppie, so he should be homophobic, not homosexual.
Significant evidence of the vilification of the female sex can be spotted the moment Patrick meets the prostitute Christie whose real name is kept unsaid. This metonymic move, from the person to the body, then from the body to the meat, has indeed pushed to the foreground a system that, dominated by economic structures, has become powerful enough to objectify anything and everything ANNESLEY, , p. In so doing, this move has consequently unveiled a protagonist who is driven all along the novel to consume through annihilation.
In prostitution, Bateman appears to have found the key to join commodification and murder together, for he has had the chance to literally purchase an ex-centric for consumption. In other words, he pays to torture, kill and eat prostitutes. The new narcissist depends on people for admiration, otherwise no recognition of status will take place. As for that, it is symptomatic of his narcissism the three questions he asks Christie and Sabrina, the other prostitute for which he pays. In sore need of recognition, Bateman asks if the two girls wonder what he does: When a negative response is offered, he gets irritated.
The funny line in this scene is that Sabrina takes the firm for a shoe store, making Patrick angrier: A shoe outlet? In order to be victorious, he asks two more questions whose responses he is sure will be negative: Prostitutes are ex-centric, dragged to the outskirts of the system by economic restraints. The girls, ill-fated and poor, are neither able to afford traveling around nor to have good education. Christie and Sabrina can say nothing but a head shaking movement and a glare to respond.
Only when the protagonist triumphs over those women, by imposing his patriarchal superiority, are they allowed entering his bedroom to satisfy his sexual and deadly demands.
Ex-centrics walk all over Manhattan, their pervasive faces are on the streets, and their presence at restaurant doorways cannot be ignored. Bateman is aware that the other is incapable of taking his position, but he certainly knows that, once he gives up competing, he himself will convert into an ex-centric. Eager to reach out for heaven, Bateman struggles for victories over whoever blocks his way up.
Afraid of being pushed to the margin, he murders whoever tries to pull him down. The narcissism Patrick holds appeals for admiration. The fierce contention he is in implies killing in series. For an American psycho, competing really means annihilating. I will not go as far as to demonstrate how miscellaneous American Psycho might possibly be in terms of genre, but I would like to suggest that it envelopes a certain amount of modes or categories, including that of postmodernism, of blank fiction, of horror fiction and of the grotesque.
The most prominent motif of American Psycho is brand name. The postmodern phenomenon I recall it from chapter 1 features the connection between aesthetics and commodities. In the novel, the very use of trademarks to set time and space, as well as to describe characters, signposts a leading role for commodities.
Because Patrick Bateman cannot break through the limits of his class, brands affect both the content and the form of his narrative. But, if I am to approach the novel from a postmodern perspective, I initially must clarify what I mean by postmodernism.
Given its broadness and generalizing tendency which makes it hard to grasp at times , the phenomenon has been regarded as problematic.
Some theorists tend to frown upon this classification because of its rough notion — a temporal orientation alone should not be enough to conceive an entire circumstance. Furthermore, postmodernism is insistently explained in accordance with manifold stylistic trends, such as a mixture of levels, forms and styles, a full praise for copies and repetition, a dissolution of commitment into irony, conscious revelation of the making of the work, a play of surfaces, and an open refusal of history GITLIN, , These understandings have raised contentions, and some scholars have gladly accepted the phenomenon whereas others have denied it altogether.
Postmodern theorists, however, appear to agree with the fact that this literary phenomenon does not engender any radically original condition. By reason of this degree, I tend to side with the concept of postmodernism provided by Linda Hutcheon. On the first pages of her Poetics of Postmodernism , Hutcheon immediately posits that postmodern fiction is to be regarded as a contradictory attitude.
In other words, postmodern fiction deconstructs what has been constructed, decentralizes what has been centralized, and dislocates what has been located. By contrast, postmodern fiction ostensively disavows omniscience, omnipresence and rationality as aesthetic devices because these qualities require a dominating voice which is ultimately delusive. What happens in postmodern narratives, then, is the replacement of the traditional and pervasive third-person narrator, whose tale is told in the historical and mimetic past tense, by the restricted or heterogeneous voice of a homodiegetic character, or characters.
This confrontation demands a reexamination of the past and the consequent realization that historical discourses are not given or natural, but rather constructed; self-reflexivity determines a disclosure of the fictional process through narrators who emphasize the falseness of their work. Thus, intertextuality and metafiction definitely become distinctive characteristics of this genre. Even though these intertextual dialogues help me justify my point, because constant intertextuality is a postmodern strategy, American Psycho does not fall under the category of historiographic metafiction.
In this respect, antonymic doubles are blended together to be put into question. In American Psycho, the clearest deconstruction of dichotomies takes place in the mix of fine art and popular art. Bret Easton Ellis violates the judicative division of arts as he presents three segments from different sources: Nevertheless, such persons as the composer of these Notes not only exist in our society, but indeed must exist, considering the circumstances under which our society has generally been formed.
I have wished to bring before the public, somewhat more distinctly than usual, one of the characters of our recent past. He represents a generation that is still living out its days among us. But, concomitantly, it expresses the belief in the contingent existence of a person just like Bateman, acting just like he does. Unlike Bateman, however, that narrator seems to be more conscious of his stupid choices: But I repeat for the hundredth time, there is one case, one only, when man may consciously, purposely, desire what is injurious to himself, what is stupid, very stupid — simply in order to have the right to desire for himself even what is very stupid and not to be bound by an obligation to desire only what is sensible.
The second epigraph is taken from an article by Brian Dumaine, published in the magazine Fortune28 in One of the major mistakes people make is that they think manners are only the expression of happy ideas.
