Friday, July 30, 2010

Alphabet Thursday: T

I first picked up The Grapes of Wrath when I was 16 years old. A teacher had recommended it to me and since she was very knowledgeable on my reading habits I thought I'd give it a shot. Unfortunately, exam pressure kicked in once I'd reached around 100 pages and I read no further. When I picked it up again six years later, the opening remained so vivid in my mind; I never forgot Tom Joad making his way home on parole.

Initally, Tom isn't an entirely likeable character. He's a murderer, quite uncouth and seems very much out for only himself. But he risks everything in journeying with his family to California. Tom is always aware of the consequences of breaking the law, but he ignores this in favour of his principles. Family comes first for Tom Joad, and throughout the novel he risks safety and comfort for those that he loves. He might not be an incredibly sentimental guy, but there's no denying how much he loves his family.

Just out of jail as the novel begins, Tom is living by a carpe diem philosophy which does make sense. He never knows what's going to be around the corner, especially during the Great Depression. Seizing the day is a good idea when at any moment your day could be taken from you. But as the Joad family arrive at California and struggle to makes ends meet (because they have no home, no food, dying elderly and a pregnant woman with them) Tom begins to take a future into consideration. There is nothing worth being all carpe diem about during most days and often looking forward to any kind of future is all that keeps the Joads going; be it a new born child, an orange grove, or just a solid roof over their head.

The Joads family continue only by virtue of their unity. By such Tom learns that theft or murder, while a short term solution, isn't always the best course of action. Better to make an impact with others, through solidarity and society. The Joads stick together and Tom sees them through: a humbling and affirming story of humanity and love. Tom learns what is important and essential in life and it's this transformation in character that really drew my sympathy, and love.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For Review: Close Range ~ Annie Proulx

I've never been to Wyoming. The closest I've been is Florida, which is more or less a world away. But after reading Close Range I feel like I know the terrain well, like I understand the atmosphere and the way remote society works. Reading Annie Proulx's collection of short stories is being completely submerged in the Wyoming history.

Throughout the centuries, people have had a tough time in Wyoming, fighting famine and drought, harsh winters and war. Ranchers have struggled through Depression, cowboys have had to deal with activist movements, and the entire way of country life has been threatened. This much I have learned entirely from Close Range. The stories span centuries and generations of people. From lonely bull riders, to ambitious hard done by women, to fighting against family values for the love of a horse. Though mostly staged in the Wyoming background, there's a universality to every tale; all the important essentials that make fiction what it is - love, hate, pain, sex, death, ambition. Each story is deliciously defeatist in some way or other, much like O'Connor's grotesque, and yet there was a never ending sense that life continues regardless of any trauma.


Proulx is a master of the short story; there's no way of hiding that fact. Short stories are about using words wisely, about carefully selecting sentences so that every word counts. Proulx does this and it seems so effortless. In just one line a character is described perfectly. In two or three sentences their history is succinctly outlined. In one beautiful paragraph the entire landscape is painted and the effect is almost panoramic. That's how a short story should work. Proulx is the perfect model. Now I need to see how she attacks the novel form.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nobody Likes You When You're 23

Happy birthday to me! Twenty three years on this planet and I'm beginning to feel old. But 2 + 3 = 5, so that's all okay! So today was the end of my book buying ban. I haven't bought a book in months and months, since Jan/Feb. I've got by on the books I bought at Christmas, on my boyfriend's books and with the odd ARC. But Oh My Goodness I was so excited to go buy some books. After work today, I headed down to Waterstones with my boyfriend and I had the time of my life. Look at this loot:




Double Fault by Lionel Shriver and Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis are on their way to my postbox! Yee-ha! I just got a new bookshelf, but it's looking like I'm going to need yet another one! Many thanks to my lovely boyfriend for funding half of my book spree.

<3 Love birthdays!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Alphabet Thursday: S

Though the title of the novel, Sula Peace is one of many characters whose history is described. So why Sula?


Sula is born into a family of women dependent on men only for fun and for sex. Neither her mother or her grandmother can be called particularly maternal. Sula is part of this promiscuous line, enjoying the attention of white men much to the scandal of her black community.

After seducing married men, Sula leaves the small town for the big city. On return she's as voluptuous and glamorous as ever. But birds start falling out of the sky and the town falls from one disaster to another. Coincidence, or the curse of Sula? The entire story, and indeed the entire town, grows and revolves around Sula. She's certainly a force to be recokened with, but there's a lilit as to how much a person can be blamed for their actions.

