Tag Archives: Bret Easton Ellis

The Reading List #3

Oh yes, it’s another one of these again! Why? Because I have been getting very behind on my reading as of late. I don’t need to explain why this is at all (I’ve gone from having too many hours in the day to too few), but the fact remains that I still have a lot of books from Christmas left to read, plus some very new ones.

An update on where I left off (which was all the way back in October of last year). I made headway with Less Than Zero and read Imperial Bedrooms twice as the result of nearly two months of read trips with my dad. I’ll be reviewing these nearer the end of the month. ChokeInvisible Monsters and The Informers were also some picks of mine, with reviews to come, but the fact remains that there is still an awful lot left on my shelf to read. Considering months seem a lot shorter than they used to, though, I doubt I’ll be finishing all of these any time soon. Some of the books I’m hoping to sink my teeth into, and soon, though, are as follows:

On the Road
On The Road – Jack Kerouac

Reading about this book gives the sense that it is an important literary work. I probably won’t be able to dispute this in the slightest; and Beat literature is something I’ve been wanting to delve into for a while. There is something about Kerouac’s On The Road that captures my imagination, but other than this, I’m not entirely sure of what to expect – good things, of course, and fascinating things, and if some reviews are anything to go by, the same sense of freedom and wanderlust perpetuated by Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum DiaryI bought my copy today, so more on this to come very soon.


Cathedral – Raymond Carver

There are an awful lot of Carver’s books that I want to read, Cathedral is placed here because of all the great things I have heard about it. Minimalism is something that fascinates me, so the idea of exploring Carver’s stories is an exciting prospect for me and, I feel, important in understanding the technique. The prose might be a refreshing or welcome change, and I’m quite looking forward to it, and to immersing myself in it.


Glamorama – Bret Easton Ellis

I guess I lied previously when I stated that I only had The Informers and Imperial Bedrooms left of Ellis’ work to read. I guess I was ‘young’ and didn’t know. Regardless, I’m pleased to say that I received a copy of Glamorama for Christmas, but haven’t yet gotten around to reading it. The fact that it is nearly 600 pages long wasn’t really off-putting to me, but at the same time, I do feel as though I will really need to throw myself into this book to gain anything from it. Not a bad thing at all, but there’s a kind of build-up to this book. Honestly, with the way things are going, I have a sneaking suspicion that it may just take all of September for me to finish. Get ready for one hell of a review when I do.

The Road

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

I’ll admit it. I found out about The Road by way of the Fallout Wikia. It may be a step away from the usual for me, but more than likely a pleasant one. I read the first couple of pages as soon as I bought it, but didn’t continue. This had nothing to do with how I felt about the book, just that it was at a time when I was attempting to read about three different ones and wasn’t giving any of them the attention required. There is something incredibly haunting about what little I have read of McCarthy’s prose, though, so I would quite like to see this in full force and intend to do so very soon.


Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk

A while ago, when I first started to get into Palahniuk’s work, I was also watching a lot of 9/11 documentaries on television – the end result of watching these documentaries was a kind of paranoia that every time I left the house something horrible was going to happen. This may have had some bearing as to why I didn’t even consider reading Survivor, but the paranoia has since passed and I’m looking to get back on a bit of a Palahniuk bender, starting with the above. I’m already fairly sure that I’ll breeze through this – Chuck’s novels all seem to have the same effect on me – and I’m hopeful of the prospects.

So, this is my offering for the time being; and if anyone has any recommendations they’d like to shoot me way based on the above, feel free; I welcome new reading material at every opportunity. I suppose that this means a number of book reviews will start popping up from time to time, and of course, I have plans. Oh yes, I have plans. For the time being, though, I’ll hopefully be steadily working through these books for the duration of September until the madness of October hits, and afterwards – of course – NaNoWriMo. I’m getting ahead of myself. This list should keep me busy for quote some time yet.


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I Can’t Help You With That Embarrassing Problem, I’m Afraid

Something went wrong, didn't it?

Last month’s Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain was excellent, very fun, and I couldn’t wait  for this month’s. Yesterday’s post was by Miriam Joy at A Farewell To Sanity and before that, Kirsten at Kirsten Writes! Both of whom have written really entertaining posts with some hilarious, and sometimes baffling search terms involved.

So, I am afraid to say that I don’t have nearly as many entertaining search terms. Mostly anyone who finds my blog via a search engine seems to type in entries such as ‘eat sleep write repeat’ or ‘felicity-zara stewart wordpress’, which all in all are pretty likely to redirect here somewhere along the line. Yet because of this, when strange search terms do come along, I tend to notice it quite quickly.

