Welcome to the beep three. The beep three stands for the bret easton ellis project. The three is just a number; three because this is the third (in a series of maybe seven?) installation. In this project, I intend on reading Ellis’s bibliography in the order of publication and afterwards write a few words about it.
bret easton ellis is a novelist, an author who writes books, based in L.A (Los Angeles, the city of angels, dreams, lights, tinsel town. Broken dreams. The bubble (according to Mark Cousins)) mostly known, maybe, for his third novel American Psycho. He was born in 1964.
Oh, hello. Fancy seeing you here …
True to the nature of my being, I almost (read: ‘almost’) forgot about this bee-project of mine. (to read Bret Easton Ellis’ books in chronological order and maybe, perhaps see if I find any and all recurrent tendencies in the authors narrative/ prose, or rather: to see if I can detect any development in his writing from his debut novel to his last published novel (which would be, hold on, let me check…. Ah, yes Imperial Bedrooms, published in 2010)
So far, I’ve gotten to his third (and most famous) novel American Psycho.
Like Ellis himself has written; what more is there to say about American Psycho that hasn’t already been said? The novel received massive criticism, especially from feminist groups, for its brutal and visceral depiction of the murdering of female prostitutes, (among other people) upon its publication in 1991. Ellis was rejected as a vile patriarch, a misogynist to the utmost degree – and many of the people criticizing him, it seems, did not even actually read the novel.
True, there are plentiful (brutal and visceral) depiction of murders in the novel. Personally, I am not surprised people became shocked in reading it the first time around. But I’m not too sure about the personal attacks Ellis received, not to mention the (undoubtedly) several judgements of his moral/ethical nature, on the basis of a work of fiction. As a means of defending the novel and the author, many of Ellis’ contemporaries came out and reminded the reading public that there is a difference between the author and the fictional works he/she produces (any and all moral standpoints in a work of fiction may/should not automatically be imposed onto the author, or some standpoint as such etc etc), and american psycho is not an exception.
So a lot of things have been written back and forth about the protagonist, Wall Street yuppie Patrick Bateman and his vile actions. (I seem to remember even on this blog there is a post (written by .. me) about psycho and things surrounding this topic – I think I focused on whether what bateman depicts actually takes place or not, judging by the way some of the reactions he gets for saying things like I want to murder you/ I like to watch whores slowly die etc etc seem a bit ‘non-existent’ to a degree, compared to the severity of the statements, or something like that anyhow) and a lot of people have written about it exceedingly better than I may even dream of, I suppose.
Meaning, I won’t go any deeper into Bateman’s ethics, or how one could say aMERICAN PSYCHO, the novel, fits into a wider american literary tradition (there is an interesting connection between Robert bloch’s psycho (made popular by Hitchcock’s 1960’s picture starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh) from 1959 and Ellis’s novel when it comes to Names (N. Bates in Psycho and P. Bateman in American Psycho, as well as, to a certain degree, Ellis mentioning Leigh doing an awful job in the movie Psycho or something like that (I seem to remember).
There is also an interesting aspect of body doubling in the novel that may be drawn back to Ellis’s other bibliography. One of the movies Bateman frequently rents at the movie place is Body Double (De Palma, 1984) which is a movie, as the title suggests, about individuals pretending to be other people, who commits crimes so that they themselves may go free. (it’s been a while since I saw the movie, ok, so probably I get the picture wrong, or probably I miss saw/ignored something hugely important underlying the movies thematic aspect etc etc but this is the bigger, overlying picture at least?). The movie is in itself meta, one could say, because body doubling is not so far from what actors actually do. They dress up and act as if they are someone else. (That is the very nature of acting.) This ties up with Ellis works how? I hear you asking. In American Psycho, Bateman goes to a handful of Christmas parties in which he does not purposely dress up. But the other party attendants still comments on how nicely he has dressed up for the party, which makes Bateman comment I am only being myself or some such thing to that effect. Also, in Lunar Park, Ellis’s sixth novel from 2005 the first sentence is You do an awfully good impression of yourself while the protagonist is at a Halloween party, feeding the ironic/oxymoronic narrative that someone ‘goes as themselves’ to a dress-up party (the whole novel lunar park is a metafictional narrative, constantly reflecting and mirroring itself and Ellis’s fictional work. It will be fun to read it again, whenever I get that far). Point being: American Psycho does fit in Ellis’s work as a whole when it comes to referencing itself over and over.
Anyhow, how does psycho relate to this ‘project’s’ vision (to see if I can detect any development in his writing from his debut novel to his last published novel)? His writing seems more ‘mature’ and ‘genuine’ in his third novel than the two before. The use of ‘deadpan’ dialogue, and self-deprecating sentences seems to be less frequent. There is a different ‘flow’ altogether in the text. American Psycho seems to me to be the first published novel in which the author’s prose appears more traditional than his previous published works. The ‘flow’ of the text and dialogue is not as dependent on postmodern paraphernalia (arguably, the plot is, though) as before.
The things Ellis describes (not only as mentioned the murders, but also the frantic listing of peoples clothing brands, as well as a continuing detailed preview of what today’s patty winters show was about) in the text are more grounded in reality, it seems to be, this time. What do I ‘mean’ by that? I guess, it seems to me that Ellis has taken a step up from less than zero and rules of attraction’s nihilistic narrative presence, and given more vibrancy to it. It doesn’t read like the author doesn’t care about the prose anymore. In American Psycho it reads like Ellis has begun to care again about his characters and the actions/events taking place. And he wants the readers to care, too.
I think that covers it for this time. If you made it this far, thank you for reading! And don’t forget to tune in next time, when I return with the beep four focusing on The Informers. Don’t hold your breath, though. It might still be a while from, at this pace.