There's a whole range of behavior that can be expressed in a mannerly way. That's what civilization is all about -- doing it in a mannerly and not an antagonistic way. One of the places we went wrong was the naturalistic, Rousseauean movement of the Sixties in which people said, ''Why can't you just say what's on your mind?
If we followed every impulse, we'd be killing one another. The last epigraph is the verse found in the song Nothing but Flowers, by Talking Heads. Fortune Magazine, They foreshadow, in reality, that highly narcissistic environment, where things are falling apart, but nobody realizes it. Easton Ellis, as he joins together sections from high and low culture, signalizes his intention to blur dichotomies and question divisions.
Their very reference, over and over, implies that subversion which distinguishes postmodern fiction. Another subversive element of the novel is pornography. The so-called vulgar words for genitals which commonly mark pornographic texts appear throughout. Add to this the fact that the descriptions of his sexual activities are as extremely detailed as the descriptions of his tortures and murders, and one might regard as some have done American Psycho as a worthless work of low art.
According to Ian Frederik Moulton, pornography is usually related to cultural productions whose sexual representations are explicit which would distinguish it from eroticism, considered to be implicit in its manners. But the theorist goes on saying that pornography is also both a relative and subjective category. In this case, the sexual explicitness of a photograph, movie, painting or text becomes, to a great extent, culturally determined.
Moulton argues, nonetheless, that studies have proved that pornographic discourses are not immutable; they have actually a history of their own. In The Pornographic Imagination, Sontag breaks pornography into three perspectives: The essayist chooses the third one, on which she builds up her arguments. For this reason, they can only comprehend pornographic narrative as a text that triggers nonverbal fantasies whose aim is to arouse sexual affects; as for that, language plays only an instrumental role.
Such vehement outcry does not apply to current criticism in general. As she poses: In American Psycho, the graphic depiction of pornographic scenes has to do with a consumer society in which individuals are visually-oriented.
The protagonist lives within a simulacrum of the real, always mediated by billboards, magazines, talk shows and the gory and pornographic films he constantly watches. The graphicality of these scenes, besides, deliberately questions the limits of literary representations. Bateman does not spare us from his vulgar language at all: Tired of balancing myself, I fall off Christie and lie on my back, positioning Sabrina's face over my stiff, huge cock which I guide into her mouth with my hand, jerking it off while she sucks on the head.
I pull Christie toward me and while taking her gloves off start kissing her hard on the mouth, licking inside it, pushing my tongue against hers, past hers, as far down her throat as it will go. I push Christie down past my waist to help Sabrina suck my cock off and after the two of them take turns licking the head and the shaft, Christie moves to my balls which are aching and swollen, as large as two small plums, and she laps at them before placing her mouth over the entire sac, alternately massaging and lightly sucking the balls, separating them with her tongue.
Christie moves her mouth back to the cock Sabrina's still sucking on and they start kissing each other, hard, on the mouth, right above the head of my dick, drooling saliva onto it and jacking it off. Christie keeps masturbating herself this entire time, working three fingers in her vagina, wetting her clit with her juices, moaning.
This turns me on enough to grab her by the waist and swivel her around and position her cunt over my face, which she gladly sits on. Clean and pink and wet and spread, her clit swollen, engorged with blood, her cunt hangs over my head and I push my face into it, tonguing it, craving its flavor, while fingering her asshole.
Sabrina is still working on my cock, jacking off the base of it, the rest of it filling her mouth, and now she moves on top of me, her knees resting on either side of my chest, and I tear off her teddy so that her ass and cunt are facing Christie, whose head I force down and order to "lick them, suck on that clit" and she does. Firstly, the pornographic scenes in the novel carry a great degree of linguistic crudity.
It is not that the sentences here play an instrumental role, but they are notably primarily descriptive, absent of any stylistic ornamentation. For this reason, the focus moves from the language to the descriptions thoroughly. Bateman hires two prostitutes with whom he has sex. All along the chapter, Christie and Sabrina hardly ever act by themselves because they frequently have the protagonist telling them what to do: When the sexual intercourse finally starts, the crudely descriptive narration, steadily flat, brings to the fore the orders whenever they appear.
The quote is almost entirely descriptive, but its closing indicates and there are other similar passages in the chapter that Bateman, the wealthy patriarchal figure of the threesome, is in charge of the two girls. In the novel, pornography is another element to violate the concept of high art. The explicitness of the scenes pushes the frames of literature somewhat further away from standardized notions. And it does so while the narrative reveals how misogynistic a character can be.
I would like to debate yet another element installed in the novel to subvert conventions. As Donald Kimball appears, he is supposed to be as rational as C. Auguste Dupin or Sherlock Holmes. Disappointingly, his flawed demeanor by the end of the chapter dismantles all of the expectations we readers might have for an ingenious solution of the case and the arrest of the criminal.
The first genre accommodates two stories in it: The second genre, the thriller, intentionally unites the story of the crime and the story of the investigation. Unlike detective fiction, the thriller is not narrated in the form of memoirs.
The murder does not precede the story being told; crime and investigation, in fact, coexist. Both the detective fiction and the thriller, even though having divergent typologies, still offer characters who emanate reasoning from their investigations. Donald Kimball, conversely, has nothing to do with C. Auguste Dupin. He actually mimics the investigators of anti-detective novels.
Bateman asks his secretary to say he is away, but the detective already knows Bateman is in the office: When Kimball enters the room, Bateman gets terrified: We readers learn that this may be the very opportunity for a character, a detective — a literary symbol of rationality and justice — to arrest the serial killer.
