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Another Book Review of American Psycho – Guest Post by Peter Baker

Note from Josh: I reviewed American Psycho (my review) about a year ago and still get quite a bit of traffic from that review. And nasty mail. It’s a polarizing work, no doubt about it. But I’m always happy to publish another take on my reviews. Here’s one from Peter Baker.

This book is possibly one of the best works of fiction dealing with the question of existence (existentialism).  Other works of fiction with that regard incluce “Waiting for Godot,” “No Exit,” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.”  What they all have in common with “American Psycho”  is that they take into account how absurd life really is.

In “American Psycho,” the protagonists lives in the 1980’s–an era characterized by excess, and superficial qualities abundant within everyone.  Everyone looks for really stellar cocaine, everyone has to have the best business card, the best damned condo, and the best workout regimen.  Patrick Bateman, the protagonist, describes all of these things in minute detail.  Right down to the music he listens to.

What does this have in common with protagonists in the other mentioned works?  Their lives are inherently boring, so they imbue it with meaning to make it relevant in some way.  In the case of Bateman, his life is so ultra mundane–he has the same job as everyone else, nobody knows who he is, and his girlfriend is a vapid chasm of nothingness–that he has to fabricate this ultra-excessive existence, full of horrific murders, intense sexual acts, and drug use.

My take on the work is that none of this stuff actually happened–if you kill someone with a nail gun, the person in the next apartment would notice.  Or maybe they wouldn’t care because they are so self absorbed?  Ultimately, the Brett Easton Ellis leaves it to you, and you could make the argument for either side.  What we get from this book, concretely, are the absurdities of life, and the shallowness of the world around us.

About The Author

I am Peter Baker, I just graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in religious studies and I teach guitar and piano at a local music store in Brandon, FL.  My website is www.deathmetalanddeadlifting.blogspot.com

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Todd November 4, 2010, 7:02 am

    I take exception with the concept of life being absurd. Life is not absurd. People choose to make their lives absurd. In the book, Bateman made choices. He lived the consequences of his choices. Therefore his ultra-mundane life, and ultra-shallow girlfriend were of his own making. To say otherwise is truly absurd.

    • ellen November 4, 2010, 10:40 am

      I disagree that it is people who choose to make their lives absurd. To view life as having any inherent worth, people must choose to find or create a personal meaning and as a society we can judge their attempts to do so. “Good” reasons for living might include spiritual views, human relationships, a love of nature or evolutionary success (passing on your DNA). But when I start breaking it down for myself things loose purpose. (I’m here now but I’ll die. Everyone else will die. The earth, sun and universe will also most likely die.)

      But to continue living you must find some purpose and life is absurd until you give it one.

  • Peter November 5, 2010, 1:20 am

    We do not choose to make it absurd, we choose to lift away the absurdity by imbuing it with meaning. Bateman failed to do so in American Psycho, rendering the novel to be as bleak as it is.

  • tajmahaljanitor November 25, 2010, 8:51 pm

    Your review is excellent, simply because your beliefs coincide with mine (otherwise I’d pout and hate you). Like you say, I think there are clues dropped throughout the book that can give you the option of believing that none of the horror scenes really happened. BEE has said that he’s a moralist, and I think that this book pushes a pretty strong message, from beginning to end, in a very humorous fashion, about the superficiality of hedonism, materialistic life, etc (lots of messages really). At one point he says he threw away half a gram, which might be an important clue.

    Detractors of this book are failing to grasp the subtlety and literary techniques employed. I’ve read it twice now and still can’t understand them, but merely marvel at the skill of the author. I have my own views, but am willing to be convinced as to whether this is an important and classic novel that will be recognised for years to come, or a piece of grotesque trash of no literary significance, as some have deemed it. Various academic theses that I’ve read lead me to believe that it’s the former.

    To contribute to the discussion above: I feel that that there are powerful forces rendering us senseless to the absurdity of life. Huge commercial enterprises dumbing us down and ensnaring us within their trap, until our souls are tortured like Bateman’s (imagined?) victims. Yes, life is full of choices that we live and die by, but people barely stand a chance.

  • Jesse L. Cairns August 14, 2012, 7:57 pm

    What people never seem to mention when fawning all over this book is just how mind-numbinglyboring it is. When people say, “That’s the point the author was trying to make, my stock response is, “It makes for terrible reading. Also, since this was his third book and horrid violence aside it’s a kissing cousinto his first two, have we considered the possibilty that Ellis nay just be an awful writer?”

    I’m sure you can guess where I come out onthis.