1. Having just finished Lunar Park I had a discussion with a friend yesterday who hated Ellis and everything he stood for. He had two main gripes, the first of which was the sex and violence in American Psycho. He didn’t like the fact that someone could dream up some the scenes that Ellis had – a similar complaint I once heard about 7even. Not only though is it testament to the powers of the human imagination, I think it does confront the uncomfortable truth that sick, depraved things do happen and they do come from somewhere. I won’t go as far as the trite “We all have a bit of Patrick Bateman in us”, but I do think artists do society a disservice if they don’t explore the edges.
2. My friend’s other main complaint was about the endless pop culture references in Ellis’s work. The problem here seemed to be twofold – one it dated the work and two it rendered some passages impenetrable if you didn’t get the link. To answer the second point first, I don’t see why long passages about Genesis or Whitney Houston are any less problematic than literary allusions which pepper so many works. And while it is true that reading about Bateman’s Discman now seems hopelessly early-1990s, it also makes a comment about the impermanence of gadget-lust – what Bateman revels in as the very cutting edge is within two decades slightly embarrassing to read.
3. On Saturday night Sebastian Faulks hosted an entertaining romp through 250 years of literary heroes, from Robinson Crusoe to Martin Amis’s John Self (who is not a million miles away from Bateman). The question Faulks kept asking (but did not necessarily answer) was how authors make us root for characters that should repulse us. Nowhere is this more effective than with Bateman -leaving aside the questions of whether he actually committed the murders, I still didn’t want him to get caught. How had I been won round to this vain, vacuous, homicidal, misogynist maniac? I’m still not sure, and I think that goes right to the heart of this most divisive, devastating and brilliant author.