Nevertheless, anti-detective novels reject any teleology, any ratiocination that may lead to a final answer. Within the scope of postmodernism, teleological discourses are not possible. The answer, if provided, is always deceptive and non-totalizing. Postmodernism criticizes mimetic representations of reality. Reality, especially the one based on historical grounds, is thus delivered in multifaceted ways. It is fragmented, flexible, and ultimately plural. Postmodern attitudes for the phenomenon is essentially political necessarily urge a comprehension of reality or History as multiple, namely, as realities or histories.
Bateman lacks an identity of his own, looks like many other yuppies, and yet Donald Kimball keeps writing down on his notebook so as to find out a final answer.
Kimball is clueless insomuch as he cannot even notice his own failure as a traditionally rational detective. The absence of an alibi could evidence the murderer at last. However, the defense is offered by the notes Donald Kimball insistently takes: Kimball keeps smiling as he looks me over.
Kimball opens his book and for the first time gives me a slightly hostile look. The idea that a question, when it is asked, inevitably demands an answer just does not apply to the logic of pluralized realities. Diving into deeper layers in order to deconstruct a convention does not ensure an answer in postmodern narratives. To put it differently, the reality which has just been deconstructed will not give birth to another, for a reality is not substituted; it is rather multiplied.
His utterance is superficial, depthless, blank. For this matter, critics have called the novel a blank fiction. In his book, Annesley lists four views critics have devised to deal with the the emergence of blank fictions. The themes in these narratives may result from: Annesley stands for postmodernism as the most coherent support for the existence of these fictions.
Reference to specific time and space, as in American Psycho, requires an analytical interplay between form and content. In blank fiction, themes are controversial, but the narrative is emotionlessly descriptive for the most part.
Writers commonly make use of first-person narrators who just tell a story — they hardly ever pronounce any judgment against the actions. I was immediately struck by the number of young Englishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungry and all talking in low earnest voices to solid and prosperous Americans.
I was sure that they were selling something: They were, at least, agonizingly aware of the easy money in the vicinity and convinced that it was theirs for a few words in the right key. It includes not only what he can see, but also what he learns from the scene. Patrick reports chiefly on clothing and behavior: He moreover contradicts himself as he says he and his friends wants and does not want to have sex with the girls.
The narrator is never certain about what he describes. We readers thus must be always wary of his narrative. He recognizes that Libby looks attentive, but again he has doubts about it.
In the end, what we learn from this excerpt is that Bateman, just like the three girls about whom he complains, has nothing to say. As a blank fiction, American Psycho copes with very controversial matters, such as pornography, violence and ex-centrics.
It also portrays a serial killer, paraphilic and cannibal, who offers a graphically depthless narrative. Nonetheless, such elements also produce a closer relationship with us readers. These are the reasons why, I would like to contend that there are some narrative strategies in the novel which may contribute to make Patrick Bateman a horrific character.
He is at the restaurant Pastels with his friends when he perceives that the waitress stands by his table looking down at him. The other two occasions the word monster is mentioned, though, are not relevant to my point.
The monstrous figure the girls see is a wealthy, handsome, Wall Street man. What scares them after all? Jeffrey Jerome Cohen argues that monsters incorporate alterity and personify differences: We could observe, in the previous chapter, that ex- centric alterities are inevitably confined within this notion.
Philosopher Noel Carroll, in turn, defines horrible monsters according to lethality and repugnance. Thus, as they breach norms and standards, they are un-natural. Moreover, the emotional response of the characters before the presence of a monster, Carroll adds, suggests a similar emotional response of the audience of a horror movie or of a reader of a horror book. That is, the audience, or the reader, is expected to be scared if the character reacts scarily before the monstrous creature on the screen, or on the pages.
Finally, novelist Stephen King, in an attempt to provide examples of monsters and monstrosities, makes a long list of extraordinary personages, abnormal creatures, and people who rupture the physical parameters of what is allegedly normal: The Sandman, Dr. Doom, Dr.
This conclusion, therefore, effaces any possibility of Bateman falling under this rubric once he has no exceptional physical feature to label him a monster.
But, unlike that narrator, Bateman is an active businessman who goes to parties, restaurants, and clubs as much as engages in tortures, killings, paraphilia and cannibalism. A monster must be markedly repellent such as Dracula or Mr.
This perception, obviously, does not apply to Bateman, for his very presence does not arouse repugnance. His monstrosity is not physical, though. It is his hideous acts that determine his monstrosity. And it comes to the fore through comportment, through the story told and how the story is told.
Autodiegetic prose is one of the strategies to make the protagonist horrific. This technique joins together the performance and the performer. So, Bateman takes an action and narrates it, with no mediator, to the reader. In third-person narrations, for instance, there is a distance between the narrator and the events: This heterodiegetic voice does not take part in the acts, so it never turns into a solid figure in the narrative.
Differently, in first-person narrations, there is not only a voice, but a whole body with gestures, feelings, and thoughts to tell a story.
Readers have the chance to learn from a narrator who participates in the tale. I argue that, in American Psycho, this narrator is solid because he is autodiegetic. We can picture his voice and body, and become familiar with the feelings and thoughts he shares with us.
Bateman is a narrator who can be entirely personified, for this his narrative becomes more penetrating. The autodiegesis pushes him closer to us, especially when he speaks of thoughts no one else is allowed to know: The present tense is another strategy of the novel with a similar effect. Its main function is to pinpoint an event in the current time. Its usage enhances the impact of the narration perhaps more than a past tense , causing it to be more pungent while being read: But I contend that this violation goes well along with a postmodern concept.
