Beatrice Reviews “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris

“The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris
☆☆

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One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.


I hate to be that person, who reads a book of hope and love set during one of the darkest times of history, who goes, “meh, I’ll give it a 2.5/3 star rating”. A love story set during the Holocaust – that’s exactly what we need to remind us that love can trump all and prevail, even in the darkest of times. But, in this case, I just could not find myself consumed by the novel. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the true story of the two individuals (Lale and Gita) on who this book is based on. It’s the execution that I have a problem with.

Let me explain. It all boils down to one thing really: bad writing.

It isn’t great. It isn’t horrible, but it isn’t good either. It’s that awkward attempt at trying to do justice to a true story but failing to tick all the boxes, resulting in a novel that’s both here and there.

I love dialogue but when there’s too much of it, it creates a block in the reading experience. The simple rule of ‘show, don’t tell’ can also be applied to leveraging dialogue to keep the story moving forward. With the lack of prose, much of the story is stifled and contained to the interactions and conversations between the characters without exploring the spectrum of their emotions. It gives away too much of the story, in a way that leveraging descriptive prose and imagery [especially of the setting i.e. the Auschwitz concentration camp] would have done better.

Secondly, the pacing. I didn’t feel the urge to frantically turn from one page to the next, anxiously waiting to discover what befalls the characters next. Again, the use of so much dialogue could factor in here but moreso, the actual progression of the novel. There was no ‘rising action’ or tension that drew me in as a reader. That being said, I in no way am commenting on the true events or the nature of the subject matter in itself, merely on the writing style.

It was very choppy – with quick changes in the scenery, abrupt flashbacks that acted as an attempt to provide more depth to the characters but fell flat.

Speaking of which, the character development was disappointing. I finished the book, still feeling a disconnect to Lale and Gita whose story, though beautiful, just didn’t touch me in the right way. And this is coming from someone who gets sad at the idea of a bee stinging me and dying.

Lale is a charming young man that manages to slip in and out of tricky situations, literally translating to do-or-die scenarios. Fate leads him to Gita and the entire story has us believing that they were destined to be together. The storytelling, in itself, however has much left to be desired. The sense of detachment I felt from the book afterward was not what I’d expected to take away from the read.

That being said, the book acts as a testament to a true account of love and survival in one of the most harrowing periods of history. The world needs stories like this to be shared, people whose love has withstood the trials of time and reality to inspire those who feel there is less beauty in this world worth living for.

I would recommend this book to those of you who’d like to experience that on some level. Maybe this book didn’t touch me on a sentimental scale but you might feel differently.

Here’s to hoping you do.

 

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Beatrice Reviews “Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe” by Melissa de la Cruz

“Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe” by Melissa de la Cruz

★☆☆☆☆

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Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.


Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe? More like Pride and Prejudice and (a Complete and Total) Injustice.

My habit of starting a book and not being able to put it down till I get to the very last word has nearly always proven a blessing. I can never leave a book unfinished. It’s practically a cardinal sin to me. But the more I read this novel, the more I felt an overwhelming necessity to chuck these principles.

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I cannot begin to comprehend what the author was trying to achieve with this book. Whether or not you’ve read the original Jane Austen masterpiece, this book was just a complete and utter mess. Sure, gender-swapping the roles was an interesting move and the tributes to the original characters and setting by retaining some of the names was evident but in no way redeeming of the utter displeasure the book brought me.

I see not a single way in which this story is worth being branded as a ‘re-telling’ at all. It’s a shame because the idea had a lot of potential and with the right execution, could have actually turned out worlds better than the disappointment it ended up being.

I’m not asking for re-tellings of classic novels to be spot-on. In fact, the more innovative the spark they bring in, the more fun they are. The entire purpose of a re-telling is to have a throwback to the magic of the original while still standing on its own as a memorable read. But nothing – and I truly mean nothing – was worth this re-hash.

