American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
— Inferno, Dante Alighieri
We all wear masks in our day-to-day lives, though behind some of our masks lies something so depraved and perverse that it cannot be contained. American Psycho deals with insanity, violence, consumerism, materialism, and identity against the backdrop of the excess and greed of the 1980s in New York. It follows Patrick Bateman: yuppie, socialite, Vice President, and serial killer, as he tries to discern reality from his brutal murder and torture sprees.
Everyone in the novel is obsessed with appearances, getting into the right clubs and restaurants, and being seen with the right people. Though since everyone looks the same the characters often find it difficult to figure out who is who, with Bateman and his friends often mistaking one person for another because all the men wear glasses, suits, suspenders, and slicked back hair. This becomes a key plot point and theme in the book. Ellis asks the reader if everyone looks the same, acts the same, talks the same, and shares the same friends and lovers, then is anyone truly different? Materialism is a central theme, with Ellis name dropping hundreds of brands and having Bateman analyse the closing designers that every character he encounters are wearing. Some of the most standout chapters are the ones in which Bateman takes a 80’s band, be it Huey Lewis and the News, Genesis, or Whitney Houston, and analyses it in detail, in essence spewing out a Wikipedia article because he tries to fit in by being up to date with the coolest bands and albums.
I must warn you this book is extremely gory and not for the faint of heart. You may find yourself unable to find it in the bookstore, or wrapped with an R18+ plastic wrap as it was when I bought it. If you have seen the movie starring Christian Bale, you should know that the book is a thousand times worse in its graphic description of torture and sexual violence. If you want to understand where Ellis drew the macabre details of this character from, you need only to read the Wikipedia articles for John Wayne Gacy, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, and especially Ted Bundy.