American Psycho is a harsh commentary upon a society dominated by materialism and devoid of emotion, passion, caring or love.
Pat Bateman, the anti-hero of the book, is a suave, sophisticated Wall Street Yuppie. He seems to have it all, the good school, Harvard, the right job, plenty of money, great clothes, a beautiful apartment. He is handsome, fit, rich and is courted by beautiful women.
But from the opening of the book you realise that here is a man who is not living. He exists. And he exists vicariously through brand names, expensive restaurants, personal products. His life is simply a litany of consumption. He is in fact a non-person. Frequently his associates mistake him for other people, and he has trouble telling his associates apart. They are all a homogeneous and indistinguishable set of “in” people.
Bateman describes the murder of a prostitute in the same clinical voice as he uses when he describes the records of Genesis, or the features of his VCR, or how he makes love to his girlfriend, or the clothes and food in the local restaurant. All life is lived in a cold passionless clinical state of semi-awareness.
The lack of a real life is tearing Bateman apart. He searches for a passion, a reality of some kind. In his mind he plays out the murder of beggars, prostitutes and colleagues in vivid detail. But the lines blur. How much is played out in his head and how much is in his mind. Is the Chinese Laundry washing his blood soaked shirts? If not why does he still see stains? At times his violent fantasy world seems to be crossing the border into his daily reality. But how far is this happening?
The only times you see real emotion appear are when Bateman has to interact at a real level with others. He hates live music, why? Live music is emotional in a way records can never be. He is consumed by getting restaurant reservations. He fears having to stand in a crowded restaurant lobby, subject to the vagaries of random people, a situation where he has no control. He is far more comfortable dissecting bodies in his apartment.
So. Is he a murderer, or is it all in his head. At some point are we all a bit like Bateman?
Anyways, read this book – if you can stomach it.