(Picador, Second Edition, Paperback, 1991, read: June 00)
"Patrick Bateman is twenty-six and works on Wall Street; he is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath. American Psycho is a bleak, bitter, black comedy about a world we all recognize but do not wish to face and it takes us to a head-on collision with America's greatest dream - and its worst nightmare."
When the book was published in the US in 1991 it was a scandal. The author had ruined his career and for almost 10 years afterwards he didn't write anything else but a few short stories. Critics on one side condemned it because of its incredible brutality, on the other side they praised it as a great mirror of the 80s. Time to make up ones own mind.
Both groups of critics are absolutely right. 14 people are killed by Patrick Bateman ... 7 men quickly and relatively undramatic, 7 women slowly, painful and described in great detail. To call the author 'imaginative' in this regard is an understatement. You're haunted by the scenes for days. Despite the fact that I didn't even read every sentence but moved over the chapters and jumped right to the end. Maybe that's cowardice but my stomach was quite thankful.
On the other side the story contains the most funny and absurd scenes I've read in a long time. In an almost annoying way the narrator (Patrick Bateman himself) describes the outfit of every person he meets in the tiniest detail ... up to the designer of the tie. The competition amongst these yuppies about who has the most exclusive calling card is hilarious. The superficiality of the 80s is described at its best because only names and labels count and nobody listens to one another. While everyone wears the same exclusive clothes and the same haircut they don't see each other anymore, mistake names and spend whole evenings at expensive new restaurants with people who they call by the wrong name when saying goodbye. It doesn't matter who you really are as long as you are at the top.
So far it's no wonder that Bateman remains unexposed. He himself confesses a few times to be a psychotic serial-killer, but because people don't listen to him this is of no consequence. Even after a detailed confession on an answering-machine Bateman is not detected because the person called thinks to have dined with Bateman on the evening the call was made.
My tip: a must-read because this book shows the 80s from their best and worst sides. If you can't take the brutality skip the pages. After all it's only a book. [Dorothée Büttgen, July 00]