[brought to you by Friday because it's been a very busy week, including trips to IKEA for new bookshelves]

Too much work and not enough play makes for a lack of blogging time and a very tired blogger. TGIF - tomorrow I can sleep as long as I like. Mmm...

As always Friday means a book blog hop and this week asks: Tell us about the book you are currently reading.

Close Range (Brokeback Mountain and Other Stories) ~ Annie Proulx
: half-way through and I'm fascinated by the woman's ability to tell a story. She can conjure up a character in a matter of a sentence or two. Loving all these tales of cowboys. Genuine and genius!

Monday, July 19, 2010

For Review: 120 Days of Sodom ~ Marquis de Sade

During this review I won't be going into any kind of graphic detail, nor will I be using horrible language. That said, this is the Marquis de Sade and I'll cover topics that some people may find offensive (the clue is in the title). With that in mind, feel free to spend your time on another post in the meantime!


Why would anyone want to read such a book? In my case, purely out of morbid curiosity. I've read Incest before, and actually quite enjoyed the telling of the story. So next up, I thought I'd give 120 Days of Sodom a shot. I'm not going to lie; I did enjoy reading this, but it wasn't in the same way that I enjoyed the almost fairy tale quality story of Incest. 120 Days, funnily enough, is perverted to a ridiculous point. It begins with a group of men who are seeking the ultimate thrills, hidden away from a society with any kind of moral standards. The book details how the men spend their day; an absurd description of libertinage including chocolates for breakfast and a choice of naked bodies of varying sexes and ages. Next come 150 passions as described by procured narrators - 600 passions detailed in all.

No fetish is left undescribed, no profanity is left unsaid and the events described will turn the stomachs of even the most hardened readers. Mostly, the horrific ends up seeming so ridiculous that it becomes absurd. Absurd in the most crazy of ways, and I struggled to imagine any human being sitting down and scribing such things. Not sure if the dear Marquis would approve of some of my reactions: a few of the obscenities listed made me giggle (or at least snort at the silliness) but there are images he has conjured in my mind that I very unfortunately won't be able to erase any time soon. It was an experience, to say the least. Notorious with very good reason, the man certainly accomplished what he set out to do.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

For Review: The Mayor of Casterbridge ~ Thomas Hardy

Any book that begins with a man selling his wife is sure to have my heart immediately. So wrong, but so right - and if it's taboo now, it was certainly taboo in the 1830s when The Mayor of Casterbridge is set. So off goes poor Susan with a sailor, leaving Henchard to live alone and sober in Casterbridge. Following the death of said sailor, Susan and child Elizabeth-Jane appear in the town, and amends are made between the former husband and wife. But this is a story of lies, deception and betrayal. Everyone has their secrets be it lying about family history, or in the form of a woman from Jersey. In that true and wonderful Hardy style, all is not quite fair in love and war. In fact, love will ruin some, be the making of others, and ultimately lies will come back to haunt.

Deep breath. I struggle to write about Hardy without squeeing like a fan girl; it's difficult for me not to get over-excited. As said many times before, Thomas Hardy is my favourite author, and I love him all the more having spent years studying his novels in depth for the dissertation I wrote for my MA. But here goes.

Henchard - what a man. Angry and disgusted at the drunken lout for selling off his wife like he did, but he makes quick steps to redeem himself and makes an oath to stay sober for as long as he has been living; twenty one years. He stays true to his word and becomes such a well-liked and revered member of the Casterbridge society that he becomes their mayor. When he appears again as a wiser man, there's something very charming and honest about him. But then he goes and spoils it all, revealing how he has treated other women in the past, all words and broken promises. Then, on discovering something about his daughter Elizabeth-Jane, he treats her in such a disgusting manner. But he's been good to the Scottish Farfrae, and he does try to stay true to Lucetta, the woman from his past. He's a tricky one. But as fate gives him his just-deserts, my sympathy for the man was astounding. It wouldn't be Hardy if I didn't cry at the end, and oh my goodness, I certainly did that. Hardy knows exactly what tugs at the heart strings, and it's always with something so subtle or humble that really gets me going. There's nothing grandiose about Hardy's tragedy.

Poor Elizabeth-Jane. She goes through such turmoil with her family. She has an innate sense of propriety, but is such a kindly soul that she's willing to endure heartache for the sake of many others. Elizabeth is forever in the background. She's forgotten about, the man she loves barely remembers her, she becomes third wheel when her best friend gets married to said man. Such a good young woman, and all she wants is to be loved. The poor girl. It takes years of hard work, of always being busy to be noticed by her lover and by her father. There was something so melancholy sweet in the way things worked out for her - wow, I love Hardy.