The characters were total dillholes. Darcy (a female in this rendition) is a successful, uber-rich hedge fund manager making it big on her own having cut off ties from her family and pursuing a career on Wall Street. I am totally in for ambitious, career-powered women but oh-my-Austen-stars, her character is intolerable.  She certainly did not act, in any way, with the maturity you would expect from a self-made woman. Instead, we see the unravelings of an utterly petty, totally awkward, not to mention, very cringeworthy character.

(Also, author – in this day and age, I doubt a 29 year old single American woman would face as much pressure to get married as Darcy did in the book. It isn’t 1813, anymore.)

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And don’t even get me started on Luke Bennet. The character progression, if I can even call it that, was a wreck and I fail to understand what even happened there. No, really. I’m not even going to bother expanding on this point because it isn’t worth it.

One of my favorite things about the original is the beauty of the writing style. Jane Austen weaves stardust into her words, bringing to life a story for the ages about people that are not only flawed and human, but relatable.

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Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail says it right – the language is pretty flipping amazing. Of course, classics carry a charm that no modern-day rendition could capture in terms of writing style but by the Gods of Literature, at least try to make it readable.

I doubt this book was run by an editor. I spotted quite a few and very small editing mistakes – both in terms of grammar and actual plot loopholes. I’ve read fanfiction by kids that possessed a certain style in their storytelling, that although worked off the ideas of established novels, still made it their own. I just could not bring myself to be okay with the writing style the author employed here. To quote Chandler Bing, it was ‘a big dull, dud’.

This book is the exact example of one of the biggest reasons to stick to the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule when writing. Endless and boring dialogue consumed most of the pages with the characters verbally explaining their back-stories for the reader to hear. Brand names are dropped here and there to have us learn the wealthy lifestyle Darcy leads in New York. Plot arcs are forced down the readers throats simply to have there be this weak connection to the original Pride and Prejudice. It was like the writer was trying to prove a point on an English-Lit paper she had to turn in.

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I’ve never, ever written a review as scathing as this one but that’s also because I never read a book so bad as this. Maybe the strong reaction roots from my undying love for the original work of art but honestly, I’m saddened because this was such a waste.

If you’re going to re-write a legend, please don’t half-ass it and pleaseGodplease, do not think you’ll get away with comparing it to the original if you do. Just – no. Now, excuse me while I step away to go read a Jane Austen original.

I’m in desperate need of some literary healing.

Beatrice Reviews “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman

“Stardust” by Neil Gaiman

★★★★

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Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall—named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining..


My first read off my 2k18 Christmas Reading List was Stardust by Neil Gaiman. This also happens to be my very first Neil Gaiman book and oh my dear stars, I loved it. Granted, I know I’m the exact opposite of a harsh critic given my history of dashing out high ratings but believe me when I say, you’re in for a truly magical time with this book in your hands.

Stardust is undeniably a fairytale, yet goes beyond a conventional telling of magic and adventure. The tale follows half human, half faerie but every bit a boy in the prime of his youth as he makes a blind promise that sets him off on a journey that inevitably changes his life forever. Hailing from Wall, a village situated near the boundary between the world of mortals and Faerie, Tristran embarks upon an adventure into the world of magic and miracles, vowing to locate and safely return with the fallen star he spotted descend from the sky. Little does he know that he is not the only one in pursuit of the star.

Gaiman’s writing transcends the book from what it could have been – just another fairytale with witches, faerie-folk and whimsical characters – to an enchanting quest layered with multiple themes and allegories that resonate with the reader long after the end of the story.

There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.

No doubt that Stardust is a romance (a slightly surprising discovery that tickled my fancies) but the love story interweaved into this book is just one element of the beauty it has to offer.

But through Stardust, we see the transformation and self-discovery of a naive boy, viewing the world as a quest ready to complete, into a man that acknowledges and accepts the challenges and twists that come along his path of fulfilling his Heart’s Desire.

 “The terms of my servitude are fulfilled, and now you and I are done with each other.”

In our world, the word ‘promise’ does not carry as much a weight as it should. But in the world of Stardust, the breaking of a vow is considered sacrilege. Whether it be between a young boy and a star, a family of brothers trying to (actually) kill each other two wily witches – one’s word means something. And sometimes with it comes the sacrifice of one’s freedom.

The wind blew from Faerie and the East, and Tristran Thorn suddenly found inside himself a certain amount of courage he had not suspected that he had possessed.

Brave or stupid? That’s a question I found myself asking about our protagonist, Tristran a number of times throughout his journey. Either way, Tristran possessed courage, a trait of his that is emphasized throughout the book, as he’s made up his mind to see his pursuit through to the end, even if the results may not be what he expected. ‘Courage’ as a theme is often presented in fairytales, sometimes in utterly outlandish manners, but in Stardust, it’s well-written and relatable. Because courage isn’t always about running headfirst into the fire. It’s also about knowing when to step back and let things go.

Stardust is like that old friend you meet up with on rare occasions and yet things are comfortable and familiar. Gaiman’s writing prompts a feeling of easiness and despite its magical, out-of-the-world elements is relatable with parts of our life that we may have not seen coming.

The characters are lovely and it is a joy to witness Tristran’s growth from a love-sick boy to a man of good values. I am not a big fan of the whole ‘damsel-in-distress’ trope and so I count my stars (see what I did there?) that there was none of that nonsense here. In place of sappy dialogues, Gaiman uses witty banter and good humor. The only slight problem I had with the book was the pacing – I found it a bit slow and laggy at parts, but it didn’t detract so much from the reading.

All  in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Stardust. Like an ancient fable passed down from generation to generation, the book is a collection of the best elements of a fairytale one could ask for – a beautiful love story and epic adventure with dashes of darkness and truth. While we may not be able to visit the world of Faerie, Neil Gaiman does a fantastic job of showing us that magic does exist in every nook and cranny of our world and all we have to do to see it is simply believe.

(Now, excuse me while I step away to make this a double-feature of fictional enjoyment and Netflix the movie!)

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Gotta say, the cast sure looks promising!

12 Days of Christmas Reading

The pleasures of falling deep into the pages of a promising book are endless and an adventure I very much cherish when I get the chance to do so. With December right around the corner, distant memories of curling up in a bundle near my bedroom with a nice steaming cup of cocoa and a good book linger in the back of my mind. Granted, hot Indian winters don’t carry the Christmas-vibe as effectively, I still can’t wait for the season to begin.

And what better way to reignite my love for reading than with a Christmas reading list?

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Boy, would it be a wonder if I get through ’em all – here’s to hoping for a Christmas miracle!

*~~~*

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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To bitter, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is just another day. But all that changes when the ghost of his long-dead business partner appears, warning Scrooge to change his ways before it’s too late. 

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

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Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

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Asked to investigate an incident that needs to be dealt with discretion, Poirot reluctantly agrees to spend Christmas in the countryside with the Laceys. Dreading the cold and traditional English fare Poirot attempts to locate a missing ruby in order to save a kingdom…

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old German girl who given up by her mother to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann in the small town of Molching in 1939, shortly before World War II.

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies

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When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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When the Countess of Morcar’s priceless blue carbuncle is stolen, a reformed thief is charged with the crime.

In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami

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It is just before New Year’s. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s sleazy nightlife on three successive evenings. But Frank’s behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion: that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It isn’t until later, however, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

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Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall—named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

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Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land.

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

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Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful coloured drawing or some sketches. The letters were from Father Christmas.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

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Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

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John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle encapture the magic of the holidays shines in these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Where Do I Get My Ideas?

From everything and everywhere.

^^ That would be my answer in its vaguest form, but honestly – there’s not much more to say.

Growing up, I had this little jar which I proudly dubbed ‘The Imagination Sanctuary’ consisting of story ideas I came up with on the go scribbled onto bits of paper which were then neatly rolled up and placed inside. Whenever I felt like working on a new project, I would reach in and grab a chit, and get to work.

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A little Jack Sparrow never gets old. 

Over time, the jar was tossed and replaced by a Word Doc spanning several pages. Not nearly as magical, but it did the job and continues to be sanctum to hundreds (I’m not kidding) of novel ideas I’ve come up with – ranging from fantasy to sci-fi to romance and even childrens’ books. Whether I get them all written out is another story.

I draw inspiration from everything I see on a day to day basis and leave my brain to do the rest of the work. A lot of my stories are imaginings I concocted while being bored out of my mind in the middle of a lecture in school.

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Others are rooted in dreams I’ve had that I jotted down the moment I woke up so I wouldn’t forget the potential they had to be written out. One of my sci-fi story ideas consisting of an alien invasion and intergalactic characters with special abilities was spun from a visit to the dentist and my lack of fondness for modern medical equipment.

So there’s absolutely no restriction on where inspiration can strike from. Although I do have a few tips on how to cultivate a more ‘idea-friendly’ environment for yourself apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned:

Knock yourself out with bingeing on TV shows and movies: this can do wonders. What better way to gain inspiration than from successful and entertaining productions that have engaging characters and good scripts (I hope)?

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Read, read, read: consume the written word like nothing else before it. I used to read a  lot as a kid (the luxury of time having robbed me blind of this satisfaction now). Read genres you love, classic and well acclaimed writers to see why they’re so good and new ones to discover what’s happening in the genre as of late. I’m heavily influenced by the books I read and it helped me become better at the genre I dabble in.

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Your social circles: a lot of the oddball humor and witty dialogues that come out of my characters are directly in relation to my interactions with my close friends and parents. I even based Helena, a supporting character in my story The Closer off of my best friend. It helps to observe the people in your life. After all, your characters are human too. (Or not in case you’re writing about shiny blood-sucking vampires or something. In which case, I sincerely hope yours will be more interesting.)

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The news and whatever’s up in the real world: fun fact –  Suzanne Collins came up with The Hunger Games when she was flicking between two channels; one showing some reality tv show similar to The Bachelor and the other broadcasting latest news about the Iraq War. She fused the two together and BOOM: a worldwide literary sensation was born. Of course, she had to squeeze in a-looot of work in the middle somewhere.

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Writing communities really do help: I talked in detail about this in my previous blog post but being part of one can boost thinking levels to a whole other planet. You get to mingle with writers in similar genres and absorb feedback and criticism on your writing. This not only helps you grow more ideas but improve as a writer too.

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And to save the day if all else fails, Google it: this is self explanatory but a search engine that can produce an endless list of helpful resources is pretty much a modern day magical wizard substituting as one’s muse (except it’s really no magic here but next-level algorithms and mathsy stuff).

In short, like I said at the start, I get my ideas from everything and everywhere. It’s really just a matter of paying more attention and being receptive to your surroundings. Heck, the next time you’re at the bus stop or in a cafe somewhere, I dare you to eavesdrop a little on the conversations people are having around you. There’s bound to be a hidden gem somewhere.

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The 2017 Reading Challenge

As someone who loves reading but hasn’t had enough time to dedicate to the beauty of it, I feel like this would be the right time to commit myself to a personalized 2017 Reading Challenge. Granted, 2015’s challenge was a failure but 2016’s went pretty well, I’d like to give it another shot! After all, one can have no regrets in giving books a chance, right?

For this year’s challenge, I’m doing a combination of various challenges I’ve found online as well as my own. Links to the various challenges I’ve borrowed from are provided at the end of this post. I’ll be updating this list and ticking off the challenges I finish as the year progresses. Recommendations would be very much appreciated!

If you, too, are doing the reading challenge, why not join me this year? Drop a comment below and let me know how 2017’s book-journey has been going so far! If you’d like me to review any book in particular, I’d be up for that too.

***

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bold: complete
(parenthesis: book assigned to a challenge)

*a book with a color in the title  (The Color Purple)

*a book of letters (Love Letters to the Dead)

*a book by a person of color (Persepolis)

*a book with multiple authors (Let It Snow)

*a bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read (Gone Girl)

*a book by or about a person who has a disability (El Deafo)

*a book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile (Flipped)

*a book that’s more than a hundred years old (Anna Karenina)

*a book set in a place you want to visit (The Saffron Gate)

*a book inspired by a a fairy tale (Stardust)

*a book under 200 pages (Man’s Search for Meaning)

*a book of poetry (Rumi)

*a book with a child narrator (The Diary of a Young Girl)

*an autobiography (Night)

*a novel set during wartime (A Cup of Tea)

*a book with an unreliable narrator

*a book set in two different time periods (The Next Together)

*the first book in a series you haven’t read before (Artemis Fowl)

*an adult novel (Big Little Lies)

*a Newbery Medal winning book (The Girl Who Drank the Moon)

*a gifted book (Looking for Alaska)

*a play (Nagamandala)

*a diverse folktale/mythological book (Who Fears Death)

*a book with religious themes (The Red Tent)

*a book on my back list (Can You Keep A Secret?)

*a book by a debut writer (The Hate U Give)

*a book recommendation from a Goodreads pal (How to Be Good)

*a book recommendation from your sibling (The Sword of Shannara)

*a handbook (How to be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life)

*a book by an Indian writer (The God of Small Things)

*a book recommendation from a professor (Waiting for Godot)

*a love story (Eleanor & Park)

*a tragedy (If I Stay)

*a book from your childhood (A Wrinkle in Time)

*your best friend’s favorite (Jane Eyre)

*a French book (Le Petit Prince)

*a controversial book (Lolita)

*a classical romance (Persuasion)

*a book you’ve avoided (The Rape of Nanking)

*a satire (The Importance of Being Earnest)

*a book set in the Victorian Era (Secrets of Midnight)

*a book featuring an animal as the main character (Watership Down)

*a visual novel (Saya no Uta/The Song of Saya)

*a manga (Sakamichi no Apollon/Kids on a Slope)

*a novella (Animal Farm)

*a horror book (In the Miso Soup)

*a book with terrible reviews (Leaves of Grass)

*a book in translation (1Q84)

*a book published the same year you were born (Tuesdays with Morrie)

*a book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able (A Monster Calls)

***

Inspiration from:

http://blog.betterworldbooks.com/2016/12/29/2017-reading-challenge-recommendations/

http://www.popsugar.com/love/Reading-Challenge-2017-42561300

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NC334TlViCh578-VEl9aUJ3WGAOEYY6R0YuC-MxVRj8/edit

http://modernmrsdarcy.com/reading-challenge-2017/

 

 

 

Beatrice Reviews “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

“American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

★★

 

Patrick Bateman is twenty-six and works on Wall Street; he is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath. Taking us to a head-on collision with America’s greatest dream – and its worst nightmare – American Psycho is a bleak, bitter, black comedy about a world we all recognize but do not wish to confront.

 

 *NOTE: The title of this blog post should really be “Beatrice Critically Analyses ‘American Psycho'” because I feel so dang passionate about this novel that a mere review will not suffice. Having said that, this will consist of some spoilers but I’m assuming most of you have already seen the popular film adaptation considering how long it’s been since it’s release!*

I knew I was putting myself in for a rather…challenging read (for lack of a better word) when I decided to add this to my bookshelf. Having seen trailers and certain scenes of the movie when I was younger and again while surfing Youtube, I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t actually seen the full film. However, before watching it, I decided to read the book first – completely aware of the grotesque violence, graphic sex and other controversial themes it portrayed. Best. Decision. Ever.




