Or “excise” it. I also can’t believe the author wrote that “the themes and dynamics in the novel would remain as they are.” That’s like saying “if we take this out, the stuff that we didn’t take out will still be there.”
It’s refreshing to see reviews that prompt conversation, rather than simply summarize or praise to a meaningless degree. The question I left this review with, what effects did the violence in the book have on my reading? Coming up with an answer to that expands my experience of the book, if only because I had to stop and think just a moment longer. I ultimately disagree with the review’s conclusion, but that’s because we view the function of the violence differently, not because he’s right or wrong. It’s a perfectly suitable solution if you think the violence functions only to emphasize the idea that “that certain types of people are so obsessively set on outward perfection that they miss the real substance of being human”. The book is more interesting than that to me, and the violence is part of what complicates this easy summation.
The review also draws attention to how compartmentalized the novel is, how the violence is nested into the more easily-digested “satire” this review author is talking about.That juxtaposition is worth noting, even if I don’t agree with the conclusions drawn by the reviewer.
Also, here I am writing this and working out a few new thoughts.
The violence is intrinsic. I think the review is by someone who doesn’t remember (or is creating a revisionist history of) the 80s. Or, maybe better, without the violence, the book would have just been called American Idiot, or American Shopper …
I also think the two best scenes would have been left out: the attack on the delivery guy on the bike, and the big shootout. Also, the ambiguity created by the fact (fact?) that one of the victims (at least one of the victims) was still alive.
I found the violence to get a tad boring–like reading a cookbook and on every page there’s another recipe but, in the end, you’re making the same dish.
I do agree with the author’s point that “And so this is what [American Psycho] has condemned itself to being known for: the carving-up of bodies (particularly women’s bodies) rather than unique and brilliant social satire.” I think that it’d be pretty difficult to have a conversation about the book that didn’t get totally taken over by the slaughter of women. Still, if you axed the axings, it wouldn’t be the same book. The violence is the satire.
I don’t feel like this is the best way to read it of course but I am not that bugged out by the general idea of someone recommending only part of a piece of art (a book or movie or series of comics or whatever) because I think we do that all the time and some of the things I have enjoyed most in life have only been enjoyed in part. That said, I feel like reading American Psycho without the violence is a boring thing to do and ignores many of the strengths of the book entirely (menace, extreme violence evoked on an almost cartoon level until it bends back towards itself and points, the weird feeling that we get after reading descriptions of violent acts that are both cold and intimate, the way the violence juxtaposes with the tedium of Bateman’s dull consumerist lifestyle, etc.) but more than anything I just find myself interested that we are still talking about this book in 2013 since it came out so long ago and I have read so many more violent things since it was published (try the news, for starters.) I wonder why this book is still a relevant “go-to” when people talk about violence (see the NRA’s reference of the book in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting) and it’s role in our society. It seems weird to me that someone would put out an article (as you pointed out, Blake, “review” needs to be in quotes here) teaching people how to read the book (like a total pussy, apparently), when they have probably read the book or watched the movie or are set to watch the re-make of the movie I have heard talked about, etc. To me, Patrick Bateman has become a little like Bugs Bunny (people dress up as him on Halloween, etc) and it has become harder to take the violence seriously than it was when I first read the book.
The book is the book; it stands apart from its author. Re-reading it, after all these years, the anachronism of the litany of products is hilarious. Otherwise, as satire, the points are as trenchant (and funny) as ever. From the Marquis de Sade to Genet to Poe to Hamsun to Vollmann to Brian Evenson, and on and on, the violence/horror/voyeurism is intrinsic. Unless we’re doing Director’s Cuts of novels & stories now.
>>> “[The editor’s] concern was, How are we going to be able to concentrate on the next scene of social satire after we’ve read two pages about how a woman has been nail-gunned to a floor, and raped, et cetera, et cetera? Well, I think you can. I dare you. Deal with it.”
This quote from Ellis, cited at the top of the “review,” gets to the very heart of the novel. The book is so powerful because it proves that yes, you can have incisive satire and extreme violence existing next to each other. Yes, readers will pay attention to both. And in Ellis’s deployment, this combination creates something much more complex, rich, and disturbing than mere satire or shock value. I’d have thought the novel’s reputation and active readership after all these years would’ve completely validated Ellis’s point. To me, it’s astonishing that a critic would take the editor’s side in this so-called argument. It seems completely pointless to consider “American Psycho” without the violence. That book doesn’t exist. The “Psycho” part of the novel is just as important as the “American.” They’re organically fused. It’s like trying to, I dunno, imagine “Apocalypse Now” without the war. Why?
The violence undermines the accomplishments of the novel if and only if the sole accomplishment of the novel is satire. If the novel accomplishes something else, contributes something original to the Conversation About Literature That Literature Partially Is [originality in narrative is more or less impossible; originality in metanarrative is more or less mandatory], then maybe the violence contributes to the value of the work.
I happen to feel that AP was not in any way metafictionally accomplished, but that it was killer satire. So, yeah, the excision of the majority of the violence would improve AP a whole bunch.
last time i was at the zoo i saw a sign in front of the lion habitat that said male lions routinely kill the offspring of females before mating with them. “violence” is within all of us. and is therefore worthy of exploration.
That’s precisely what Cronenberg did or tried to do when he was thinking about filming it. Apparently BEE didn’t get what he was up to with that and decided against it. I bet we would have a better movie than the one that exists if the BEE wouldn’t have been so full of shit, I mean himself.