The first strange term was quite an early one, and while it does make sense in context, it’s far more entertaining out of it. One visitor in particular wanted to find details on;

‘Patrick Bateman lifestyle’ 

Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that my blog is a handy all-in-one guide on how to live life as a psychopathic Yuppie who does unmentionable things to women by way of starving rats. But if it was, then I can certainly see why this search would yield results.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), my blog isn’t an all-in-one guide on how to live like a psychopathic Yuppie at all. It is but a humble writing blog, you won’t find that much torture and misogyny here (or at least not intentionally). My apologies to whoever managed to find my blog while obviously searching for something much more visceral, though; I have a feeling that reading about the writing pursuits of a certain 19-year-old aspiring author isn’t exactly what they were going for with that one. This review might prove useful, though.

The next is more than a little odd, and possibly inappropriate, too. Cover your eyes, kiddies;

‘Balls sleeping accidentally exposed’

I …  don’t have anything witty to say about this one off the top of my head, as every time I read it, it seems to make less sense. I just don’t understand this search term.

What I mean to say is; dear visitor, I am very sorry to hear about your embarrassing predicament, even though I can quite honestly say I have never found myself in such a position. This is primarily because I lack male genitalia, but also … well, no, actually, it is just because I’m a girl.

The strangest part about this search term, however, is that I really have no idea how it relates to my blog. I’ve never posted tips on how to avoid this issue, having never suffered from it myself, and in living memory, I’ve never written about anything dealing with it, either. Until today, I can’t even remember whether the word ‘balls’ appears on this blog (maybe in a quote, I’m not sure). Okay, so that book review might have had something to do with it … somewhere along the line? Very, very vaguely connecting point A (the search term) to point B (the review) is the underlining fact that the book in question is ‘about’ the porn industry. That said, I doubt exposure is a worry in said industry. More the whole point.

Next up, we have;

‘Nanowrimo cannibalism’

I swear, you couldn’t make these up.

I mean, what in the heck is NaNoWriMo cannibalism? Oh, yes, today I decided that I was going to live on a healthy, and somewhat sustainable diet of human body parts while writing like a maniac. Is that it? Or … the … you know what? I just can’t get my head around this one at all. It pains me to say this, but I’m not writing about cannibalism for this year’s NaNoWriMo (at least not yet), although I have encountered a few characters who have made cannibalism a part of their lifestyle.

And finally,

‘M love a’

Probably the most baffling one yet. As in, I don’t even have a book review (because, yes, my oddest search terms have all related to my book reviews) to link this one to, or understand what it is that this person was actually trying to ask, let alone what they were trying to find.

Honestly. I don’t think I could even guess at what m loving a actually pertains to, unless it’s some kind of special code, or initials. Could be that ‘Mia love Anthony’ … or ‘meerkat love ants’? Yes. This search term is really that strange to me.

So my take on this? The people who reach my blog via search engine are either psychopaths, people with extremely obtrusive genitals or cannibals.

I also have a feeling that several of my visitors were sorely disappointed when they searched for ‘Jannah Reid’ most likely in the hope of hitting on one of the websites included in the 90% that are porn sites. Don’t ask how I know that. It could be why I’ve been getting some rather strange notifications on my computer as of late, though …

These are probably the most notable results I’ve … well … noticed, but some worthy mentions go to;

‘Where do jackals sleep’ – I couldn’t honestly tell you. I might be able to tell you where they lie, though. My apologies, that was absolutely terrible … this blog isn’t ideal for nature enthusiasts.

‘Hunter S. Thompson sleep’ –   not really sure what they were getting at with this one, not surprised they ended up here, though.

‘Eat write or die’ – well, that’s quite an interesting form of self discipline. I don’t doubt that it gets results.

‘Writing and droning’ – how nice of you to point out that this is what I do most of the time.

‘4 storey freefall’ – something I can help you with, dear visitor! I’m not sure how the 4 storey part relates, though. But if you want to know about someone falling at least 1,000 feet, I’m your girl.

So, there you have it; the weird and sometimes wonderful world of my stats page. As a part of the blog chain this month, a quick NaNoWriMo update;

I hit 50k late on Thursday evening. I’m nowhere near done with my story, though. Actually, I don’t want to be done with it; I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been struggling to even get 14k done over the weekend, but this has much more to do with time than it does my novel. So right now, I’m sitting on 66k and barely halfway through, in love with even the characters who are despicable human beings, and not looking forward to the end because … damn it, I just don’t want to say goodbye. I guess that’s what editing is for, though …

So that’s me punching in and out for the month! I urge you all to check out the following blogs, as they’ll all be coming up with some excellent posts, with far more interesting and amusing search terms than mine, throughout the course of this month!

November 5th —http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com/– Kirsten Writes!

November 6th — http://delorfinde.wordpress.com – A Farewell To Sanity

[You Are Here] November 7th — https://thelitjunkie.wordpress.com – Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat

November 8th — http://alohathemuse.wordpress.com – Embracing Insanity

November 9th — http://noveljourneys.wordpress.com/ – Novel Journeys

November 10th —- http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com/ – Red Herring Online

November 11th — http://taystapeinc.wordpress.com – Tay’s Tape

November 12th — http://herebefaries.wordpress.com/ – The Land of Man-Eating Pixies

November 13th – http://randominmind.wordpress.com – Random On My Mind!