There is that timeless quality to The Mayor of Casterbridge. The dilemmas and heartache all mentioned above is still deeply felt in a contemporary society: Hardy portrays humanity in such a fascinating way. The complex behaviours and desires of the finite human are the same be it in Casterbridge in 1830, or in a world away today. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Hardy is still read today (though he's not as widely read as he should be!). Or perhaps it's those beautiful presentations of country life and character. Or maybe it's his skill as a story-teller. Or maybe it's all of these. Read it, and find out.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ouch: Hitting the Writer's Block

Ouch.

It was going to happen at some time or other. I've got this far fairly easily, so it stood to reason that I'd met this dreaded obstacle soon. I've been staring at my computer for at least an hour and have produced 200 words: hardly productive. Some say it's that blank page that does it, that insurmountable screen of white, lined pages empty of words. It's definitely a beast to conquer. So scribbling down a word or two, just a sentence that comes to mind always helps. Look, it's not empty anymore. You've made a start, and that's the hardest part.

Now I have the words, but there's nothing coming. My brain is aching from all the thinking. Somehow, my characters have completely vanished from my mind and they're evading me behind some kind of mist. They probably think it's funny. It's not that I don't know where I'm going (I've written an extremely useful and detailed synposis) I just don't know what's happening. Something is getting in the way.

So I need to start chipping away at the wall. Before, my best advice to myself has been to keep on reading. The worst thing any writer can do is stop reading. So I'll do this; read widely and well until something kick starts. Hopefully I won't be left in the dark for too much longer. Any other help and advice would be much appreciated! In the mean time, I'm going to content myself with some mindless dish washing. Hurray for the weekend.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Book Blog Hop: 16 July

16th July? You must be having a laugh. I'm holed up in my flat, snuggled into the sofa with a cosy jumper and a quilt. I'm very cold, and the weather is very Novemberish. I'm slightly concerned that Scotland was graced with only two weeks sunshine (as opposed to the usual two and a half) and now winter has settled in.

But it's Friday, I have tea and chocolate biscuits, and I'm happy to spend the evening cuddled up with Thomas Hardy.



And, of course, it's time for Crazy-For-Books book blogger hop! What will you discover this week?

This week, the blog hop wants to know what books I'm desperate to get my hands on.

1. Double Fault, by Lionel Shriver (reading up before the book festival event)
2. Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis.(junkie for this man at the moment, and it's part of a challenge!)

Both are due through my postbox very soon. Hurray! I know I'm on a book buying ban, but a very lovely friend gifted me with a Waterstones card, so technically I haven't bought anything - not a penny spent!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Alphabet Thursday: R

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov; even just the name itself makes me melt. Possibly my favourite literary 'bad boy'. An ex-law student, Raskolnikov is a young intellectual, but he's plagued by all the trials and tribulations of being in poverty. To escape the stress and horror of being poor, he ends up murdering a pawnbroker. Not so good, but the wonderful thing about Raskolnikov is the way that he rationalises everything; he'll always find a means or a reason for his actions via some philosophy or other. And the crazy thing about it is that he often makes perfect sense. While his thoughts and ideas might be contrary to the way most humans behave, Raskolnikov seems to make it seem completely the done thing.

Crime and Punishment is an incredible downward spiral; Raskolnikov's story starts with family issues and financial worries. Stuck in his room, he begins to suffer physically, emotionally, mentally and eventually spiritually. I suppose you would lose a few screws if you murdered a pawnbroker, got involved with a prostitute, and found yourself suffering in a mixed up society of immoral superficials. Life is hard for the intellectual philosopher. (Trust me, I should know).

Despite his apparent cruelty and a cold facade, there's something just so endearing about Raskolnikov. Perhaps it's his self-conviction that is so obviously flawed - I just want to give him a great big hug.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: 13 July

'"For my part I don't see why men who have got wives, and don't want 'em, shouldn't get rid of 'em as these gipsy fellows do their old horses," said the man in the tent. "Why shouldn't they put 'em up and sell 'em by auction to men who are in need of such articles? Hey? WHy, begad, I'd sell mine this minute, if anybody would buy her!"' (10)

- The Mayor of Casterbridge ~ Thomas Hardy

Monday, July 12, 2010

On Your Marks, Get Set - Write!

