American Psycho (first half)–Group 3

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 people in the book?

6 thoughts on “American Psycho (first half)–Group 3

  1. William Koch

    There are, like in Silence of the Lambs, a fair amount of cultural allusions that, even though a little outdated at times, serve to complement Patrick’s narcissism (see: his reverence of Donald Trump as a personal hero). We see these allusions, too, in one of my favorite strategies and recurring motifs throughout the novel. Bateman regularly interrupts his own narrative to offer review music by some of the more popular names of the 80’s. The first is a full chapter dedicated to the music of Phil Collins and his solo album and how it compares to his Genesis career. He does this, too, with Whitney Houston and with Huey Lewis and the news. I think it’s hilarious on multiple fronts. For one, Bateman speaks and Ellis writes as if it is a Cameron Crowe writeup for Rolling Stone. It’s intentionally written to be a music review by a man who is not a music writer by profession. It’s equally hilarious that he is so disinterested in the mainstream popularity of U2, which he nonchalantly and arrogantly refers to as “some Irish Band.” It’s this air of pomposity that speaks to Bateman’s perceptions of himself. He is the trendsetter. His opinion is the correct one on all things, and he deliberately goes out of his way to make these opinions know. And while Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, and Huey Lewis are popular for their era, Bateman feels like the Midd student who knows that new underground band and has to make a point of it to seem cool. Only, in this case, these are not underground acts, but rather household names. It’s not enough to know the name, or a couple songs, Bateman has to know their histories, their public perceptions, and what they do well on each album. He approaches his taste of music and his fandom of artists like he does his morning routine: overly meticulously, overly methodical, and over the top in letting the reader/spectator know what he thinks is right.

  2. Alexandra Lawson

    One moment that stood out to me, both as funny and offensive, was Bateman’s interaction with his secretary: “my secretary, Jean, who is in love with me and who I will probably end up marrying…” (64). Later Bateman goes on to ask Jean to do a number of things, including search for a tanning bed, which seem largely outside of the realm of what a secretary should be doing. This whole scene hard presses the reader to truly decipher what it is Bateman does for work anyway. What I found especially humorous about this scene is Bateman’s sense of confidence when it comes to Jean, the way she feels about him, and his conclusion that he will marry her – something ordinarily people likely would feel very insecure and unsure of. The things that he does wonder about are the location of the “George Stubbs painting that hangs on the wall” (65), about ordering a tanning bed, and namely whether Jean thinks him crazy for wanting a tanning bed. I find this scene particularly funny because in it, and in many of the scenes in this first half of the book, the characters are unconcerned with the aspects of life that most would find concerning and instead are fixated on small tangible and replaceable things.

    Just as I found some humor in this specific scene, I was also quite offended by the way that Bateman spoke to his secretary and namely about the way that she dressed. Upon her arrival, the first thing he noted was how her outfit was. “completely inappropriate” (64) and the last thing he directs is for her not to wear that outfit again. But despite the cruelty of these comments, he seems to lack any empathy at all and instead tries to find something to watch, “before turning to [his] computer terminal” (67). This last part of the scene, while shocking and offensive, also made me chuckle at the insanity of it. Bateman requests his secretary complete a bunch of tasks for him, blatantly insults her, and then attempts to find any means possible to avoid doing his actual job. I suppose there is something humorous in the absurdity of it all.

  3. Haley Glover

    I found Price and Bateman’s critiques of the city and society particularly funny, especially in juxtaposition to their behavior that actively perpetuates the issues they identify. For example, in the very beginning of the novel Price holds a running tally of homeless people he sees in a single cab ride. Eventually landing on thirty people, Price mocks the last man he comes across by mockingly offering him the cab and asking if he takes American Express. Price does this after telling Bateman he is “ethical [and] tolerant,” clearly proving the baselessness to this claim. Price further contradicts himself even in defining himself. Price continues telling Bateman, “I mean I’m extremely satisfied with my life, I’m optimistic about the future” (5). Yet, only a page prior Price admits to Bateman that “no one gives a shit about their work, everybody hates their job, I hate my job” (4). Price’s sheer disconnect from not only the city around him but his own life and happiness is comical. Further i found Price’s statement that “society cannot afford to lose me. I’m an asset” particularly funny. Price, in just the beginning pages of the novel, has proven to be of no help to society– he does not contribute to solving the social issues he identifies, instead he sustains them in his dehumanization of the homeless. Price’s unimportance to the city is further highlighted when Bateman identifies Price’s identical “Tumi leather attaché case” on a male passerby they mistake to be Victor Powell. This mistake reveals the clone-like identity of men like Price and Powell and suggests that Price is just another mistaken Victor Powell– not an individual vital to society, but one that is invisible within it.