November 14th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/ – This Page Intentionally Left Blank

November 15th — http://herestous.wordpress.com – Here’s To Us

November 16th— http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com –  The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

November 17th — http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com – Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for the next month’s chain)


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The Reading List #2

I really didn’t think I would be posting another one of these for at least a month. Lo and behold, though, here it is, in spite of the overwhelming fact that I didn’t manage to read everything on my last list … mostly due to costs.

Before I press on, though, a quick update on this; I finished The Rules of Attraction,  Snuff and Haunted in quick succession, and most likely burned myself out. I’ll probably be going through Less Than Zero on Monday – yes, my ‘Currently Reading’ widget lies! Honestly, I updated it, but sort of burned myself out … that, or I’m scared to finish my final book too soon, because that means I have to wait quite some time for more. A couple of weeks, at least.  So, Monday shall be spent reading, though seeing as the NaNoWriMo forums reset on Monday, I might get all enthusiastic about that instead, we’ll see. So, the menu for the next few weeks is:

Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey
Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey – Chuck Palahniuk

I’m on a major Palahniuk bender at present – I really wish I’d delved more completely into his writing earlier. It would be easy enough for me to simply make this entire list a list of Palahniuk’s books, but I don’t think that would be entirely fair, nonetheless, the sooner I can get my hands on the rest of his novels, the better. Why Rant? Let’s just say I’ve heard some very, very good things about it from some of Palahniuk’s more disparaging critics, so that’s got to mean something, right? That aside, the concept itself seems strangely similar to something I cooked up quite a few years back (though undoubtedly, Rant is far more polished, and much more well-executed) , and as a result, I find myself with something of a soft spot for it. It strikes a chord with me.

Imperial Bedrooms

Imperial Bedrooms – Bret Easton Ellis

Have you guessed who two of my favourite authors are yet? Naturally, I’m going to wait until I’ve finished Less Than Zero before reading this, namely because both books follow the same character, at different times. In the case of Imperial Bedrooms, the central character, Clay, is middle-aged as opposed to being a teenager, hence the reading order. Every time I find myself in my local WHSmith branch, I pick up Imperial Bedrooms without having enough cash on me to afford it; it’s the only Easton Ellis book they seem to stock, which is a complete shock in itself. This may be part of the reason why I’m so ostensibly drawn to it. Imperial Bedrooms isn’t rated too highly, but this seems to be a common trend, and yet still, I’m compelled to read on. This and The Informers are my only Easton Ellis books left, and I’m determined to read them before the year is out.

Bright Lights, Big City
Bright Lights, Big City – Jay McInerney

It has c0me to my attention that I am in dire need of some Jay McInerney on my bookshelf. Where better to start than where McInerney himself started? I’m not going to pull what I pulled with American Psycho here, I don’t think – instead, I fully intend to start at the beginning and go from there. Apart from Bret Easton Ellis’ comments about McInerney in Lunar Park (and considering he was writing a pseudo-Ellis, I’m not so sure these comments were entirely reliable), I don’t know an awful lot about Bright Lights, Big City – from what I’m aware of, though, this book seems to be right up my alley. It’s been slated as ‘beloved, imitated, and iconic,’ so I have high hopes, but perhaps not so high that I’ll spoil the reading experience for myself. And, oh yeah, second person narrative. Should be fun.

Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 – Hunter S. Thompson

Oh no, she’s here to gush about Hunter S. Thompson again! Damn right I am. Fear and Loathing in Last Vegas is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of all time, and yet, I haven’t gotten around to reading this because, until recently, I was unaware of the concept. That said, from the collective works and essays of The Great Shark Hunt, I do have some idea of what to expect here, and of course, I expect quite a lot indeed. I honestly should have snapped this up much sooner. Silly me. That said, had I done that, I wouldn’t have had the chance to read The Rum Diary when I did … it’s all a little bitter sweet, really. Oh, unfortunately, I couldn’t actually afford The Curse of Lono … should make for an excellent Christmas present, though!

Slaves of New York

Slaves of New York – Tama Janowitz

I remarked to my mom recently that I’d probably fit right in in New York. I have no idea what the basis for this comment was, but anyway; Janowitz, like McInerney is an author I heard about through reading Lunar Park, and as such, the link makes me think that I’ll very much enjoy Slaves of New York. Judging simply on the Goodreads synopsis, this is another book that is very much my kind of reading material, and I’m also absolutely thrilled that it is by a female author for once! I was starting to feel very much alone in my endeavours; Slaves is now a must-read for me.