This autodiegetic simultaneous present, that is, a story being narrated as events are happening, unavoidably clashes with that heterogenic historical past — omniscient and authoritative. The consequence is a disturbing intimacy that turns us into virtual accomplices of his assaults. Lastly, detailing is another technique, possibly the most conspicuous strategy, to make the protagonist a horrifying figure.
In the novel, tortures and murders tend to be minutely narrated. As the excerpts quoted so far have shown, Bateman never hides his crimes from us; on the contrary, he openly describes them, uncovering second after second of the act.
In some scenes, the detailing is intensified to the point of scatology and disgust: Patrick Bateman does not possess any physical feature to accommodate him in those aforementioned definitions. So, who would expect any harm, pain or slaughter from such a personage? But Patrick incorporates a monstrosity the moment he acts.
His performance is monstrous. I may conclude that, when a monstrous performance is done by an ordinary character, horror can also be installed. This is not the whole scenario, though. A narration in the autodiegetic mode, the story told in the present tense, and detailed descriptions are all strategies that contribute to make Bateman a horrific protagonist. But horrific performances occasionally give some room for ludicrous moments.
By employing this latter adjective, rather than putting them apart, I intend to mix up somewhat incongruous aspects, from horrible to comic, in an attempt to locate grotesque aspects in American Psycho. Even though Bateman reviews albums by Genesis, Whitney Houston, and Huey Lewis and the News in three entire chapters, he hates live music.
So, there are six people in the limousine heading for the show: Despite the fact that none of them seems to be really excited to attend the performance, by the Irish band U2, they go anyway.
Their expensive tickets allow them to be seated in the front row and, for Bateman, this location makes singer Bono Vox play a grotesque role onstage. Because of the loud music, they can barely listen to one another. They constantly switch seats, cup their ears, repeat questions, misunderstand words, and shout. Surely they do not even heed the concert as the audience does. Bateman is eager to know more about the Fisher account, or rather how Paul Owen managed to handle the Fisher account, so he decides to talk to Owen about it.
Nonetheless, by the time Bateman sits down next to him, something weird calls his attention: And not only has he become the devil himself, but he also has a message to bring out. The stage background is now lit by red lights as though Bono had dragged hell along with him.
The whole crowd around Bateman vanishes and so do the musicians around Bono. Any reader of Ellis's first novel, Less Than Zero where Costello figures as an icon, a talisman of integrity in a valley of shades , will note the information that it was Elvis Costello who discovered Lewis. But Bateman misidentifies the album on which Lewis played for Costello, and then goes on to declare a preference for Lewis over Costello on the basis of sales figures, dismissing Costello's intellectual ism.
Such distinctions are loaded with significance, and tilt the scales against Bateman's philistinism. Following albums from Huey Lewis leave behind the early 'bitterness' and nihilism and disport in good-humored tunefulness and 'relationship' songs.
The track 'Hip to be Square' is especially admired as a "rollicking ode to conformity" p. Popmusical taste is here being used as a means of gauging the degree to which Bateman's mind has in fact surrendered every critical impulse and gone over to the conformities of the entertainment industry.
The final hope of Less Than Zero was contained in the 'harsh and bitter' imagery of the punk band X's song "Los Angeles", which resonated in Clay's mind like the promise of something else. In American Psycho, that promise has been smothered by corporate mediocrity. Unlike most of the novel, which takes place indoors, these scenes are typically exteriors, and tend towards more extreme literary effects.
Here, paragraphs stretch into endless, breathless concatenations of staccato clauses and phrases. Loosening my suspenders, ignoring beggars, beggars ignoring me, sweatdrenched, delirious, I find myself in Tower Records and I compose myself, muttering over and over to no one, Tve gotta return my videotapes, I've gotta return my videotapes," and I buy two copies of my favorite compact disc, Bruce Willis, The Return of Bruno, and then I'm stuck in the revolving door for five full spins and I trip out onto the street, bumping into Charles Murphy from Kidder Peabody or it could be Bruce Barker from Morgan Stanley, whoever, and he says "Hey, Kinsley" and I belch into his face, my eyes rolling back into my head, greenish bile dripping in strings from my bared fangs It too is characterized by what is called parataxis, or in other words the refusal of the prose to construct complex sentence formations, and the decision instead simply to run clauses and phrases alongside one another.
However, here the units of meaning are that much shorter, more crowded together, leading to an effect of absolute desperation, acceleration and disintegration. Each clause, most of them beginning with 'and 36 Continuum Contemporaries then T, 'and I', offers a snapshot instantly replaced by the next one. There is no continuity, no accord. Nor do the last quoted clauses here, refering to the 'bile' and the 'fangs' really refer to anything actually 'happening' at all.
This is a frantically composed list of cliches about urban paranoia, alleviated only by acts of consumption two more copies of his favorite disc , and otherwise dominated by panic and nausea. And Patrick's typical way of resolving such a chapter is, of course, the redirection of all this panic and nausea upon an ethnic minority.
The chapter ends mid-sentence after some extreme racist class hostility against a Jewish waitress: In "Shopping", after several impacted lists of the multitudinous produce on display, Bateman seems to attain an insight into his alienation: But lest we be lured into thinking that he has made the connection between all the commodities on offer and this 'existential chasm', he is quick to assure us that "I decide this emptiness has, at least in part, some connection with the way I treated Evelyn at Barcadia the other night, though there is always the possibility it could just as easily have something to do with the tracking device on my VCR..
Anything and everything in Patrick's own life is actually a token of the 'chasm' in his being. The products themselves, with their certain properties and price-tags, retain some relative integrity. They emerge into view as more stable, more reliable and more durable than Bateman's attitiude towards his girlfriend. And there is a virutal infinity of them: Unlike a conversation with Evelyn, here is a victory over existence, a certainty.
So that ultimately the 'chasm' in Bateman is bridged by the fact that Tm wearing a cashmere topcoat, a double-breasted plaid wool and alpaca sport coat, pleated wool trousers, patterned silk tie, all by Valentino Couture, and leather lace-ups by Allen-Edmonds" p. Almost every chapter in the book contains this essential description of what Patrick is wearing. This is what we call reification, the transformation of relationships between human beings into relationships between things.
Reification is both what is behind the urban alienation Patrick experiences, and his only method for curing it. The infinity of things through which he can identify himself opens up the 'existential chasm' in Bateman; he closes it briefly in the gesture of purchase. The writer Elizabeth Young has commented on this aspect of American Psycho, its manifest concern with the hollowing-out effects of consumerism and reification on human beings: Within consumer capitalism we are offered a surfeit of commodities, an abundance of commodity choices, but this image of plenty is illusory.
Our desires are mediated by ideas about roles and lifestyles which are themselves constructed as commodities and our 'choices' are propelled by these constructs.
Patrick has been so fragmented and divided by his insane consumerism that he cannot 'exist' as a person. In this way, Ellis designates the colonization of the psyche by prefabricated discourses, the reduction of thought to habitual reflexes of socialized language.
The epigraph from Karl Marx at the head of this chapter suggests that it is only in the most developed and 'advanced' of societies that this leveling of behavior, thought and expression to a single, homogeneous level takes place, under the 'one feature common to all': Reification affects all of the discourses in which Bateman is written. Consider those passages where his sexuality is presented, mainly in the three chapters entitled "Girls". Here, where we might expect some semblance at least of spontaneity and the free expression of sexual affect, we have the hollowest pastiche of pornographic textuality.
Sexuality is wholly inscribed here through the heavily stereotyped langauge of mass-marketed pornographic literature: I motion for Sabrina to move her face in even closer until she can smell my fingers which I push into her mouth and which she sucks on hungrily.
With my other hand I keep massaging Christie's tight, wet pussy, which hangs heavy, soaked below her spread, dilated asshole" p. The absence of all emotional content here is at one with the nature of the rhetoric, which works according to mathematical binaries: The voice itself, the origin ol authority, disengages itself from the formalised action it instigates such that at moments it is stranded in its own boredom: The women are only there because they are being paid.
If there is pleasure, it is a pleasure purely of reification: And we are implicated here, as readers. As Ellis has said with regard to his use of pornography, Tm interested in how pornography affects a reader.
It's such a consumer item. It does what it's supposed to do Since it's such a consumer good and because the book is so full of consumer goods, why not throw in some porn amidst all the clothes and all that useless hipness? No; it is a plain tip, unable to " 'catch the force of the ejaculate!
Once everything is in order, they can get back to business. Consumer goods intervene between human agents to the point that they displace anything resembling feeling; pleasure is knowing you're using the right lubricant. The obvious comedy is laced with the most despairing social vision.
I want to insist that these factors are intimately related, however. It is also, as I have already suggested, a symptom of the fact that there is no sexual relation possible in the text; that, in the strictest possible sense, men and women occupy distinct planes of being here, unable to connect or relate apart from moments of consumption in restaurants, as sex-workers and clients, with the products of the contraception industry, or literally, as in "Tries to Cook and Eat Girl".
It is important to note, however, that sexual violence only appears in the book's second half, and that the first three narrated acts of violence are committed against men and dogs: It is not until the culmination of the first episode with the prostitutes Christie and Sabrina, that Patrick first fully intimates the ferocity of his sexual appetite, notably in the future tense: Christie will probaly have a terrible black eye and deep scratches across her buttocks caused by the coat hanger" p.
Even here, we are given nothing in the present, and everything could well be contained to the level of fantasy; we might read Patrick's malevolent bombast the way his companions read his fascination with serial killers —as so much empty blather.
Such a hypothesis is compromised by the incidents narrated at the end of a long chapter, "Lunch with Bethany"; Bethany being an old girlfriend of Patrick's whom he has met again coincidentally. These incidents —her beating with the nail gun, her being nailed to wooden boards, his Macing of her face, his biting off her fingers, stabbing her breasts, cutting out her tongue, etc.
First, Bethany is not part o American Psycho 41 the social world Bateman now inhabits; indeed, she is a throw-back to his past at Camden College, and so what 'happens' to her cannot be checked by anyone Patrick now knows. This is critical, and links her fate neatly to that of Al, the 'old queer' and the delivery boy, as well as the two prostitutes.
Second, Bethany has been guilty on their date of two unforgivable acts of Violence' against Patrick's monumental egotism: She has thus one-upped him socially as well as culturally, and Bateman's language is nowhere more pointedly in crisis: This reference to the 'film' of Patrick's vision is taken up again when he finally decides to kill Bethany: So, however graphic the violence is in its detailed objectivity, we should pay close attention to the ways in which Ellis has asked us to qualify Bateman's report.
Of course, at the level of textual reality, the violence 'happens'; we are obliged to read through sentences detailing appalling acts.
But the question is: Everything hinges on the possibility that the graphic description is in fact so much impotent discursive revenge upon assaults against Bateman's infantile egotism. And here we really must turn again to the unexpected fact that this first 'sexual' murder although, it is worth noting that no sex takes place apart from a final and aborted attempt at fellatio with Bethany's tongueless mouth is actually the text's fourth attempted murder; and that, in no conceivable psychological profile of any serial killer or mass murderer—two distinct types —would these four crimes be attribut- 42 C o n t i n u u m Contemporaries able to any one man.
