I became aware of American Psycho when I was in college. I heard Norman Mailer was pissed about the book, and it caused a stir with all the sensitive types who like to bring attention to themselves whenever they can. The book did not find its way into my hands until I got the South of France to teach photography after college. I read it in a shocked trance, and quickly followed it with all things Raymond Carver. It is a miracle I lived through it.
Just yesterday Vintage sent me a copy because? But I love that they did. (They are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the book’s publication.) It gives me an excuse to talk about this great, great book. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this author for years. There were times when I spat on this story, and the nonsense that surrounded it. Finally, when Patrick Bateman hit the big screen I was magnetized to the story. Christian Bale may end up like Henry Winkler/The Fonz, with his portrait of Patrick Bateman, in that, he makes people forget he is Christian Bale, and he might just be Patrick Bateman. Then the makers of the movie cast Dog Girl as his secretary, (that woman is only known to me as Dog Girl, I will not tell you why I call her that) and the book and movie collided for me, leaving a permanent stain that actually looked attractive the harder I tried to wash it out.
BEE can write: Less Than Zero, Rules of Attraction, two gems that can be held up to any of the contemporary masters like Emperors Children, or On Beauty. BEE’s early work examines people and time in ways that should remind heroin users of what makes heroin so good, from what I hear, it stops time. Lately, I loved and devoured Lunar Park and Imperial Bedrooms, even though they were extensions of earlier ideas. His new work smacks of a remoteness that is laced with seasonal insanity and characters that hang on you like smoke from a crack pipe.
Would American Psycho titillate now? With Snooky and the Kardashian girls writing novels? I think it would. Palahniuk and Kultgen are BEE’s nearest relatives, but they both owe him a great debt. In my interview with John Niven, for his American Psycho-esque novel, Kill Your Friends, I made the claim that Kill Your Friends was better than American Psycho. Let me rephrase that, it is a different book. Nothing can compare to the stunning vitality of Patrick Bateman. He is a man that is actually living his life, and doing exactly what he wants. Is it depraved? Sick? Sure. Is it an atrocity? Of course not. Misogynistic, and misanthropic? In spades. BEE delivered a wildly magnetic character that left readers speechless, and salivating with envy.
I recently listened to the audio book of American Psycho, which is a must for anyone who loves that story. The audio closed the circle on the Patrick Bateman experience for me, and hearing those words was beyond great.
In my lifetime I predict American Psycho will be adopted by English teachers the world over, and occupy a permanent spot on reading lists alongside Catcher in the Rye.