Lullaby – Chuck Palahniuk and Diary – Chuck Palahniuk

Lullaby sounds positively chilling, or the concept does. This is only one of a number of Palahniuk’s books I intend to read, as I’ve already stated many times (you can almost see the hipster stereotype starting to emerge now, can’t you?), but what draws me to Lullaby is not only its narrative, but also the fact that it is part of the ‘horror’ trilogy Palahniuk intended to write – the other two books in the trilogy being Haunted and the above, Diary. After enjoying Haunted as I did (the review was posted a couple of days ago) I’m actually rather to finish this trilogy as soon as I possibly can. There seems to be significantly more bad press for Diary than there does for Lullaby, but as I’m sure you all know by now, since when has that stopped me? I admit, I’m not so sure about the concept on this one … which I’m hoping just means that I’m likely to be pleasantly surprised by Diary.

So, that’s another list done and dusted, upon which I’ve had to severely limit myself considering there are still maybe a dozen more books I’m lusting to read right about now. It’s so painfully easy to tell that I don’t have much else to do, isn’t it?


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The Reading List #1

Or maybe that should be the first reading list. Or the October reading list. Or the ‘I don’t know how I’m possibly going to afford copies of these books but I’ll do it somehow’ reading list. I should probably add that I’ve been intending to read these books for anything from two to six months, if not more, and yet for some strange reason, I haven’t yet gotten around to it. So without further ado:

Less Than Zero
Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellis

So, July was American Psycho month and August was Lunar Park, but I haven’t been able to shake the fact that I started reading B.E.E’s work in the wrong order. This is mostly due to the fact that the aforementioned novels were the only ones on sale within my price range, and I haven’t placed an order on Amazon since … last July, I believe. Goodreads lists this under ‘Books I never should have read’ and ‘the movie was BETTER than the book’ … but since when has that ever deterred me? If I believed at all in these lists, I wouldn’t even know about Bret Easton Ellis, I’m thinking.  On the other hand, it also appears in such lists as ‘Best existential fiction’ and ‘books you can’t live without’; a confidence boost , I suppose, but I was always going to read it anyway. I’m pretty determined not to ruin this for myself by reading too many reviews about it, or reading too much into it, so I can’t really say much other than I plan to read all of B.E.E’s works before the year is out. Whether or not I sleep after doing so is questionable, but will be well worth it.


Haunted – Chuck Palahniuk

I first heard about Haunted from the same friend who, essentially, introduced me to Fight Club. (I can’t thank him enough for doing that) The infamy of one of its short stories, Guts, speaks for itself, and appears to be something of a precursor for the events to follow, but I’m a little … obsessed with reading more of Haunted, I have to admit. Goodreads will tell you that it is ‘one of the most disturbing books ever written’ and is one of the ‘books that should be made into movies’, but my interest stems from more than just testing my own personal boundaries. In spite of being penned by the same author, I have a distinct feeling that Haunted may be a rather different reading experience than Fight Club was. Oh, and I promise I won’t faint.

The Curse of Lono

The Curse of Lono – Hunter S. Thompson

The first thing I’m going to say? I would gladly shell out £594.99 for a signed copy of The Curse of Lono. I’d spend my entire book allowance on it. I’ve never read it before, so I’m as unprepared as they come, and yet I have the distinct feeling that it’s almost impossible for me to dislike HST’s work. The redundancy, then, of striving to own a copy of this book may seem apparent, but I don’t feel as though I can go without. Unfortunately, I don’t own a comprehensive collection of HST’s writings, but I’m working on it – believe me when I say I’m working on it – and one day I’ll make it happen. As such, there are plenty of other books that might have taken this spot on the list, but I’m more enthusiastic about reading this than, perhaps, any other book here, and the only reason it features in this spot rather than at the very top is because I have my doubts about getting it before October; should I manage it, you can expect to hear me raving about it in due course, I’m sure.

Meat – Joseph D’Lacey

The most annoying part of me entering this book into my list is that I saw it in store. I saw it, and wanted it; the unfortunate truth is that I only briefly glanced at the shelf before moving on, and I was curious about Meat, but nothing came of it. I wish it had. Again, I’m determined not to spoil the reading experience by indulging too much in Goodreads’ reviews, and already have a minor grasp on what the narrative entails, but thankfully not enough to put me off reading. This slight idea is what I’m basing my desire to read off – unlike with Easton Ellis and Palahniuk, I’ve never read anything by D’Lacey before, but I have the feeling that Meat may be a good place to start.

Snuff – Chuck Palahniuk

The second Palahniuk novel on here, in part because I fear I might never read it if I don’t ‘bite the bullet’ now, as it were, and read. And that just wouldn’t do. My curiosity won’t let it lie, not at all, and so, here we have Snuff. I read a fairly comprehensive review of this that made my head spin, and the prospect of experiencing a similar sensation while reading this is almost too much to bear – I can’t pass up that chance, not right now. That said, I have the distinct feeling that I may eventually walk away and forget about this book, or be a little too perturbed by its contents to want to visit or revisit it. So, I’m seizing the day and scheduling this for an October read, before it’s too late.