Poetry and I fell out. We used to be very close companions, and at one point I couldn't live without it. But a year or so ago something snapped and we fell out of favour. So it's been a long time since I've written any poems, but I've sorely missed it. Deciding to get back into the spirit of writing poetry, I set myself a challenge:

To write a poem every day for a month.

July is 31 days. So by the end of the month I'll have 31 brand new poems. So far, so good.

Every writer has to be a good observer - it's just part of the job description. Most of the time I can't actually switch off; in the bus I'll describe my surroundings in prose, so I'm watching people, the way they speak, the things they do. When I meet people I might forget what they do for a living, but I'm likely to remember what colour jumper they were wearing. Observing comes naturally.

But with poetry I find I'm actively looking for things. I know I need to go home and write a poem, so I'm keen like a hawk, seeking out something to write about. I'm noticing the way a boy asks his father a question, or the size and shape of an old woman's earrings. All the tiny details that I may not have noticed before, in brilliant colour and focus. It's an interesting lesson, and one that I should practise with my prose. Perhaps I just need to pay more attention; too many things may be passing me by.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The business of the poet and the novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things.
          Thomas Hardy

Brandishing Branding

During a creative writing workshop recently, the group discussed my use of brands and products in the chapter they were criticising. The hot topic seemed to the place and the use of commerical brands in fiction. One writer was concerned about how much of it I'd used. While it wasn't obtrusive and it wasn't littered with it, the point was whether or not it was at all necessary. Why, he wondered, would I even have it there?

For a variety of reasons. First off, we all live in the same world. My novel in progress is about life today. As contemporary as it gets and, as we all well know, we are inundated with advertisements and slogans twentyfour/seven. Sitting in my living room and just scanning from the sofa, I can see several items that have logos and brands. Naturally, my novel will reflect this. In said chapter, they go to a supermarket. Only, I chose to name the supermarket. They are shopping for food for a picnic, so several items go into the basket. Cheese is a general word, cheddar being about as specific as I get. But then the character picks up Jammy Dodgers. Later I describe how he eats them. Where is the sense in saying, 'He picked up some biscuits, the kind with the jam in the middle, and the biscuit on the bottom and on the top round the outside.' And I'm not going to say, 'Wow, this soft carbonated drink is really tasty' when I could replace it with 'Irn Bru'.


At no point will I pick a brand just to say how rubbish it is - there's no sense in that. From both a reader and a writer's perspective, I feel that brands ground a reader in where and when they are. Pick up American Psycho and flick to any page. Chances are you'll find names of restaurants, names of foods, names of musicians, and they'll bring you immediately to the world that Patrick Bateman is in. The characters of my own novel are picking up Tesco Value items, talking about Derren Brown and reading FHM or Elle magazine; all details of the kind of people that they are, and I'm not ashamed to use them.

That, and like another writer of the group said, I'd make a fortune in product placement.

For Review: The Reapers are the Angels ~ Alden Bell

Considering the number of zombie films I know and love, it surprised me to realise that I haven't read any zombie fiction. The Reapers are the Angels, however, promptly changed that.

For twenty-five years these 'slugs' have roamed a post-apocalyptic world, leaving the remaining humans to struggle for civilisation. Heroine Temple is completely alone and has to use all skills necessary in surviving zombies, perverts, mutants, and brothers seeking revenge. It's not the most pleasant, nor the easiest, life for a fifteen year old girl. But she's wise beyond her years, and hardened by the facts of living in chaos. Along the way, Temple picks up the dumb Maury, and takes it upon herself to get him back home to relatives in Texas. Not the most simple of tasks in such a dog eat dog (or human eat human) world.

Alden Bell has offered a moving and fast-paced story. There's a constant sense of loneliness, despite what people Temple may or may not find herself with, and the remaining part of the book had me very tense. I haven't been in such suspense while reading in a long time. The Reapers are the Angels has all the emptiness of The Road, set in the grotesque South of Flannery O'Connor and Carson McCullers; bleak, but rich.

A fun, but thought-provoking book with delicate prose, I really enjoyed my first zombie novel. And, with the exception of the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein, this is an introduction to what's out there in the 'horror' market. If I thought that every book on the horror scene was as well-written and as clever as this one, I'd go there. But as it is, I'm happy stick with just this one.


