I’m currently reading American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. The novel is told in the point of view of Patrick Bateman, a trust fund brat that also works on Wall Street. The book is written in a kind of journal format that records every minute detail, down to menial morning routines. Bateman finds himself bored with life, work, and just about everything that surrounds him which leads him to become a serial killer.
Bateman is constantly telling his friends what he does, but they are all so wrapped up in themselves that they don’t hear him or don’t believe what he’s saying. After feeding his girlfriend the urinal cake, he tells her quite openly that “My need to engage in homicidal behavior on a massive scale cannot be, um, corrected.” She responds to his admission by saying “Patrick, if you’re going to start in again on why I should have breast implants, I’m leaving.” Bateman calls another character and leaves a long, detailed admission of guilt on his answering machine. The man responds, “Bateman killing Owen and the escort girl? Oh that’s bloody marvelous,” forgetting about the “joke” immediately. It’s black humor, and pretty funny at that.
What I enjoy about the book, is the constant references to luxury fashion brands. Ellis has shaped the concept of lifestyle fashion so carefully and so precisely in his novel that his main character has influenced the way men dress. In the late ’80s there was a rapid expansion of the availability of men’s high fashion, a heightened awareness of designer labels and a vast array of grooming and beauty products entering the market for the first time that were targeted specifically to men.
What Ellis’ novel does predate, is a cultural obsession with personal branding.
The book is quite an easy read and Ellis has managed to place the novel firmly in the real world, the world of America in the late 80s/early 90s. It manages to make a definite point about the 80s and America back then. It is a black comedy played to extremes.