As Elizabeth Young says, "Ellis has. The answer is complex, and yet surprisingly simple: The fierce description of Al's mutilation is followed by another sneer: Go buy some gum, you crazy fucking nigger" p.
The violence as such is really a narrative elaboration —what Eliot called an 'objective correlative'—of an entire system of race and class prejudice which underlies the encounter. And although there is a late chapter "Bum on Fifth" in which we appear to be reacquainted with the now disabled Al and Gizmo after a year's interval, that chapter ends with assertions that "On The Patty Winters Show this morning a Cheerio sat in a very small chair and was interviewed for close to an hour"; and "I buy a Dove Bar, a coconut one, in which I find part of a bone" p.
This along with the fact that no uninsured homeless person could have survived Bateman's attack calls into ultimate doubt the mutilation of Al on anything other than an allegorical and political level, as the expression of class hatred. The murder, which needlessly utilizes both knife and gun, is concluded with another ludicrous and 'unreal' cinematic moment: The delivery boy whose throat Bateman improbably 'slits open' is perceived as a Japanese, and as Charles Murphy has just been prompting Patrick, the Japanese are buying up all of Manhattan, "the Empire State Building and Nell's.
Nell's, can you believe it, Bateman? This is a persistent fear of yuppies in the novel; later, Harold Carnes will lecture Bateman: In this regard, the boy's murder is an enactment of the racist fear and envy contained in that exasperation; with the stupidly comic denouement that Bateman of course can't tell a Japanese from a Chinese, and all the spilled 'beef chow mein' and 'moo shu pork' drives home the realization that he has accidentally killed "the wrong type of Asian" p.
This is quite absurd, and its purpose is to feed backward into previous assaults, and forward into following ones, contaminating them all with the latent suspicion that what the text presents as violent acts, are in fact to be considered as the cinematically projected fantasization of a general class violence towards everything that is not white, male and upper-middle class. This is a theory which meets its ultimate challenge, not in the abominable sequence in which Bateman lures a starving rat up a girl's vagina through a Habitrail tube for here the girl is flatly nameless, a mere cipher whose nonexistence has surpassed even the made-up names of Tiffany' and Torn' in the previous "Girls" chapter , but in the chapter which most deliberately authenticates itself as the narration of a real murder: I have already insisted that the other murders happen to characters who have no reality in the social world Bateman inhabits, who can be construed 44 C o n t i n u u m Contemporaries as imagined grounds upon which he constructs his class consciousness through the language of ultra-violence.
Paul Owen, however, is a well-known figure in the center of Bateman's universe; in fact he is the center, the sun around which Bateman and his interchangeable companions circle in emulation and envy.
In order to lure Owen back to his apartment, Bateman has willingly exploited the fact that Owen has no idea who he is, going along with his misapprehension that Patrick is actually Marcus Halberstam. As Halberstam, Bateman reserves a table in the unpopular Texarkana for two, and he and Owen meet there on what is, for all intents and purposes, a date there is a possibility that Patrick is actually 'gay'. Bateman's purpose is to get to the bottom of the legendary 'Fisher account' for which Owen enjoys exclusive responsibility.
The Fisher account is something like the Holy Grail of the investment-banking world all these men inhabit: Like a true member of the elite, Owen relates only banal information about it, and "infuriatingly changes the topic back to either tanning salons or brands of cigars or certain health clubs or the best places to jog in Manhattan" p.
Owen's tactics declare a limit to Bateman's solipsistic omniscience, and by so doing instigate the desire to kill. Bateman's envy of the Fisher account, and his realization that he will never control it, prompt the text miraculously to transport both men back to Bateman's apartment in a single clause— a literary jump-cut.
Here, Bateman can happily cul Owen to pieces with an axe. Pay attention to the degree to which linguistic competence dur ing the 'murder' outstrips Bateman's performance at Texarkana where he had been heard to utter "Is that Ivana Trump over there.
Jeez, Patrick, I mean Marcus, what are you thinking? Wh; would Ivana be at Texarkana? This stylistic drivel fades ii light of the relative mastery of the later description: This is accompanied by a horrible momentary hissing noise actually coming from the wounds in Paul's skull, places where bone and flesh no longer connect, and this is followed by a rude farting noise caused by a section of his brain, which due to pressure forces itself out, pink and glistening, through the wounds in his face" p.
Here, as nowhere else, Bateman's voice is capable of complex sentence formation, clausal subordination, detailed analyses of material processes, descriptive verve, adjectival and adverbial precision, and bravura periods. It is a light year away from "I get on top of her and we have sex and lying beneath me she is only a shape, even with the halogen bulbs burning" p. Paul Owen has been transformed from a character into a thing from which to produce sentences that in turn anatomize him into parts.
Bateman is not so much murdering him, as he is getting good syntactical mileage out of Owen's highly imaginative, attentive destruction. This is not the prose of someone hacking someone else to death in the heat of the present tense; it is the prose of someone lovingly contemplating the thought of hacking someone to death in the eternal slow-motion of pure solipsism. The violence in the book should be understood as an act in language, the attainment of a certain kind of literary flair, which is elsewhere obviated by reification, repetition, and inanity.
It is an act in language which is undergirded and informed by a profound race and class arrogance, homophobia, misogyny, and solipsistic vanity. But its effect is to launch these passages on to a different stylistic plane, which is really one of the major reasons that these passages leave such an impression. That is to say, the violence is not simply 46 Continuum Contemporaries a matter of content; it is very much a matter of form and style.