I haven’t had much experience reading books in the genre of black comedy, but boy, oh boy, does this one pack a punch, figuratively and literally. If you can’t stomach violence, then you will most likely end up heaving your guts into the nearest bin while reading this. Before I actually start off on my review of this masterpiece of the blackest of comedies, here’s a tiny disclaimer:

 
  • The protagonist of this book is a psychopathic serial killer. If you were expecting leprechauns and rainbows, you won’t be getting any. It’s right there in the title!
  • The violence is explicit. I mean there’s Game of Thrones and then there’s this. I’m talking about some pretty dark stuff here: cannibalism, rape,  prolonged torture, animal abuse, necrophilia. So unless you think you can cope with rather vivid imagery of a deranged man’s experiments with insanity…you should read it anyway. That’s what I did. *wink*
  • Misogyny, racism and homophobia are some of the more serious issues covered in this book. Mainly cause the main character and his immediate social circle are insensitive douchebags whose jokes and conversations center around how ‘high-class’ they are. There were parts where I wanted to rip off my own arm and throw it at them for how horribly sexist/racist the characters get. But, it all serves a purpose in delivering the deeper message of the novel. 
 
And now – to start off with my review/profound-thoughts-and-analysis-of-this-amazing-book.
 
 
 
Bret Easton Ellis is a genius. Granted I haven’t read his other novels to constructively critique his writing, I stand by my opinion that this novel delivers perfectly the message(s) that it was meant to: the artificial and narcissistic world of the 1980s’, deemed as the yuppie era. The characters are obsessed with branded clothing, elite dining and most of all: their own greed. There are several rants where the protagonist goes into excessive detail of describing what he’s wearing, what products he uses and his daily routine – which, honestly, bored me to read but I could see why the writer employed such a technique. 
 

To understand what American Psycho is trying to put across, I had to push aside how utterly appalled I was by certain events in the book and try to level with the thought process of a psychopath. Patrick Bateman, the twenty-something corporate banker is an emotionless killer. He is a product of the system he’s part of, a monster born from a society that feeds off those at the bottom and fuels the greed of those on top. 

“My personality is sketchy, and unformed, my heartlessness goes deep and is persistent. My conscience, my pity, my hopes disappeared a long time ago.”

He is completely aware of his own psychotic tendencies. It made me think a lot; a crazy person wouldn’t know they’re crazy, right? But Patrick admits to this several times through out the novel, directly to the reader and people around him as if in a confessional tone.

 

 

He puts on a mask every morning of being this superior, perfect person much like everyone around him does and yet on the inside…he’s the complete opposite.

 

I think it’s Patrick’s search for meaning, a plea to break from this trap of materialism that pushes him to do what he does. He inflicts pain on others in order to try and feel something but fails. He becomes the very image of a monster that society deems he can’t possibly be and by doing so is actually the most human of them all.

 

Written in the first person point of view, it’s easy for the reader to understand where exactly Patrick is coming from, that is if he/she doesn’t give up on what several people before me have called a rather ‘mundane’ narrative style. The book starts off rather…mellow – depicting Patrick’s high-end life with his posh, white-walled apartment (symbolism yay!) and shallow social circles of pompous, overly obnoxious friends. It delves into much more violent, and disturbing themes as Patrick starts to ‘lose his cool’ and breaks free, more frequently, from his facade of the prim and elite business-man.

He does this, of course, by killing people. His co-workers, and fellow ‘yuppies’ that he’s utterly disgusted with, a lot of women, the homeless, gay, and even a child at one point. I was disgusted by the extents he goes to to make himself try and feel something but in the end he is nothing more than a sick, troubled killer. Nevertheless, the writing is done so brilliantly that it induced me to feel pity for this man who acknowledges he is nothing more than plastic in a mass of faceless people.

 

Does this mean I like him? No. Does this make him any less despicable? No, it does not. The various and disgustingly creative ways in which he tortures and kills his victims is proof enough to show that Patrick Bateman is a repulsive human being. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t understand why he does what he does, what pushes him to do it.

The writer goes into a lot of detail in describing the murders to make the readers feel sick and completely acknowledge the kind of person Patrick really is, despite his outer mask. The smell of rotting flesh, the taste of his victims, and the struggle that they put up is elaborately illustrated. The reader, along with Patrick, will get completely immersed in the act of murder by making it as real as it possibly can be.

