June 3, 1998

I am currently reading American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. This book makes a great point about the rampant materialism in our society today. Everyone working only to buy Calvin Klein and go to that new “trendy” restaurant. Everyone working to “fit in.” It doesn’t seem many people work because they enjoy what they do anymore. Five days a week people go to work only to get money. And, I guess, if you’re making a hundred grand a year, then those two days out of the week you’re not working may make up for the other five. But what if you’re working at a job you hate and those two days don’t satisfy your need for meaning or enjoyment in your life? Too many people nowadays are going into fields because they have the potential to make large sums of money, even though they may hate their job. I, personally, don’t care about money or the meaningless acquisition and collection of material items. I just want to be happy. I want to enjoy what I’m doing everyday of my life – with my life. That may be impossible, but it’s better than sitting behind a desk cursing myself and my job everyday, isn’t it? I don’t expect to be a writer or anything. Although I’d like to, because being a writer gives you a freedom other professions don’t. Especially if you’re a successful writer and writing is your main job – meaning, you don’t work as a waiter to make ends meet. I’ve talked to freelance writers who’ve told me that freelance work doesn’t pay enough to keep a single, no-girlfriend, small-apartment guy alive. This is disheartening. Of course, so is having your work torn apart because it really, truly does suck. Here’s one of the quotes that opens Ellis’s book:

“Both the author of these Notes and the Notes themselves are, of course, fictional. 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 day among us. In the fragment entitled, “Underground” this personage describes himself and his views and attempts, as it were, to clarify the reasons why he appeared and was bound to appear in our midst. The subsequent fragment will consist of the actual “notes,” concerning certain events in his life.”
–Fyodor Dostoevsky
Notes from Underground

Now, here’s the copy or summary or whatever on the back cover of the book:

“Patrick Bateman is handsome, well educated, intelligent. He works by day on Wall Street, earning a fortune to complement the one he was born with. His nights he spends in ways we cannot begin to fathom. He is twenty-six years old and living his own American Dream.

American Psycho is set in a world (Manhattan) and an era (the Eighties) recognizably our own. The wealthy elite grows infinitely wealthier, the poor and disturbed are turned out onto the streets by the tens of thousands, and anything, including the very worst, seems possible. Even so, Bateman, who expresses his true self by torture and murder, prefigures an apocalyptic horror that no society could bear to confront. And he remains, in the end, at large. This is not an exit.”

Now, I’m sure this book doesn’t have mass-appeal and it will probably begin getting more press with the movie adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio gathering more press space, but I wanted to bring American Psycho to your attention. I heard about this book online, too, and I thought it sounded interesting. There are graphic descriptions of torture, sex, mutilation, and cannibalism which I know some people will cause many people to shy away from this book and others to reread again and again. Fortunately, I’m in neither of those groups. Ellis’s descriptions of the everyday sort tend to frustrate me, here’s one:

“Scott Montgomery walks over to our booth wearing a double-breasted navy blue blazer with mock-tortoiseshell buttons, a prewashed wrinkled-cotton striped dress shirt with red accent stitching, a red, white and blue fireworks-print silk tie by Hugo Boss and plum washed-wool trousers with a quadruple-pleated front and slashes pockets by Lazo. He’s holding a glass of champagne and hands it to the girls he’s with — definite model type, thin, okay tits, no ass, high heels — and she’s wearing a wool-crepe skirt and a wool and cashmere velour jacket and draped over her arm is a wool and cashmere velour jacket, all by Louis Dell’Olio. High-heeled shoes by Susan Bennis Warren Edwards. Sunglasses by Alain Mikli. Pressed-leather bag from Hermes.”

That’s one paragraph in American Psycho. I wanted to warn you about the designer clothes descriptions. Every time Ellis describes a person, and he describes everyone, that’s how it ends up, sometimes shorter, usually longer. The book, other than that, is quite amusing, though. The satirical undertones about our society are present throughout the book. I recommend it to everyone, except Leo DiCaprio lovers who are only buying it because he’s in the movie version and wouldn’t understand the book in the first place.

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