Many thanks to Holt and Co for providing this book.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Alphabet Thursday: Q

The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said, without even looking round.
 The Queen of Hearts is Lewis Carroll's embodiment of passion, 'a blind and aimless Fury.' And that she absolutely is. Alice encounters the queen while helping a pack of cards paint the roses red, just as the good queen desires. The Queen of Hearts is a volatile woman, prone to demanding beheading whenever she sees fit - namely, when she doesn't get her way.

But I wouldn't necessarily call her an out and out villain. She's obviously irascible, but the queen does enjoy her games of flamingo and hedgehog croquet. She's soothed by her more level-headed, gentler husband, and towards the end of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the queen appears to become persuaded slightly by justice.

If I was a queen of Alice's Wonderland, I'd probably have a temperament much like the Queen of Hearts'. After all, her kingdom can't be the easiest to oversee.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

For Review: The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno ~ Ellen Bryson

Bartholomew Fortuno, the world's thinnest man, is one of many human curiosities for show at P.T Barnum's Museum. Fortuno considers his body as a gift, and as a means of teaching philosophy to his audience; he is the bare essence of man, the epitome of self-control, and reveals the human body for what it really is - essentially all skin and bones. But then he meets the mysterious Iell, a beautiful bearded woman with a secret. She sets the world upside down, leading him on a trail of discovery, both of the museum, and of himself.

Set in the late 1800s, Bryson's debut novel paints a colourful picture of the performing world. The museum itself is described in lush detail, from the performers to the furniture. Everything is over the top, overstated and ridiculously beautiful; all about surface and appearance.

But after years performing on the stage, Fortuno's beginning to doubt his place in the museum, and indeed, the world as a whole. What really makes him special? Is his body truly a gift, or something he's arrived at by choice? Barthy considers these questions throughout the novel, and seems to be genuinely struggling with his identity. Gradually becoming more sure of himself, Barthy looks deeper into his past, seeking answers. Bodies form a huge part of this story - all the characters are initially defined by how they look - a fat woman, a giant, even a black man. Essentially, this is how they achieve in life. All they have to go by is their appearance, and it makes for a somewhat depressing life. But yet, given the way they look, they're unable to integrate with society fully. It's a lonely life for all of the performers, and what was really enjoyable was the general camaraderie. Despite their differences, each of these 'freaks' or 'curiosities' have to look out for each other.

It's a thoroughly enjoyable story, with elements of noir mystery - who knows what? Whose loyalty lies with who? What exactly is Iell's secret? (something I vaguely got at, but really enjoyed at the reveal). It's fun, quite spectacular, and yet looks at life, human nature, and relationships. Barthy was an interesting character to follow, and I found myself quite in love with him, despite how awkward he could be. Each of the museum's characters were loveable in their own way, regardless of their peculiarities.

Carnivalesque, burlesque, and grotesque, The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno was a spectacle to read.

Thanks to Henry Holt and Co. for providing this book.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

150 Follower Giveaway

150 followers! I started this blog around four months ago, and I really wasn't sure that anyone but myself and a couple of friends would read it. But here I am, with 150 people following and several people frequently commenting. I've loved the feedback and conversations that have gone on in this blog, and I'd like to see thank you to everyone for reading and commenting. It all makes me feel loved <3 Aww.

So I'd like to celebrate with a small giveaway! Hurray!
I'm a big fan of snail mail, as I'm sure I've mentioned a couple of times before. Such a small gesture like a letter or a card can make a huge difference to someone's day; it's personal, thoughtful, and fun!
So, the giveaway is: a selection of greeting cards handmade by me!



The lucky winner will receive around $15 worth of handmade greeting cards - keep them for birthdays, as thank yous, or even just to say hello to a friend.


So what do you have to do to win?

1. Be a follower! (if you don't have Friend Connect, then you can subscribe for emails)
2. Tell me your favourite post, or what you enjoy reading on my blog.
3. Provide your email address.
4. Want another chance to win? Just Tweet or Blog about this giveaway, or about my blog.

Competition ends 11 July.

Good luck! :)

Friday, July 02, 2010

Do The Book Blog Hop

Friday means it's time again for some more book blog hopping fun! Hurray!

So what's the twist?

Hello! My name's Bethany, and I started book blogging because I had to. I'm a very strongly opinionated person, and when it comes to books I am incredibly stubborn. What I miss most about my MA English literature course is the bitching and raving that went on about particular authors or books. I needed a space to do that again, so I decided to keep a book review blog. I had no idea how it would work, or if anybody would read it. I was very surprised to see how much of a huge community the book blogging world is! So here I am, occupying my own little space of the internet with 144 followers after four months blogging; love it!

