Saturday, February 24, 2007

American Psycho Complete

It's American Pyscho Day over at Dennis Cooper's blog courtesy of SYpHA_69. Patrick Batemen would, I believe, be proud:

Soon I began taking notes. Lots of notes. Analyzing the novel’s internal timeline. Making a list of all the songs that get referenced in the book. Creating lists of the articles of clothing Patrick Bateman wears during the course of the novel.

Eventually, I became obsessed with the book. I decided that I would become one of the most obsessive American Psycho fan boys to ever walk the earth. I wanted to become, in other words, an American Psycho scholar (why not? I already classify myself as, among other things, an H.P. Lovecraft historian). It should also be observed that the book had a huge effect on my own writing (some of you may recall that on the Confusion day I created back in December I listed Bret Easton Ellis as one of my book’s primary influences, in particular the book American Psycho).

After many years working in bookstores, I found there were a few titles that inspired a certain "persistent interest": Naked Lunch, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Secret History, Perfume and Gravity's Rainbow come immediately to mind. Then there were those books that, for better or worse, cultivated a more obsessive fanaticism such as Catcher in the Rye, Dune and Lord of the Rings. You could almost spot the "fans" of these books walking in the door. (And I soon discovered that few could Virgil me down into the inner structures of a text as well as these truly obsessed fans - those to whom the inner "reality" of the book often held more weight than that of the external world.)

American Psycho, perhaps endemic to the current cultural climate, holds a tenuous middle ground between this persistent interest and fanaticism. In the late 90s, I met quite a few budding Patrick Batemans who would use lines from the book like a secret language for the initiated. Little Holden Caufields gone all the way through the rye.

I must admit that Ellis' first two books, Less Than Zero and Rules of Attraction, were guilty pleasures for me - connected in my memory with long waits in airport terminals. The sort of thing everybody was "reading at the time."

American Psycho was clearly of a different order. I found the book to be fascinating - like viewing an autopsy or watching a corpse decompose. I also thought it to be extremely funny - a crucial aspect lost on many readers. The device of describing the (always interchangeable) characters by long tedious catalogs of product and brands was effective and prescient, to say the least. I remember wondering at the time if any of it would make sense to a reader 100 years in the future. Doubtful. Still, American Psycho does stand as a hyperreal - and damning - portrait of late-20th century urban America.

Update: I just noticed that Dennis Cooper broke the sections down into separate links. The always excellent Jahsonic was kind enough to compile a complete list:

No comments: