American Psycho 1

American Psycho is, at least in part, a parody of the manners of affluent young professionals in  NYC. What is one moment you found funny and why? If you found not a single moment amusing, why do you think that is? A failure in the novel? Your incapacity to see the humor? The general offensiveness of much of the language and action in the book?

12 thoughts on “American Psycho 1

  1. Dylan Salzman

    The first thing I noticed as soon as I started reading the book was the lack of narration and instead presence of almost entirely dialogue. Price’s dialogue at the beginning of the book seems like a caricature of itself—he rambles on and on, without seeming to reach a point, complaining about one thing after another while insisting that he hates complaining. This sort of paradox, and unorthodox writing style, made me feel like the novel was mocking the lifestyles of people like Bateman and Price. I also quickly noticed the obsession with body images—Price talking about his new diet and his stomach, and Bateman (after the novel switches to narrative mode) commenting on Stash’s physique. Like others in this thread have mentioned, though, the beginning narrative of this book feels familiar—not too distant from our lives as young adults—except that the writing style highlights some of the absurdity of this type of life. The matter-of-fact manner in which Bateman delivers even the most horrible lines (blood on his sheets, raping a woman in Aspen, etc.) shows how he’s totally normalized the actions that he’s describing, making them seem normal for the piece of him that the reader identifies with as well.

  2. Melanie Rivera

    I feel that my reading of the novel has been a bit skewed because I saw the movie long before reading the book (actually did not know there was a book until last semester). So, I have found myself looking for the scenes that are more familiar to me. The scene that I immediately thought of as being funny was when Bateman is detailing his morning routine. This is actually how the movie starts, so I was excited to see when (and if) it would appear in the novel; and I think it was smart on the part of the director to start with this sequence because of how obsessive the process sounds. This portion of the movie sounds slightly less manic and more like a Youtube makeup tutorial; it is medium-pace, methodical, and Bateman is performing the actions as he announces them. Overall, there are fewer steps in his routine in the movie and also little mention of why he’s using a particular facemask or why he needs to do these steps in this particular order. I would add that the formatting in the book changes the way that Bateman’s routine can be read because there are no paragraph breaks. It’s just one stream of thought, so not only are we getting his thoughts about his routine, but we’re also getting the layout of his apartment mixed in with his vain appreciation of himself (which is something we see more of in the movie than hear) and his complaints about his material possessions and other people. It’s in these moments, along with the slightly irritating rants that he goes on, that I feel that we’re getting at the more frantic side of Patrick — like he’s scrambling to keep up the image — and I’m curious as to how quickly he becomes unhinged and how that will compare to the film. I also loved his response to Evelyn on page 20 when she asks if he’s the boy next door: “‘No I’m not,’ I whisper to myself. ‘I’m a fucking evil psychopath.’” (20) I laughed quite a bit at that.

  3. Henry Cutting

    What I find most amusing about the novel is the obsessions with restaurants that all of the characters seem to have. To start with it seems like nearly half of the scenes surround restaurants and the like. It appears almost as if all these people do is eat. However, what I find most amusing about this is the constant discussion of reservations. Having a connection to one of these high class restaurants seems to be one of the most difficult things for Patrick to acquire. While he is constantly flaunting his Platinum Amex that could afford anything on the menu at these restaurants he is so rude and annoying that it seems like nobody really wants him to come dine at their restaurant. In addition to this being able to dine at these fancy restaurants seems like the coolest thing anyone can do. When asking Jeanette, I think it was Jeanette, on a date the only way he could get her to come is by promising that they could go to Dorsia. However, when there is no possible way for them to go to Dorsia she is appalled.

    As Claire mentioned before it is kind of scary how much of this book I am able to tie to my own life. As a young professional working in the same industry as Patrick I understand that time outside work is often only spent eating, working out and partying. While this novel takes it to the extreme reading the book was also a bit of a wakeup call to the mundane nature of my own life.

    1. Angela McCarthy

      I agree with you Henry — the obsession with restaurants is borderline manic but does have moments of humor. While I find a lot of this book disgusting and really hard to read for long periods of time, a scene early on in a restaurant made me laugh.