In terms of the reliability of our narrator, the question is: All we can say with certainty is that he disappears—a private detective is put on the case by his girlfriend.
Owen is not the first character simply to vanish from the text. Earlier, Tim Price, the friend with whom Patrick rides to Evelyn's house in the first chapter, takes a stroll down the tunnel in Tunnel club, not to be seen again for a good year. Patrick tells us that he has Paul Owen's keys after putatively having dumped his body in a vat of acid , and manufactures a departure for Owen to London, including an answering-machine message to that effect which sounds curiously like Owen's own voice.
He then uses Owen's apartment to torture and butcher two prostitutes, Torri and Tiffany, in the most lavishly described detail, leaving their mangled and decomposing remains in the apartment, while fending off questions from the detective as to his relationship with Owen. However, the detective has already found an iron-clad alibi for Bateman which puts him in the company of his usual companions, including Marcus Halberstam, the man as whom he had posed with Owen on the night of the murder.
The two key events, however, which finally round on the narrating voice and render its account of ever violent act uselessly suspect, occur in the chapters "The Best Gib for Business" and "New Club". Bateman has been fishing for news or rumour about the two sex workers he claims to have murdered in Owen's apartment, but "like in some movie no one has heard anything, has any idea of what I'm talking about" p.
Returning to the 'scene of the crime' to sate his curiosity, he advances into the building, which looks different'. However, the keys he has do not fit the lobby door; nor will they fit the apartment door.
A doorman shows him in, seemingly expecting him, directing him ahead to Mrs. Wolfe, a real estate agent. The elevator attendant with whom he rides up to the 14th floor is also a 'new addition' to the building. Upstairs, Owen's apartment is being shown.
It is antiseptically clean, bedecked with dozens of bouquets, and the television plays low-volume commercials about stain removers: Of course, we think he doth protest too much. At this late stage of the game, the incommensurability between what Patrick 'remembers', and the "distressingly real-looking, heavily lipsticked mouth" of Mrs. Wolfe a sly reference to Tom Wolfe's role in the text, as the literary 'Realist' who took on the same material with different aesthetic principles in The Bonfire of the Vanities , is all we readers need to connect the dots in this chapter no rumor about deaths, different-looking building, unfitting keys, new attendant and conclude that Bateman has never been here before.
In confirmation of this, we might consider the descriptions of Owen's furniture in either chapter Ellis has advised his readers to pay close attention to 'the language, the structure, the details'.
In "Girls", Patrick notes only the following contents of Owen's 'ridiculous-looking condo': Later, in "The Best City for Business", he tells us this: The tone of implacable certainty occludes the fact that Bateman has made only one 'hit': Bateman has simply not seen the place before.
Or, that is at least one reading available to us, a lethal and important layer of meaning here —our narrator is not only unreliable, but worthless and thrown into a discursive tizzy when forced into recognition of this fact: So far from being able to create his own fate as story-teller, Bateman is at last obliged to realize his ineffectual passivity and hollowness as a protagonist-narrator.
The point is amplified in the "New Club" chapter a few pages later. Having confessed in the remarkable "Chase, Manhattan" section to "thirty, forty, a hundred murders" into Harold Carnes's answering machine p.
Inevitably, Games mistakes Bateman for "Davis", and approves of the joke he thinks Davis has made on Bateman by having him confess to so much violent crime. Not wholly however; the joke has one flaw, as he tells Bateman in an assumed English accent: But come on, man, you had one fatal flaw: Bateman's such a bloody ass-kisser, such a brown-nosing goody-goody, that 1 couldn't fully appreciate it' " p. Here, in what for Patrick must be his greatest moment of exposure and shame, is what a first person narrator can nevei normally attain: Nothing could les: Yet Carnes's assessment carries on.
In contrast Bateman's version of events, we learn that it was Evelyn who really dumped Patrick an accusation Bateman does not in conversation deny. And Patrick could "barely pick up an escort girl", let alone "chop her up".
Finally, after Bateman insists on one definite fact, that he has killed Paul Owen and enjoyed it, Carnes tears even this vestige of his notoriety to shreds: I had. Of course, there are ironies to Carnes's version of events, not least that he mistakes Bateman's identity, twice, and so may well have mistaken Owen's; but the lesson inheres in Patrick's absolute lack of fiber here, his virtual concession as narrator of everything Carnes has just said. His decision to include this conversation in the text, and not fight the resultant collapse of his entire narrative construction, is devastating.
Bateman has, we may well conclude, done nothing but write, speak, construct himself in a variety of language games, none of which is any more Veal' than the others. Has he really not killed anybody at all? I think it important that fiction is left to the reader. That's the great thing about books. In fact, Bateman's fictionality is of the highest self-consciousness, and suggests an aggravated dance between him and Ellis himself, a shifting power relation between author and narrator, which is of the 50 Continuum Contemporaries highest order of interest theoretically; but, I feel, tends to diminish the stylistic dynamics between the various language-zones outlined above.
That is to say, it is where Patrick comes into greatest selfconsciousness as a non-self, where the thematic interest of a lack of individuality and a terrible one-dimensionality achieve most articulate expression, that the book violates its own stylistic law of 'insideness' or immanance.
The book is, however, most quotable here, at its metafictional peaks: Soon everything seemed dull: There wasn't a clear, identifiable emotion within me, except for greed and, possibly, total disgust. Something horrible was happening and yet 1 couldn't figure out why. The very clarity of the phrases, the philosophical nuance of the exposition, rubs against Bateman's otherwise imbalanced and disordered language games.