The Rules of Attraction
The Rules of Attraction – Bret Easton Ellis 

Sean Bateman appears in American Psycho, the brother of its central character, Patrick Bateman. I’m not going to lie, this was what got me interested in reading The Rules of Attraction, and I’ve searched for a copy to no avail. I read the first page on Amazon, and this was enough to convince me – as with Less Than Zero, I feel that I should have taken the time to read this before both American Psycho and Lunar Park, but the fact remains that I didn’t, and there is no way in which to change it. Does that mean I’m going to abandon reading this altogether? Absolutely not. Three of the four authors of the books on this list are authors I need to read everything by, and B.E.E is one of them.

So there we have it – there are many, many more, but I feel that I probably couldn’t read much more than this over the space of one or two months. What started out as a reading list designated for October has … escalated, to say the least. I’ll take the time here to register the fact that some of these choices may seem either shocking or depraved, that there may be the question of ‘what is wrong’ with me raised; what would possess me to want to read some of these books? All I’m saying is that I’ve had a little head start. I don’t think any of these choices could disturb me more than anything else I’ve read.

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Insistent Characters

First of all, forgive me; it’s not that I intentionally neglected this place for two weeks. It’s not that I actually expect forgiveness, of course. Don’t you just love figures of speech? Anyway, I don’t have much of an explanation for the lack of updates, other than I really didn’t have much to say.

So now let me get down to it. Now, I have discovered, I have much more to say than I initially thought I did. One of my favorite parts of the writing process is designing characters; I wouldn’t call it inherent, but I will say it is something I have always enjoyed, much like a child who creates imaginary friends and thus refuses to grow up. Now, however, these friends take form within a world, within a narrative, and they suffer from all the ills that humanity is used to. Now, the characters become somewhat less imaginary, and begin to exist on the page as though they have always existed.

Sometimes, however, a particular character whose piece has long since been put to sleep, refuses to go. This is paraphrased, to an extent, in Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park, but I am reluctant to call my experience with this a haunting, because it is not. It’s more to do with a character who is dissatisfied with her post; who deserves far more credit than she has received, and she knows it. Being the character she is, she wants an entire story devoted to her, and she’s going to get it.

Already, I have made the effort to place her in a short story (Girl Talk) in which I, unknowingly, did something akin to Ellis’ eventual manner of dealing with the Bateman-esque spectre. This was a mistake. She will not forgive me for it until such a mistake is rectified.

Jannah, herself, was actually one of the few characters I have written who insisted upon this, although it does seem to be a common trait in anyone I have placed in Where Jackals Lie. Maybe it is because I feel dissatisfied with the way the story turned out, and am looking for a way to re-vamp it without entirely re-hashing it. Of all the characters in that story, though, Jannah was the one who enticed me most; and, in a fit of resolution, refused to give such attention out of fear that she would detract from Bryson’s limelight. The fact remained, however, that she was simply a more interesting character, and having started her story, I have come to terms with the fact that she comes across effortlessly; that the events in her world come more naturally than I expected them to. Instead of her being the unreasonable, cruel and eventually, one-dimensional antagonist, she has become human, not just a prop, a driving force for Bryson’s misfortunes.

So, given the context of her first appearance,  it would be so easy for this to take a similar track. Yet, and I say this with caution as I have only just started working on it, there is something far more real and honest that comes across with her, that I have been unable to achieve in the past. Before, given both my age and the nature of my writing, it was all too easy for my work to come across as slightly hyperbolic in nature, unrealistic, a kind of hyper-reality that was born of a childhood immersed in anime and manga. Teen years that branched out to graphic novels and video games. Now, edging towards my twenties, my tastes have changed (though not digressed entirely) dramatically, and in a way, my work is forced to reflect this. Yet, I think this still has everything to do with Jannah. Her reasons for cruelty, for socially unacceptable behavior, for materialistic urges that border on the insane and for her capricious nature are, incidentally, all symptoms of brewing personality disorders, and also born not of any unrealistic trauma, but simply rooted in her childhood (as so many are). They are not the result of biological warfare, or any kind of trauma too far removed from what the average child may or may not go through.

But all of this would not stand if I did not have a desire to return to the character myself. While I feel that, to an extent, she is forcing my hand (yes, that sounds insane and yes, I am aware of it) I also feel that this is the only viable way for me to go, right now. A character I have become somewhat comfortable with, in spite of the fact that she almost inspires discomfort, means that I can now take the chance to observe the goings on around her, rather than, as seems to be a recurring fault of mine, taking the entire novel to get to know the character for myself.

In short, I’m enjoying this outing perhaps more than I should, given that it is yet another attempt at exploring human indecency.

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American Psycho: A Supposed Book Review

I’m not ignorant of the press that American Psycho has received, in spite of the fact that such press was, generally speaking, before my time. I’m not ignorant of the fact that it may seem horrific, to some, that I actually managed to read it, but then, what does that say for my psyche anyway? It would be a different matter if I sat and laughed through every page. I did not.