      On page 59, “The client had the boudin blanc, the roasted chicken and the cheesecake,” he says. “Cheesecake?” I say, confused by this plain, alien-sounding list. “What sauce or fruits were on the roasted chicken? What shapes was it cut into?” “None, Patrick,” he says, also confused. “It was… roasted.” “And the cheesecake, what flavor? Was it heated?” I say. “Ricotta cheesecake? Goat cheese? Were there flowers or cilantro in it?” “It was just… regular,” he says, and then, “Patrick, you’re sweating.” “What did she have?” I ask, ignoring him. “The client’s bimbo.” “Well, she had the country salad, the scallops and the lemon tart,” Luis says. “The scallops were grilled? Were they sashimi scallops? In a ceviche of sorts?” I’m asking. “Or were they gratinized?” “No, Patrick,” Luis says. “They were… broiled.” It’s silent in the boardroom as I contemplate this, thinking it through before asking, finally, “What’s ‘broiled,’ Luis?””

      Not only does this passage highlight how the characters are so far removed from real life and each other, it also speaks to how no one really knows what anyone else is talking about. Many of the conversations that occur between groups don’t make sense or people are just speaking out loud because that is what they feel like they should do. I believe this distance is why Pat is able to tell everyone about his psychopathic tendencies — everyone is just hearing their voice and dead air.

  4. Anastasia McLain

    As was already mentioned, I too was struck by Patrick’s repetition of the joke about Jean. Although I find it amusing, because I think what it highlights is Patrick’s need for external validation, I also saw it as problematic. In repeating that introduction and reinforcing the idea that she is in love with him, it makes me think about the way society focuses on the masculine gaze over women. It objectifies Jean because Patrick not only uses the idea that she is in love with him as a way to empower his sense of self, but because it then defines her by a man’s perception of her. Either way, I think Ellis uses it to deconstruct Patrick’s identity to show that he is really insecure and is trying to convince us that he is more important and powerful than he really is. It is also quite realistic, which is what I found comical, because I have personally met people who make those statements to try to illicit respect from those around them and yet in having to state something like that, it always makes them seem weaker and more insecure.

  5. Kathleen Criscitiello

    This is not necessarily a moment, but something I found funny right from the beginning of the novel. I thought the use of italicization with Price’s dialogue visually captured the arrogance held by many privileged and problematic men like Price. Price clearly holds a lot of opinions that are morally wrong, but still likes to assert them with an incredible confidence. To me, it felt like this visual effect seemed to be making fun of Price as it painted him within the absurd in order to emphasize the problematic nature through which many men such as Price assert themselves. While toxic masculinity is itself not funny, there seems to be a cryptic irony used to emphasize the ridiculousness of how it is people like Price who get a voice in the world (or at least a lot of money by working on Wall Street) while remaining terrible people.

  6. Aaron Schwartz

    One of the funnier jokes to me is how Patrick introduces his secretary: “Jean, my secretary who is in love with me.” Every time he talks about her, he introduces us to her with this lead-in. I think the joke works on two levels. The first being that it’s ridiculous that Patrick keeps giving the same exact introduction over and over again. The second is that Ellis is mocking the insecurity of the character. Not only does Patrick feel the need to tell the audience this tidbit about his secretary to the audience, but he does so with pride. He basically says it’s hilarious that she’s in love with him but he doesn’t feel the same. Also, the novel doesn’t show much evidence that Jean loves Patrick. It’s more just Patrick constantly assuring us that she does. It’s kind of like that Napoleon Dynamite joke where he says he’s got a model girlfriend, but the only problem is no can meet her because she’s from another town.

    1. Tierra Lu

      I also found his confidence to be funny. He thinks Jean is in love with him because she’s ‘flirtatious’ at work, but all she’s doing is just trying to secure her job. I found that a lot of the book, too, spends time revealing Bateman’s insecurities like you mentioned. Like when Bateman tries to show off his new business card to his friends, which is his attempt to assert some dominance in the group, it backfires and he ends up clowning himself in front of them. Episodes like that, when everything goes completely wrong and out of his control, are the best parts because it’s juxtaposed with his arrogance. He can hide in his expensive clothes, work out routine, and normal skin, but his interactions with other people always end up in a bomb, a failure. Even though he talks big, everyone knows that he’s just “the boy next door.” He can’t use material things to escape his failures, and his violence stems from that.