Friday means a lie in tomorrow - so nice! I'm absolutely exhausted after a 49 hour working week, so I'm looking forward to that Solero in the freezer and the cookies on the shelf. Mmm. Oh, and there's the small matter of a holiday to Germany in August. So much excitement!

For Review: Imperial Bedrooms ~ Bret Easton Ellis

Ellis' latest installment (released today in the UK) excited me at once with open intertextuality. His more striking characters appear in several of his novels. Clay, the protagonist of Imperial Bedrooms, featured first in Ellis' debut Less Than Zero (which I will be honest about and say I have not yet read - gasp!) and appeared in Rules of Attraction. Recurring characters is an exciting trait that Bret Easton Ellis fans won't fail to notice.

Imperial Bedrooms, as a sequel, depicts the lives of the Less Than Zero characters twenty five years later. Though I haven't read the 1985 release, the book worked and stood as a story of it's own. While I might have understood or gleaned more had I read Less Than Zero, each character took their own space and relationships were established naturally, without any obvious ThisIsWhatHappenedIfYouHaven'tReadTheBook/Can'tRemember.

It's a story of ennui; remarkable boredom. There are many different threads to follow - murders, complicated love shapes, mystery - and yet what struck me most was the way the characters passed or wasted time. Clay, among others, is contstantly checking his iPhone. His phone becomes almost an extension of himself, something that he can use when in need, something to distract him when necessary, and something that implicates him into deep trouble. Clay drinks, goes to parties, flirts outrageously with young wannabe actresses, promises these girls fame and fortune, watches television and spends plenty of time on the internet watching videos and replying to emails. While everyone's life situations might not be the same, who can't say that they rely on a phone, or spend too much time online, or drinks when they shouldn't, or ruthlessly strives to achieve ambitions? Really, most of us are on the same proctrastination boat by some means or other.

Imperial Bedrooms exposes life and relationships in a similar way to Ellis' other novels. We all want something that we can't get, and the way that we respond to this knowledge shapes our relationships and the kind of people we are. We can take this with a pinch of salt, carry on and work hard for a sense of achievement. Or we can lose it, twisting our ideas with reality much to the detriment of others and ourselves. Love it.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Alphabet Thursday: P

When I started my Alphabet Thursday I already knew exactly who I wanted to talk about for P. Patrick Bateman is such an intense character, and easily one of my favourite characters in literary history. Ever. He's the epitome of everything that I hate about the world - materialism, consumerism, prejudice, greed, vanity and he's completely and utterly immoral in every way. And yet, I can't help but love him, if even just for how insanely clever he is.

My introduction to American Psycho was the film. It's an incredible film, and while I can appreciate that it can't show much of what's in the book (because it's so horrific I doubt if it would ever be allowed) it's a fantastic rendition of Patrick Bateman. Yes, I have a curious obsession about Christian Bale, but Bret Easton Ellis made the character.

There's not a lot of evil that Patrick doesn't do, but murder and cannibalism seem to be the favourites. Patrick will pick up prostitutes, have his very wicked way with them, and will perform any amount of torture (be it featuring chainsaws, electric currents, or rats). He slaughters homeless people for fun. I suppose this would be the psycho part.

As for the American part, Patrick Bateman narrates a fantastic pastiche of upper middle class city living. Popular music, popular brands, popular people, popular places. Bateman is proof of the society he lives in, while also being continually critical of how superficial life is. Every 'important' part of his life is about being flashy or showy - from fiances, to business cards, from careers, to ties. He has to deal with what he's got, what he really wants, and what he really doesn't want (like a homosexual colleague). Patrick Bateman lives what many would consider the American dream; many people would do anything for his kind of lifestyle. But Patrick sees through the cracks, all the obvious flaws - and perhaps that's what drives him to his psychotic distractions.

He's a horrible, horrible man, but charming and seductive at once. Though I've heard opinions that American Psycho is unnecessarily gruesome, I'd beg to differ. It's almost comical, satirical and absurd in the way it's revealed. A couple of sumers ago I read some passages out to my friends. It was a sunny day and we lounged around in the Meadows in dresses. Reading the book out loud is an immense pleasure, and very exciting. I was delighting in each and every sentence, only to discover that my friends looked pale, and absolutely horrified. But Bateman's narrative is clever, and Ellis' wit and charm oozes with Bateman. It's just incredibly challenging, still very controversial and absolutely thrilling to read.