As with any abrupt change, the initial shift into following Bret Easton Ellis’ style was a little difficult at first, if only because I picked this up without truly knowing what to expect. In fact, my knowledge of the concept of this book was limited to begin with, and what was already there was purely superficial; I found one of Patrick Bateman’s monologues from the film adaptation five or six years ago and was both intrigued and confused by it, because of this I vaguely knew that Genesis would be referenced (and then I only knew of Genesis after picking up a copy of Disturbed’s Album ‘Ten Thousand Fists’), and after watching The Prestige, I was aware that Christian Bale played Patrick Bateman. None of this prepared me at all for what I found within the book, although reading the iconic line ‘abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ from The Divine Comedy as an opener should have given me an idea. It may only be scrawled across a wall here, but the link to Dante Alighieri’s version of Hell is blatant.

That said, there is nothing more to be said on the subject after this, and the references are, of course, brought heavily back into consumerism and yuppie culture; after all, this is essentially what American Psycho is satirizing. Even this initial literary reference seems to have little business being here, because we are in no way, shape or form supposed to believe that there is anything profound about Patrick Bateman’s lifestyle.

It is easy enough to think that this is, quite simply, just another novel about a serial killer. The brutal murder scenes are nothing short of what one might expect to experience in only the most gruesome horror, but it should not be judged on the basis of this alone; we are more than a hundred pages in before the first murder truly takes place, anyway. Women are more commonly given the blood-drenched descriptions than men, and every instance of violence is then interspersed with what one might call a version of normalcy. It is easy enough to pick the book up and flick to the first chapter that makes any reference to killing at all, looking for the ‘best bits’, but there is no point in doing so; to omit the rest of the novel would be to ignore its message in its entirety, and you would not so much be reading it as selecting the most shocking scenes one can find for personal enjoyment, and that is in essence, an insult to the novel as a whole. I feel it is also an immature way in which to handle the content, and can only lead to views formulated entirely around everything that shocks, disgusts and terrified through its explicit nature than around what should shock, disgust and terrify us for what it says about a contemporary society or sub-culture.

Ironically, these very scenes of torture and slaughter are the only ones that ever seem to be truly dragged to the forefront of the media; lines that stand out in my mind are ones like ‘a how-to manual on the torture and dismemberment of women’ and ‘people who like this book should ask themselves why they want to read pages and pages of descriptions of hacking and chopping up women (with the occasional man thrown in, but all the lavish descriptions with rats and nail guns and so on are just for the ladies)’. To me, these come across as comments born of tunnel-vision reading during which the author only took into account the black and the white; no gray shades involved. In truth, it is easy to see where such opinions can be formed – the descriptions of violence towards women are, as mentioned, much more graphic and, for lack of a better word, imaginative than those towards men for example – but of course, for people to enjoy, or simply read to begin with, there has to be something more substantial than ‘pages and pages of slaughter’. Enjoy, of course, may be rather the wrong word to use to begin with. As I mentioned before, I don’t think that these scenes were ever designed to be enjoyed.

Admittedly, the above comments riled me somewhat, not for what they say about me as a reader, but for what they say about the person that wrote them to begin with. I have asked myself why I ‘liked’ this book, although I think the correct phrasing is why I found myself intrigued or gripped by it. The fact remains that it is such a hyperbolic parallel to the culture it is satirizing that, in turn, it becomes riveting. How does Bateman survive? Contrast the visceral murders to dinner at Barcadia, and it does become more than mindless torture. It is not immediately apparent how everybody seems to overlook this one, seemingly insignificant, trait of Bateman’s because he fits in so well with the mould. I am not suggesting for one moment that anyone actually considers him a psychopath in his day-to-day life, but the slightest slips of the tongue –  ‘mergers and acquisitions’ becoming ‘murders and executions’, for example – go unnoticed because nobody around him is willing to hear it as such. There is no real difference between Patrick Bateman and Timothy Price aside from the Ralph Lauren shirt, perhaps.

Easton Ellis’ prose has already been summed up as ‘cool and unflinching’. It is, for the most part, distant and uncaring, because why would a homicidal killer care about another human being after all? When you add into the fact that Bateman has, essentially,  been conditioned to be a shallow human being to begin with, even without the homicidal tendencies, it makes even more sense. The lack of emotional engagement does not go amiss. It goes without saying that the more graphic the prose, the more prevalent Bateman’s blood lust; a chapter simply entitled Girl and involving the aforementioned rat, is one that may well have dissolved into such an explicit scene that it would have been nigh on impossible to finish is instead cut short by Bateman’s own ambivalence towards what he is doing. He admits that he grows bored of the spectacle, and as such, the scene dips away from intense brutality. Whether or not this is a bad thing is arguable; it does not give a sense that Easton Ellis is suddenly shying away from what has been present for the past two hundred pages or so – he has already established, by now, that he is not in the habit of doing so, that taming beastly scenes is not something that is going to happen – as much as we do, genuinely feel that even slaughter has gotten somewhat boring and empty.

