Saturday, 19 October 2013
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
I have finally finished it. When I say finally I mean it has taken me over 20 years to get round to reading it. I don't mean that reading it was a chore. On the contrary I fairly flipped through the pages for it is written in the main with great skill and artistry and the text flows smoothly.
I am wearing a short-sleeve Raffles 100% silk shirt (from Singapore Collection) with beige jeans by Modisto and injection technology sandals made in Italy. The watch on my wrist is an old friend, an Animal. On my arm a red merino pullover by Burberrys.
That second paragraph was me trying my hand at writing like Bret Easton Ellis. It's a contagious style that he has.
First I must confess to skipping 20 or so of the book's 399 pages. I'm not into sado-masochism and I would have been uncomfortable reading them. These were the pages in which some of the most violent and sadistic scenes were described in great detail. But my missing all that hasn't spoilt my enjoyment if I can call it that.
So what's it all about? I see Bateman the Wall Street psychopath as a metaphor for the inherent dangers of a financial system built on greed and the lust for power.
There are outside of this book real victims of high finance in the real corrupt world: unsafe factories killing the slave workers inside, boat people drowning off European shores almost daily, soldiers (many only boys) raping or mutilating their prey . . .
Maybe money is really the root of all evil.
The book starts with a chapter headed April Fools and this heading may be the key to the whole novel. I think it alerts me to the fact that all may not be what it seems to be to the narrator Patrick Bateman.
It could be that the main character, I hesitate to call Bateman the hero, is a full blooded psychopath and takes great delight in torturing and murdering dozens of people in the City of New York, maybe a hundred people, ranging from tramps and beggars, to prostitutes, to guards and policemen, to children, to his fellow investment executives without arousing any suspicion, with the exception of one taxi driver who apparently steals at gunpoint Bateman's sunglasses, $300 and a Rolex.
Bateman supposedly leaves clues and bodies lying around New York and even makes a confession of sorts to his lawyer who, knowing Bateman's character, treats the whole business as a preposterous joke.
Clear it is that Bateman is unhinged. But that fact alone is no crime. Many executives on Wall Street are probably unhinged. Their world, as we have seen from recent scandals, is one of unreality.
The question is: Is the psychopathic nightmare real? That the mounting toll of horror, like the rat in the shower, is real to the narrator is all the reader can ever be sure of.
"Bateman you're nuts!" friends and colleagues say, and they say it often but always jokingly unaware that Bateman is not playing the fool but is actually cracking up in the worst way.
Ambition, money, drugs, whisky, clubs, sex, insomnia, porno, platinum credit cards, are parts of the Bateman monster model.
Will Bateman will become the incarnate monster of his own nightmares? Can he find an exit from the labyrinth of his madness? How can he know the difference?
Three things I think I can say with some degree of certainty having now closed the book and thought about it: I am 100% sure that Bateman is mad, I'm 100% sure that his hero is Donald Trump, and I'm 90% sure that he has bought a new Rolex.
I'm afraid I can't recommend Bret Easton Ellis's handbook on how to be an executive psychopath to the next wannabe on the Wall Street Monopoly board. It might just tip him over the edge. A moderate percentage of the rest of us, that is mature and sane adults with our heads firmly in the real world may be able to deal with it. Just about.
I glance at my Animal. Time I was finished.
Bret Easton Ellis