‘American Psycho’ at 25: Bret Easton Ellis on Patrick Bateman’s Legacy
Author reflects on controversial book’s surprising afterlife, from a cult movie to a new musical
BY KORY GROW March 31, 2016
Before American Psycho came out, 25 years ago this month, it was already the most controversial novel of the Nineties. Its vivid depictions of gruesome murders of women, men, children and animals preceded wherever it went. The original publisher dropped it and told author Bret Easton Ellis to keep the money — but to please go away. The New York Times titled its book review “Snuff This Book!” On the opposite coast,Los Angeles Times begrudgingly wrote that “Free Speech Protects Even an ‘American Psycho.'” The National Organization of Women attempted to organize boycotts. Stores refused to order it. And Ellis, who turned 27 around its release, received death threats.
Despite the initial uproar, the book has enjoyed an unusual afterlife. At its heart, American Psycho is a caustic satire about materialism and the empty feeling that comes with chasing it. It’s a first-person account of a callous, vain Wall Street yuppie named Patrick Bateman who loves the pop music of the day (Whitney! Huey! Phil!) and has trouble coming to terms with his murderous inclinations. And it’s been translated into different media in sometimes unusual tones, notably a 2000 movie starring a smarmy Christian Bale, which presented the story as more of a black-comedy thriller, and most recently a tongue-in-cheek Broadway musical.
Read the interview at Rolling Stone