Monday, September 15, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 49 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

The conversation follows its own rolling accord – no real structure or topic or internal logic or feeling; except, of course, for its own hidden, conspiratorial one. Just words, and like in a movie, but one that has been transcribed improperly, most of it overlaps. I’m having sort of a hard time paying attention because my automated teller has started speaking to me, sometimes actually leaving weird messages on the screen, in green lettering, like “Cause a terrible scene at Sotheby’s” or “Kill the President” or “Feed me a stray cat,” and I was freaked out by the park bench that followed me for six blocks last Monday evening and it too spoke to me. Disintegration – I’m taking it in my stride.


American Psycho first came to my attention when I was eighteen and a bunch of my classmates started talking about it. This was unusual, because the fine upstanding folk that I went to school with didn’t, as a rule, discuss things that weren’t related to rugby, beer or date-rape.
“Sounds interesting,” I thought, as my peers offered such glowing reviews as: “It has heaps of killing in it and swearing and he has sex with, like, girls. Sex!” While it didn’t sound like quite my cup of tea, I filed it in the back of my brain for later reference.

Over subsequent years, I had many people recommend it to me. People from various subcultures, walks of life and pretentiousness levels have attempted to proselytise me to the way of American Psycho, most of whom reviewed it thusly: “It has heaps of killing in it and swearing and he has sex with, like, girls. Sex!”

Having read a random copy that I recently found on my bookshelf (I think I’ve figured out who it belongs to – Hey Eric, I have your book) it seems to me that these well-intentioned reviewers quite spectacularly missed the point. I mean, for a start, no one ever told me it was a comedy. (Well, satire, but you know...) I mean, hell for over a third of the book he doesn’t do anything except be a typical nineteen-eighties Wall-Street scumfuck. Twice he mentions in an offhand way that he’d like to inflict brutal harm on someone, but that’s fewer times than I’ve threatened people to their faces today... (I’m quite proud of the look I got from one of my form class this morning when I told her that if she forgot her PE gear one more time I was going to cut her head off and present it to the PE teacher as a gift. But that’s another story...)

While the sex and violence in the last hundred pages or so wasn’t really to my taste, it’s possibly the best book about the eighties I’ve ever read. An ex-student with whom I was discussing the book has recommended Glamorama – apparently it does much the same for the nineties, my personal decade of choice...

I'm looking forward to it.

1 comment:

Psycho Milt said...

I was kind of struggling with the constant grotesque violence in it (despite actually getting the point that Ellis was rating these Masters of the Universe as the moral equivalents of Jeffrey Dahmer), until I got to the bits involving serious and positive critical assessments of Whitney Houston and Huey Lewis and the News. Oh, I got it then, alright - this book is high-grade funny! As you say, possibly the best book about the 80s I've ever read.