Interestingly enough, it is the scenes where such brutality is conspicuously absent that drew my attention. Throughout the first hundred pages or so, I will openly admit that I found myself getting a little lost amidst a volley of names – Van Pattens, McDermotts, Carruthers and so on – with conversations occasionally taking a somewhat chaotic turn. This may have been down to my own shortcomings, and yet, I could not help but feel that it painted a more accurate picture than I even knew at the time. Bateman is constantly mistaken for a Marcus Halberstam by Paul Owen, and there is almost a note within these dinner-table conversations that encourages the reader to mistake Craig for Luis, who is then mistaken for David … the point being that identity is fragile, useless unless one is comparing the lettering on a business card. It is a point that in Bateman’s case, like almost everything else in the book, is taken to the extreme – while the fact that one of his early victims, Paul Owen, is supposed to have lunched with Bateman’s lawyer in London a matter of months after his disappearance could be Bateman’s saving grace, it is instead something of a sentence to eternal damnation. The final, capitalized line, ‘this is not an exit’ makes this abundantly clear.

If you’ve read far enough without dismissing this as ‘all about slicing and dicing’, and throwing it away, to notice the emphasis Bateman himself places on his appearance then I applaud you. As an amateur, I’m still aware of terms such as ‘Gary Stu’ that pop up on writing forums everywhere and anywhere, a nice enough compass to work by, but I feel the need to embellish this point. With Bateman, the good looks and charisma are taken to the same extreme as the psychopathy. It could be said that there is a prominent danger of Patrick Bateman being too good looking, too successful, too rich. He has all the elements of a character we should, then, envy, or feel is disproportionate within his own world. Not so. Everyone around Patrick Bateman is good looking, successful and rich, most of them summer in the Hamptons, have designer wardrobes and pay in excess of three hundred dollars for lunch. That danger of his character being over-saturated, then, is lost and his psychopathy, most likely does become more of a distinguishing feature than his tan body and worked muscles ever could. There is little inclination to want to know why he engages in such behaviour, either because it has already been established that there is nothing else there, or because we simply do not want to understand him. To do that would be to admit that people like him really do exist, after all. In a way, this could have contributed heavily to the initial reception of the book. Admitting, not that the content was too graphic for anyone to read, but instead that Easton Ellis was not simply inventing. That somewhere in the world, some woman had been murdered in a similar way.

The fact that this novel is ‘unfinishable except by adolescents and sociopaths’ is, again, arguable. I do not feel qualified to entirely disagree with this point – I’m nineteen, make of that what you will, I assume I am still an adolescent – although it paints a more extreme picture than is entirely necessary. Those who know me well will know that I have a fairly strong stomach when it comes to graphic depictions of violence and gore; I pin this on psychology rather than a mental deficiency of my own, after all, why should I be labelled a sociopath for simply not being that squeamish? Yet here there were more than a few moments that caused my stomach to turn. I don’t doubt that this will be the case for many more the world over, and have read a fair number of accounts that have verified this.

This, in turn, brings up a debate on whether reading American Psycho will have more of an effect on women than men. Unsurprisingly, the ‘morning after’ descriptions of Christie and Elizabeth’s mangled bodies (which provides a surprisingly accurate depiction of how they both died) and the later chapter, Girl (undoubtedly due to unsavoury use of a rat) had more of an effect on me than anything has in the past six or seven years (in terms of entertainment and media). This, and the fact that I didn’t eat cheese for a week. Not unfinishable, no, because I am not one to throw a book into a corner on the basis of one or two difficult scenes, but there is a certain degree of reason in where the above statement can be derived. If anyone has not dared to read this yet, then take it as fair warning that it is an explicit book, a fact that is unavoidable; different scenes will trigger different reactions. If you thought you had an iron stomach, or will, before this, think twice. I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone who will simply look at the brutality and torture and read it based on that, or pick up a copy and revel in the bloodletting. There is a lot more to this novel that far too many reviewers, I feel, have missed, opting instead to focus on what stares them directly in the face than what triggered such events to begin with. Thank goodness, then, for the number that read between the lines before casting their final judgements, regardless of what those judgements might be.

The Final Summary:

Enticing to some for all the wrong reasons, and not to be taken lightly no matter what the first hundred pages might suggest. This is an adult book in every sense of the word, not just for explicit content, but for looking past the explicit content. Where some books are difficult to put down for one reason, this is difficult to put down for another reason entirely; it quickly becomes difficult to tear one’s eyes away from the page in spite of the horror. Adversely, the first murder will cause a knee-jerk reaction that sees this book locked away for ever more. Regardless, this extremely well written and true-to-form, if you can stomach the sex and gore – an interesting and most definitely unconventional take on summer reading.

Oh, and a little, useless fact? I was asked for my ID when buying this book.

A Few Links:

American Psycho on Goodreads
American Psycho on Amazon
Bret Easton Ellis on Amazon
American Psycho Article on EW.com


Filed under Book Reviews

Writing For Who?