Much later we read, there is an idea of Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, bui there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and thougV 1 can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flest gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles ar American Psycho 51 effects are as fiction, tends nevertheless towards a kind of hectoring and bullying, an exasperation avant la lettre with all the likely complaints about the book as "an instruction manual in how to kill women" see next chapter.
The philosophical streak of the book, its occasional tendency to formulate its own thematics in quotable statements, spills over from Bateman's concern with his own status as a character, and into more grandiose statements on yuppie morals and worldviews: Sex is mathematics. Individuality no longer an issue. What does intelligence signify? Define reason. Intellect is not a cure. Justice is dead. Fear, recrimination, innocence, sympathy, guilt, waste, failure, grief, were things, emotions, that no one really felt anymore.
Reflection is useless, the world is senseless. Evil is its only permanence. God is not alive. Love cannot be trusted. Surface, surface, surface was all that anyone found meaning in The dividing-line between fiction and metafiction is dangerously thin here, a layer of crisp ice which does not sufficiently bear the weight of repeated reading, nor, even, perhaps, a diligent first reading.
What is more, Ellis cannot refrain from accentuating Bateman's fictionality at a more banal contextual level, which has eroded over time. As Elizabeth Young points out, "We know of his [Bateman's] fictional existence.
He is the big brother of Sean Bateman in The Rules of Attraction and has already made an appearance in that book. He knows people from other 'brat-pack' novels; Stash could be the person of the same name in [Tama janowtiz's] Slaves of New Yorfc. It seems as though Ellis is reinforcing the fact that Patrick's only existence is within fiction. Nabokov had played brilliant games with the reader on this borderline between narrator and author, in Lolita and Pale Fire above all.
Perhaps the most outstanding of American authors to plough this furrow, however, has been Thomas Pynchon; and it is enough for the reader to bear in mind the superlatively adept shifts in register which signal, say, Oedipa Maas's or Tyrone Slothrop's 'fictionality' in the elastic and expansive prose-style of a Pynchon text, to see how thin and unremarkable these moves are in Ellis's less capacious hands. Where Ellis is at his strongest is in marking the unbridgeable breaks between reified uses of language in Bateman's monologue.
It is in these breaks that the 'depersonalization' and 'not-thereness' of the contemporary human being can best be measured and assessed; not in self-conscious sophomoric reflections on that state of being. Bateman, says Ellis, drawing our attention to the incommensurable here, is literally a "mixture of GQ and Stereo Review and Fangoria If I married Evelyn would she make me buy her Lacroix gowns until w American Psycho 53 Soviet-backed guerrillas found peace yet in Namibia?
Or would the world be a safer, kinder place if Luis was hacked to bits? My world might, so why not? There really is no How easy it would be to scare the living wits out of this fucking guy. Kim ball is utterly unaware of how truly vacant I am. There is no evidence of animate life in this office, yet he still takes notes. By the time you finish reading this sentence, a Boeing jetliner will take off or land somewhere in the world.
I would like a Pilsner Urquell. Random, meaningless, shallow, perverse, such entries speak much more effectively of Bateman's avowed fictionality than his metafictional soliloquys. In this sense, Bateman 'is' really no more than a zone of language in which irreconcilable soundbites and regurgitated bits of mediaspeak clash and overlap; his 'psychosis' is a forced polyphony of language-games illustrative of contemporary identity, an identity without substance or centre.
An identity that is a fiction, though not one that we write ourselves. It is ceaselessly written for us, in us and on us. However 'illusory' Bateman's violence can be argued to be at a literary level, its point is extra-textual and political in the most basic sense; that is to say, we have to read American Psycho's violent moments at three distinct levels. First, the bare fact is that, textually, they happen: Second, at the level of some putative diegetic 'reality' outside the solipsistic chamber of Bateman's monologue, they probably do not happen.
And third, at a higher, allegorical level, they once again do happen: The trick is to read these episodes on all three levels at once. In the final pages of the novel, Tim Price has returned from his mysterious sojourn at the other end of the tunnel, and the television at Harry's is showing George Bush Sr.
Price, evidently changed by his experiences elsewhere, is intrigued by the incongruity between Reagan's appearance and his actual conduct: He looks so He seems so Was totally harmless. Just like you are totally harmless. But he did do all that shit This is as close as the novel gets to a genuine political discussion. Price wants to feel, perhaps does feel outrage that the gap between appearance and reality in politics is widening: But inside No one else cares; everyone is silently complicit.
Elsewhere in the work, Bateman has explicitly identified himself with this 'psychotic' clique. Always ready with the tritest liberal media cliche about current affairs—"! He declares open sympathy for the Nazis at one point p. No reader of the novel will forget the use of the musical Les Mise'rables as a satiric key to the class politics of Bateman and his gang.
As an allegorical device, Boublil and Schonberg's musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's great nineteenth century novel of social complaint, nicely, if rather repetitiously, underscores the bourgeois transformation of a polarized urban political context into an opportunity to consume and enjoy the image of misery.
Hugo's original 'pity' for the victims of urban capitalism, is displaced by the musical adaptation into an all-dancing, all-singing extravaganza open only to the middle and upper class, who are content to spend more on tickets than they will all year on charity. We do not see the musical itself, but only the various hand-bills and CD soundtracks, so many visual and aural synecdoches of a commercial exploitation of the very misery it helps perpetuate.
As an accompaniment to his pornographic power over the two prostitutes, the disc of Les Miserables perfectly complements Bateman s appetite for other people's unhappiness. In a typical moment, McDermott and Bateman have just exited the nightclub Nell's with two 'Eurotrash hardbodies', when McDermott spies a homeless Black woman and her six-year old child, begging for food.