  4. Joseph Levine

    One of the more striking descriptions of the city occurs at the end of the chapter “Video Store then D’Agostino’s”. After picking up his bizarre amalgam of foods from the restaurant, Bateman passes a homeless man and rambles about the city scene around him a drunken stupor, “all of that fades and in what seems like time-lapse photography–but in slow-motion like a movie” (114). The lyrical (or anti-lyrical) unraveling of Bateman’s illustration contrasts sharply with another iconic portrayal of New York City in Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver”. Throughout the movie we see a dreamlike mosaic of the passing city streets from Bickle’s perspective behind the wheel of his taxi. With the lulling score in the background, Scorsese’s New York lacks the sharp edges and frenzy described by Bateman. In Ellis’ city, there are “black kids on crack rapping…clouds of pigeons flying…ambulance sirens”. Whereas Scorsese seems to be telling a story more about the underbelly of the city, namely related to what goes unseen (and is similarly disturbing as Ellis’), Bateman’s world is full-frontal, vulgar and chaotic. All one has to do is walk out of a store to be met by a litany of obscenities that assault the senses. Of course, some of the imagery is magnified by Bateman’s drug use (or hangover), and he has a keen eye for noticing the the homeless, women and people he deems beneath him; nonetheless, it is likely that even someone saner than him would notice a similarly jarring disorder.

  5. Michael Frank

    It may be worth noting that Ellis studied writing at a small liberal arts college, not unlike many people in this course. I think his sensibilities about the Wall Street uber-rich may be particularly appealing to us, though perhaps to the point of pandering. I think this meta-reading reveals why so much of the book’s comedy lands given our preconceptions of the subject matter. For instance, the fact that basically every single character in the story is utterly miserable and postures to create a thin facade of collectiveness validates a lot of our (certainly my) stereotypes about the Gordon Gekko-types of ‘Psycho.’ The fact that the racism, sexism, and general bitterness of Wall Street is present in all characters, not only Bateman, suggests that the madness is universal, though explicit violence is only expressed in the narrator. Ellis is definitely describing the ecosystem in a way that is validating to his people (us).
    I think that perhaps the funniest, but also most pandering description of Bateman’s lifestyle is his work. Based on the little we see from his office, Bateman earns his absurd salary by sitting around all day, harassing his secretary, and watching TV. Ellis emphasizes the hollowness of the lifestyle, but more so that of the entire financial sector of the 80s. Meanwhile, the artists that we meet in the second chapter seem completely antithetical to that vacant lifestyle, if not just because they choose to opt-out. The book is hilarious, but, on the note of superficial readings of morality, there’s no question of whom Ellis does and doesn’t like.

  6. Dan Cielak

    In the first half of the novel, I have been thoroughly entertained by a series of episodes that I have found particularly funny. I can definitely see Ellis’ statical take on affluent young professionals who work on Wall Street in the late eighties. The scene I have found the funniest is in the “A Glimpse of a Thursday Afternoon” chapter. Here, Patrick has an anxiety attack so he takes three of his pills (“Nuprin” (148)) and proceeds to go to a hardware store where he buys some knives, then to a pet store where he buys a dog and some rats to torture later, eats an entire canned ham and throws it up, buys some crack, then ends up at Jewish Deli where he tries to order a cheeseburger, but gets really angry when waitress tells him that they are kosher and cannot serve him a cheeseburger or a milkshake. I found this chapter funny because it was a quick break from Patrick’s normal demeanor. Here, we get a glimpse of an untamed Patrick whose behavior is totally under the influence of his medications, causing him to have absolutely no filter or common sense. When Patrick is not inebriated, he is careful about how he acts and tries to portray a very controlled and sophisticated persona. As supposed to the first chapter, at the house dinner party where Patrick gives an entire monologue demonstrating how sympthetic he is to global and domestic affairs, in this chapter, Patrick has absolutely no reservations (Literally and figuratively!) and allows himself to go wild. This chapter was also a nice break from the rest of the chapter in terms of Ellis’ writing style. I find this book to be quite entertaining, but rather monotonous in its repeated references to people’s clothing, descriptions of dinner entrees, redundant conversations about dress attire, and superficial descriptions of “hardbodies.” Because this chapter breaks from that style, I found it refreshing to get a portrayal of Patrick in his most absolutely irrational state.

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