Readersforum's Blog

March 7, 2013

LURID: American Psycho – A Retrospective

LURID: vivid in shocking detail; sensational, horrible in savagery or violence, or, a guide to the merits of the kind of Bad Books you never want your co-workers to know you're reading.

LURID: vivid in shocking detail; sensational, horrible in savagery or violence, or, a guide to the merits of the kind of Bad Books you never want your co-workers to know you’re reading.

By Karina Wilson

Happy birthday, Patrick Bateman!  On March 6, 1991, American Psycho was published amidst howls of protest, calls for censorship, and vicious reviews dismissing it as superficial trash.  Twenty-two years later it’s considered a classic. It’s sold more than a million copies in the US, been reprinted more than fifty times, and its anti-hero is guaranteed to make an appearance as a costume at a Halloween party near you.  How did such a reviled book become such a vital cultural reference point?

The brouhaha surrounding American Psycho began months before the book hit stores. In August 1990, when female employees at Simon & Schuster learned about the subject matter of Bret Easton Ellis’s third novel, they objected in the strongest terms to scenes detailing the torture and murder of women. After Time and Spy magazines ran stories about the protests (Time called the book a “childish horror fantasy”) including leaked excerpts, Simon & Schuster (despite the $300,000 advance paid to Ellis) abruptly canceled publication.  48 hours later, Ellis’s agent resold the manuscript to Sonny Mehta at Vintage, sparking even more outrage.

Tammy Bruce (from the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women) described it as “a how-to novel on the torture and dismemberment of women” and called for a boycott of all Vintage books if publication went ahead.

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September 8, 2012

Bret Easton Ellis launches broadside against David Foster Wallace

American Psycho author says Foster Wallace was ‘the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation’

By Alison Flood

David Foster Wallace, the critically acclaimed American writer who took his own life in 2008, has been described as “the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation” by American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis.

Ellis, no stranger to provoking controversy with his comments, laid into Foster Wallace on Twitter this morning, calling him “a fraud”, and “the best example of a contemporary male writer lusting for a kind of awful greatness that he simply wasn’t able to achieve”.

According to Zadie Smith Foster Wallace “was an actual genius”. Dave Eggers believes his writing is “world-changing”, and the Booker-longlisted novelist Ned Beauman wrote last week that today’s novelists must try “to work out how in a million years we might ever hope to absorb the magnificent advances and expansions Wallace offered to the form”.

But “Saint David Foster Wallace”, according to Ellis, is read by “fools”: “a generation trying to read him feels smart about themselves which is part of the whole bullshit package”.

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March 15, 2012

Bret Easton Ellis contemplates American Psycho sequel

There will be blood … Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in the 2000 film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho. Photograph: Rex Features

US author delights Twitter followers with multi-tweet ideas session, finishing with tentative plans to start writing.

By Alison Flood

Bret Easton Ellis appears to be pondering a sequel to his most famous novel, American Psycho, in which his antihero Patrick Bateman might stalk Gavin Rossdale, murder David Beckham and slit Chris Martin’s throat.

The novelist told his quarter of a million Twitter followers on 10 March that it was 1am in Los Angeles, and that he was “sitting at my desk finishing a script and suddenly I’m making notes on where Patrick Bateman’s now”. Easton Ellis seemed uncertain about whether or not to go ahead with the sequel, but finished his Twitter session having produced at least 14 pages of notes mapping out the likes and dislikes of a 2012 version of Bateman, and with tentative plans to start writing.

“Maybe I’ll call my publishers on Monday … But have to figure out what the structure is … Definitely murders at prep school,” he wrote. “If this American Psycho sequel pans out I’d get in touch with my agent first but will have to spend the weekend seeing if it works.”

First published in 1991, and satirising the money-focused New York of the late 1980s, American Psycho is unreliably narrated by Bateman, a 26-year-old Wall Street operative obsessed with appearances and ruled by his appetites for food, clothes and sex. He sleeps with “hardbodies”, loves Les Misérables, discusses the “emotional honesty” of Phil Collins and devotes a chapter to analysing all of Whitney Houston’s albums. He also indiscriminately rapes, kills and eats (or does he?) his victims – “thirty, forty, a hundred murders” – but goes unnoticed.

