American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • “Please stop inviting your ‘artiste’ friends over,” Tim says tiredly. “I’m sick of being the only one at dinner who hasn’t talked to an extraterrestrial.” “It was only that once,” Evelyn says, inspecting a lip, lost is her own placid beauty.
  • “Jesus Christ, Price, lighten up,” McDermott whines. “What’s your problem? Those girls were very hot.” “Yeah, if you speak Farsi,” Price says, handing McDermott a couple of drink tickets as if to placate him. “What?” Van Patten says. “They didn’t look Spanish to me.”
  • Whatever happens, the useless fact remains: Patricia will stay alive, and this victory requires no skill, no leaps of the imagination, no ingenuity on anyone’s part. This is simply how the world, my world, moves.
  • As usual this fails to soothe my fear, and it fills me with a nameless dread that someone out there has wasted the energy and time to think this up: to fake a photograph (and do a half-assed job at that, the thing looks like a fucking Big Mac) and send the photograph in to the Post, then for the Post to decide to run the story (meetings, debates, last-minute temptations to cancel the whole thing?), to print the photograph, to have someone write about the photo and interview the experts, finally to run this story on page three in today’s edition and have it discussed over hundreds of thousands of lunches in the city this afternoon. I close the paper and lie back, exhausted.
  • But she’s still talking; she doesn’t hear a word; nothing registers. She does not fully grasp a word I’m saying. My essence is eluding her. She stops her onslaught and breathes in and looks at me in a way that can only be described as dewy-eyed.
  • “So have either of you been abroad?” It hits me almost immediately what the sentence sounds like, how it could be misinterpreted. “I mean to Europe?”
  • And though it has been in no way a romantic evening, she embraces me and this time emanates a warmth I’m not familiar with. I am so used to imagining everything happening the way it occurs in movies, visualizing things falling somehow into the shape of events on a screen, that I almost hear the swelling of an orchestra, can almost hallucinate the camera panning low around us, fireworks bursting in slow motion overhead, the seventy-millimeter image of her lips parting and the subsequent murmur of “I want you” in Dolby sound.
  • Without even beginning to understand, I imagine, what a speck Paul Owen was in the overall enormity of things.
  • There wasn’t a clear, identifiable emotion within me, except for greed and, possibly, total disgust. I had all the characteristics of a human being– flesh, blood, skin, hair– but my depersonalization was so intense, had gone so deep, that the normal ability to feel compassion had been eradicated, the victim of a slow, purposeful erasure. I was simply imitating reality, a rough resemblance of a human being, with only a dim corner of my mind functioning.
  • “Patrick you are being a lunatic,” she says, shaking her head, now looking over the wine list. “Goddamnit, Evelyn. What do you mean, being?” I say. “I fucking am one.” “Must you be so militant about it?” she asks.
  • I’ve gone so far as to ask people– dates, business acquaintances– over dinners, in the halls of Pierce & Pierce, if anyone has heard about two mutilated prostitutes found in Paul Owen’s apartment. But like in some movie, no one has heard anything, has any idea of what I’m talking about. There are other things to worry over: the shocking amount of laxative and speed that the cocaine in Manhattan is now being cut with, Asia in the 1990s, the virtual impossibility of landing an eight o’clock reservation at PR, the new Tony McManus restaurant on Liberty Island, crack.
  • …where there was nature and earth, life and water, I saw a desert landscape that was unending, resembling some sort of crater, so devoid of reason and light and spirit that the mind could not grasp it on any sort of conscious level and if you came close the mind would reel backward, unable to take it in. It was a vision so clear and real and vital to me that in its purity it was almost abstract. This was what I could understand, this was how I lived my life, what I constructed my movement around, how I dealt with the tangible. This was the geography around which my reality revolved: it did not occur to me, ever, that people were good or that a man was capable of change or that the world could be a better place through one’s taking pleasure in a feeling or a look or a gesture, of receiving another person’s love or kindness.
  • Fear, recrimination, innocence, sympathy, guilt, waste, failure, grief, were things, emotions, that no one really felt anymore. Reflection is useless, the world is senseless. Evil is its only permanence. God is not alive. Love cannot be trusted. Surface, surface, surface was all that anyone found meaning in… this was civilization as I saw it, colossal and jagged…
  • The conversation follows its own rolling accord– no real structure or topic or internal logic or feeling; except, of course, for its own hidden, conspiratorial one. Just words, and like in a movie, but one that has been transcribed improperly, most of it overlaps.

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