American Psycho is a book that takes the question: “what if the eighties was, like, a real, living person?” and runs with it for 399 pages. (Brett Easton Ellis won’t like that description, but then I’m beginning increasingly to suspect that Brett Easton Ellis doesn’t really like anything).
It huffs up all the decade’s power restaurants and rolodexes and videotapes, and all its money and certainty and vanity and cocaine, and pumps them it into a horrible, handsome, pin-striped little shell named Patrick Bateman, until he swells at the abs and sweats like a crack baby. And Patrick may or may not like to mutilate and murder a little between the sauna and the ceviche, and he may or may not be real, and he may or may not be imagining everything, and the book may or may not be endorsing this lifestyle, and it may or may not be condemning it, and it may or may not be saying something much cleverer in between the two.
But listen — you’re just here for the scene with the business cards and all that lovely Oliver Peoples eyewear, aren’t you, so let’s not get bogged down in the details. (There are also some bits with rats and prostitutes and chainsaws, but again, don’t worry about it, honestly, it’s fine.)
"Did the yuppies shape late eighties Wall Street, or did late eighties Wall Street shape the yuppies?"
It’s now exactly thirty years since the novel was released in the UK. With our woke glasses on (they’re probably not Oliver Peoples — sorry), we can now look back on its era of Reaganomics and power suits with a knowing, post-post modern shake of the head. How far we’ve come. How much we’ve learned. How little we now listen to Huey Lewis and the News.
Just think. A former celebrity as president! An unregulated financial market running rampant! An utter infatuation with brand names and the lives of celebrities! A cultural obsession with murderers! A feverish fixation on new restaurants! An unscalable mountain of urban cocaine! Who could live like that? These people! These monsters! Those vile bodies!
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sometimes life imitates art. Sometimes art imitates life. But sometimes we just imitate our former selves — and that’s when it gets really pleasing, especially for a gently exhausted lifestyle journalist with a Getty Images account and yes, fine, alright, sure, an abundance of Gucci loafers. So. What would Patrick Bateman look like today? What would he love and who would he kill? And why, more importantly, should you care?
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