First of all, it’s been a chaotic few days. I’ve hardly even had the time to sit down and write, let alone write a blog post. So, to make up for that lovely blank space I’m sure you’ve been staring at, wondering whether or not a blog post will ever materialize in it, I have an essay.

I’ve been reading American Psycho. This is, of course, not the point of this post but it has everything to do with its conception. As with most things I tend to fixate on for any given period of time, I went a little further than simply reading the novel (although I admit, that part was gruelling at times. Not quite as gruelling as reading an excerpt from Twilight, and not quite in the same way, but nonetheless, I haven’t had to struggle with reading a book for a long time). This is where I start commenting on how the Internet really is a wonderful tool, and the amount of book reviews I found. Not necessarily read through, but found.

Something that stayed with me after reading one review in particular, was a comment the author made about how Bret Easton Ellis was clearly writing for himself. I’m still not sure if this is a fair evaluation, as it then throws Easton Ellis’ sanity into question, but of course, it wasn’t quite so black and white.

I like to think that I write for myself. It is rare that I have a target audience in mind when I first start plotting through an idea, or even when I start writing those first few words on the page. I could hazard a guess at the demographic most likely to pick up something I have written and read it (and there it is, self indulgence at its finest. I’m not so presumptuous as to assume my work is even readable to begin with), but there is never any set target age or audience. Similarly, I am almost always aware of the fact that there are elements, maybe more than I would be willing to admit, that would most likely be distasteful to some, or that others would never agree with.

But then, isn’t this a part of being a writer in itself? Isn’t this a part of creating, in general? With the exception of some fields, there is always going to be someone who doesn’t get, or disagrees with the  message you are trying to send, which ultimately ends in several scenarios; the two I have picked out are being labelled as mentally unstable by anyone from readers to publishers and anyone in between, and somehow becoming an atheist, racist, sexist, satanist, or anything in between in the public eye. I don’t have time to list all of the possible outcomes. Someone is always going to be critical of your work, and someone is always going to tear it to shreds, no matter how heavily you have considered your 12 – 17-year-old female demographic through every chapter, on every page, every line, every damn letter. No matter how frivolous you have been in including content that might otherwise not make it past censors, because first and foremost, you were writing for yourself.

The thing is, regardless of how you consider your manuscript that first time through, it is still yours and it is still possible to enjoy that first outing regardless of content, grammar, spelling, capital letters and punctuation. For all intents and purposes right now, I am focusing solely on content. So what if your antagonist cannibalizes the protagonist’s girlfriend in the first chapter? It fits with the rest of the narrative, doesn’t it?

I find it a complete put-off to get bogged down in censorship details the first time around; what will come will come. Censoring too early on can completely ruin the flow of the story, even if I do take out the serial killer’s perspective later on down the line (I’m not a fan of changing perspectives too regularly anyway. Not any longer, at least), it was still there to begin with. Arguably, a lengthy, detailed, character sheet can be a surefire way to get to the bottom of his psyche, but what about knowing the exact way in which the murder took place? Won’t that help your hard-boiled detective along his way, so you can gradually drop clues into the narrative to find the solution that you, of course, knew all along. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but this is most certainly the way in which I prefer to look at it.

I am well aware that the only form of ‘explicit content’ included in this post at present are a couple of mentioned of serial killers and a little cannibalism. This is not limited to just violence, of course, although it does seem to be the thing that people get particularly up in arms about, though graphic sexual scenarios come a close second. I’ll save some time and not go on about how, perhaps, these are only construed as wrong in most cases because of the correlation between sex and porn, and skip straight ahead.

The bottom line is, first time out, I will write how I want to write, but I do question the safety of allowing this to continue through the second, third, fourth drafts, and beyond. I write for pleasure, and so why shouldn’t it be pleasurable to write?  However, somewhere along the line, and I am not going to lie, audience plays a part. If you market a book towards 30-year-old males, then chances are it’s not going to be a romance, or at the very least, not a gushy one. A high-octane thriller is less likely to appeal to middle-aged women (although I like to think that I’ll still have a similar taste in literature when I’m in my 40s!) than the aforementioned gushy romance. This is, of course, a very stereotypical way to go about things; I want to believe the lines are being blurred more and more.

I don’t think Easton Ellis was unstable for putting American Psycho out there, because of reasons that have been stated time and time again in some of the other reviews I have read. It is not a book that can be censored, in all fairness … he wasn’t entirely writing for himself, though, either. Contrary to opinion, I believe that he was indeed writing for the masses; enough about that, though, I will repeat that this is not a review or analytic look at American Psycho in any way, shape, or form.

I think, more than anything, I have digressed from my original point; whether or not I write for myself. Instead, it has become something of a sad comment on how we are still too quick to judge, maybe. Or how intense, graphic imagery somehow becomes wrong, somewhere along the line; and this is not to say that it is always right to include it. Just that it can be used to great effect … it depends entirely on whether or not it is done correctly.

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Filed under Writing & Literature