  7. Lucy Maddox

    As both Claire and Virginie have commented upon, the absurdity of the extremely materialistic characters is where I mainly find humor in the novel. The consumerism culture that surrounds so much of the novel reminds me of the short story A&P by John Updike, in which Updike jam packs as many brand names as he possibly can into one story, which is Updike’s commentary on the consumerism based culture of America at the time. In the first chapter of American Psycho, Ellis contextualizes the characters as all being very image oriented, which makes the reader aware that self-absorption is not a characteristic specific to the main character, but perhaps a commentary on American culture. I thought that one of the episodes that was particularly humorous was when Bateman describes his morning routine, and goes into intense detail about his hair product (pg.25-27). Ellis’s writing style is something that I’ve never encountered before, the amount of brand names that he incorporates makes the novel slightly difficult to read, and because Bateman is so self-absorbed and materialistic, some paragraphs including the one about his hair products go on for unnecessarily long amounts of time, which is in itself humorous.

  8. Virginie Caspard

    Absurdity and, as a result, humor are pervasive in American Psycho, from Patrick’s brand name-ridden observations of his colleagues’ clothes to the fact that Patrick pursues a career he dislikes to fit in with people he cannot stand. I found the scene in which Patrick and his colleagues compare business cards to be particularly funny, simply because it was so ridiculous to see grown men care so deeply about something so insignificant. As always, Patrick begins noticing what exactly his colleagues are wearing. It is not surprising, then, when he notices the minute details in business cards and launches an impromptu competition to see whose is the most impressive. This kind of behavior did not surprise me coming from Patrick, but it was disheartening to see his colleagues, who are supposedly more mentally stable than he is, also obsess over business cards. To put it cynically, they are wondering whose little piece of paper, which will soon be given away and forgotten, will receive the most admiration. Of course, this is intended to symbolize their tastefulness, but it seems absurd to rely on business cards to represent this when they could simply compare each others’ suits or the importance of they accounts they all work on.

    1. Claire Messersmith

      I agree with Virginie, and I have seen clips and read excerpts of American Psycho a lot in the past two years in various American Studies classes– even when you read the first paragraph, which is actually an entire sentence describing the specific and name-brand scene in which Price is in, you have to take a step back and say– woah, okay. It’s funny with regards to American consumerism, as Patrick Bateman’s thoughts are exaggerated and extremely specific. He even includes a thought in which he realizes that the haircut he got last week looked good on him– it’s pretty funny. I think that the sense of humor within the novel can definitely be interpreted in different ways– I can see how it may be funny as well as not at all. In order for it to be humorous, the text must be looked at in a way which makes fun of the elitism, yet also semi-understands it– if you take Middlebury for example, which is constantly in the news for having a high percentage of people in the 1%, yet flaunt this and talk about these expensive brands as if everyone in the country must know what Versace is– the absurdity is what is comedic. What I found offensive in particular was Price’s interaction with the cab driver as well as the homeless man when he gets out of the cab– regarding if the homeless man takes American Express (which obviously was meant to make fun of the man). I believe that the flaunting wealth and portrayal of an extreme version of American consumerism taking over these characters is humorous, but the use of it to degrade and treat others as if they are less of people because they do not exist within this world is hard to read.

      1. Claire Messersmith

        As one more point! When I was reading the first half of the book, I kept comparing it to culture I’ve experienced within my life, and it was interesting especially thinking about possibilities of living in NYC next year. I visited last week, because I actually had never been, and at 7:30 in the morning, every young professional had his/her head down, on the phone, texting, or listening to music, and walking to work kind of in cult-form as routine. Many of my friends who have graduated and our in the investment baking also talk about how they really don’t like their jobs– but that nobody likes their job. It’s interesting to compare it, and my NYC experience I did find semi-funny, just because the level of seriousness in which people may take themselves (which I think is part of the humor in this book) is totally part of it.

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