 

 

And yet, after every murder, he slips back into being none other than the ‘Bateman’ everyone else identifies him as. As the novel progresses, it becomes harder and harder for him to separate the line between these two identities.

 

I think what struck me the hardest wasn’t the disturbing acts that Patrick commits but the complete negligence that people show when he openly admits it to them. There are several instances through out the novel where Patrick lets out his true self; admitting to his colleagues, his fiance, his dry-cleaner that he is insane. Yet, they turn a blind eye – passing it off as a joke, mishearing him, and continue living in blissful ignorance. The setting plays an important role in understanding that; seeing as the story takes place in New York’s Wall Street – the central hub of narcissism.

“Everyone looks familiar, everyone looks the same.”

People are too obsessed, too taken with themselves to even pay notice to the disappearances and complete psychotic tendencies of those around them. Hell, they can’t even recognize their own friends – once again proving how ‘faceless’ money can make people become.

 

The whole book is just a masterfully written allegory, pointing to the consumerist culture of corporate America. Brand names, business cards, and the ability to make reservations at upscale restaurants become the yard-stick of measuring how worthy people are of being considered…well, people. The characters are incredibly homophobic, and racist and the writer makes it a point of contrasting the void between the rich and the poor through out the book.

 

Patrick, himself, is the embodiment of what a capitalist society can produce. His cannibalistic traits can be linked to consumerism, his work in mergers and acquisitions relating to the immense strength of corporate powerhouses to take over, and dominate others.

As a writer, the fact that this book was able to gauge a strong reaction from me, the reader, just goes to show how brilliantly the book is written. Others don’t quite appreciate the stark violence presented but it’s done to make us live the reality, or really, the absence of a meaningful reality in the lives of the rich. And just when I started getting used to, or in a sense de-sensitized to the violence the book, the writer just throws another, unimaginable act in my face, forcing me to confront just how horrible this American psycho really is. This book is another testimony to the fact that we should never judge someone by their outer appearance or what their position in society might place them to be.

Really, one second they might be like this, just seemingly in love with themselves (we all know people like that):

And the next, they might be running after you butt-naked..with a chain-saw:

However, American Psycho stays true to its comedy – I laughed a whole lot, despite wanting to stuff my head under a pillow and never come out again several times. There are recurring comedic lines, like the whole video-tape excuse that Patrick uses to get out of a situation he really doesn’t want to be in (convenient enough for him, really). It’s the way the line is delivered each time that floored me.

 

 

 

Like, really, Patrick? Is that what you’re going to go with?

It took me a while to get the book out of my head. I started to look at things differently and question how different my reality might be from someone else. In a sea of people, there are guaranteed to be a few Patrick Bateman’s lurking around, visibly sane but really on the edge of breaking apart.  The theme of identity crisis is something I adored about this book. The feeling of waking up and staring at yourself in the mirror, wondering if the reflection looking back at you is really who you are or just a manifestation of what the world forces you to be is something I could personally relate to.

 

Eventually, the shock-effect of the violence fades out to an element that goes well with the dark humor of the novel. The fact that Ellis is able to mock and make a satire of the yuppie culture and, simultaneously, bring out the startling flaws of a capitalist-reigned world is what made me fall in love with the message of this book.

 

In the end, Patrick Bateman’s confession amounts to nothing. There is no path of salvation – he has no one to connect to, no one that will understand him and he simply doesn’t feel guilt but rather, a warped sense of his own identity that stifles him so much so that he admits the truth. The whole truth. And of course, no one acknowledges it.

I think this is what makes American Psycho the classic masterpiece of black comedy. As someone studying business and aiming to go into the field myself, I was able to understand the themes and implications of a superficial, fabricated reality such as the one presented in the novel.

Is money really worth it? Must one sacrifice their humanity to experience the pleasures of material gain? Is it necessary to conform and be a mere cog in the corporate wheel to feel ‘worthy’?
How much is too much?