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March 1, 2012

Transgression in Theory: The Idea of a Fight Club

By Phil Jourdan

Not very much has been written, on even a basic theoretical level, about this weird thing we call transgressive fiction. I call it weird because the very idea of lumping together some twisted and “dangerous” novels and seeing them as part of a “group” — or worse, a genre — feels, to me, like a bad move. Certainly, as I’ll happily concede, novels like American Psycho and Fight Club have thematic similarities, as well as stylistic ones. Still, considering them in terms of a genre, which apparently we have come to do, means softening them, cushioning their blows, and attributing (in hindsight) a pattern to their development.

It doesn’t, in the end, matter very much, because as the popularity of the transgressive genre rises, so will its impact diminish. Not to say the texts themselves will lose their power: it’s trickier than that. I think, rather, that whatever is genuinely transgressive about these novels — assuming they are transgressive in any real sense — will be overlooked.

Transgression is a very difficult concept. I’ve found that in conversations about Bret Easton Ellis or Chuck Palahniuk, it’s rarely made clear what exactly is being transgressed. Beyond that, it’s hard to explain why the transgressions are needed in the first place. And since so little theoretical discussion exists that deals directly with this kind of text (notwithstanding some excellent film criticism), I’m going to try my hand at starting a conversation.

I must take certain things for granted, at least at first. For instance, I think that the idea of jouissance, an irrational, exuberant enjoyment without any purpose except itself, is a fantastically useful one. It was developed by the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, and more recently by the Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, to explain many apparently unreasonable kinds of behavior in people. This enjoyment has to be understood as extremely desirable: it’s a thrill, it’s the kick we get out of things even though we probably wouldn’t if we operated on cold logic. A football team wins and your friends start screaming with joy; or you hear someone say something arousing to you that nobody else can hear, and you feel those “butterflies” in your stomach; or you’re about to have an orgasm. That generic, almost boundless feeling of “being alive” — let’s call that jouissance.

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December 9, 2011

“American Psycho” to Get Modernized Remake. Fans Outraged.

By Brandon Tietz

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: I love American Psycho.

The novel was one of the principle reasons I got a hard-on for the written word.  At the young age of twenty, I was reading this book and thinking, “Holy shit, now this is how you do it.”  It was the proverbial highlight reel of how to write a character-driven story, and I still make a point of going back to it at least once a year to enjoy the ride all over again.

Then there’s the issue of the Mary Harron adaptation–an utter failure at the box office, but hey, most of my favorite movies didn’t do well with mainstream America.  We loved it, my friends and I.  We’d quote the hell out of it, never missing a chance to say we’ve got an 8:30 res at Dorsia or  we need to return some videotapes.  On double or triple-dates we’d say: “I don’t want you to get drunk, but that’s a very fine chardonnay you’re not drinking.”

That’s how you know you’ve got something special on your hands.  Not only are you quoting it, talking about your favorite scenes (“Do you like Huey Lewis and the News?”), but you keep going back to it.  American Psycho is one of those rare cases where both the novel and the film work perfectly, yet, do so in their own way.  The novel was hyper-violent, disturbing, and satirical.  The film toned down the violence, and almost plays out like a very dark comedy.  I love them both for very different reasons.

So imagine my surprise when I found out yesterday that Lion’s Gate has ordered an American Psycho remake.  That’s right, they want to remake a film that only came out ten years ago, tapping Noble Jones (the second unit director on The Social Network) to write and direct.  Noble says the film explores how Bateman would fare in modern-day Gotham.

Now sometimes we, the LitReactor staff, get some backlash over our point of view on things.  Having said that, I’m not going to slam Lion’s Gate, but I am going to remind them of what a good job they did with the original film and point out the very obvious warning signs.


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June 24, 2011

“American Psycho” at 20: Catching Up with Bret Easton Ellis

Filed under: Interviews — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 12:34 pm

By Annie Coreno

Click to buy

In 1991 Bret Easton Ellis published his controversial second novel, American Psycho, at age 26. After 53 trips back to press, it has sold more than a million copies in the U.S. and been published in numerous international editions. Despite a rapidly changing cultural landscape, American Psycho continues to be relevant—it was published by Vintage in e-book format last June and is currently being developed into a Broadway play. For a book that almost never was, who could have imagined two decades later that people would still be dressing up as the iconic antihero, Patrick Bateman, for Halloween? PW caught up with Ellis to talk about how this straight-to-paperback book stays eerily present 20 years after it was first released.

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