American Psycho

08/23/2015 at 7:29 AM (Books) (, , , , , )


Source: Goodreads

American Psycho is an extremely graphic and violent book by Bret Easton Ellis about the 26-year-old handsome, educated, intelligent but misogynistic psychopath called Norman Bates who works on Wall Street interspersed with some banal content presented as postmodern social commentary. Having been subject to censorship due to transgressive content, there is a plethora of analysis about American Psycho out there. The common theme seems to be readers either hate it for its blatant sexism or love it because it defies the norm.

Personally I found the book boring given I was reading for pleasure. I may have viewed it differently had I been studying it. To be honest the protagonist’s emotionally-detached first person perspective of the world started to get fairly repetitive and dull. His friends are repulsive in their hubris and obsession with materialism which makes it difficult to like anyone in this book. Naturally with characters as repugnant as this, I was unable form any emotional attachment while the verbose and constant descriptions of brand names and insight into how Bates stimulated himself made me bored very quickly. Bret Easton Ellis may have been making a satire of consumerism but I cannot help wondering if he was trying to be shocking for the sake of it.

I know experiencing or creating a product does not make anyone an advocate of it but the problem was the lack of empathy in how torture scenes are described created prose that wasn’t particularly riveting but was stomach-churning and it happens multiple times. It could be the combination and the equal treatment of the banal and the brutal what makes American Psycho so shocking to most readers but while that may make it an interesting topic for academic dissertations, it failed to engage me which is what I desire from books.

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In Cold Blood

07/20/2014 at 9:01 AM (Books) (, , , , , )

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, about the murder of the farming Clutter family in Kansas, is thought to be the pioneer of the true crime genre and is the result of six years of work. Even before Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith were arrested for the crime, Truman Capote had gone to Kansas with fellow author Harper Lee to interview investigators and local residents in the area about it. The book delves deep into the relationship between the two parolees who commit this murder and the effect the crime had on the local community.

Clutter Home

I am not a big fan of non-fiction unless it is travel writing or memoir but this novel challenges my view of non-fiction being less interesting to read than fiction. The author has a mesmerising ability to weave factual content into suspenseful narrative prose without creating bias. I think the fact psychoanalysis was applied to the crime raised my interest bar. Nowadays true crime takes the mystery story approach with a revealing denouement but the objective style used in In Cold Blood separates it from current sensationalist fare. It talks to the rationality of the reader instead of imposing shock value. The motive for the crime is revealed when Perry Smith confesses to the police. It is also interesting to note the temporal shift from past to present tense indicating the chase is over.

The final part of the book, as the trial progresses, raises questions about the moral quandaries of the imposed sentence without providing any reasoned inferences. It was interesting to see the debate between rehabilitation as opposed to retribution using the nature vs nurture argument. While Capote does not allow a reader to condone the behaviour of the murderers, he goes a long way to showcase their characters in a sympathetic light.

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