I threatened in another thread (on Patrick McGrath) to start something on American Psycho because I do think it's an amazing book. I started it first in the 1980s and couldn't actually finish it as I found it so disturbing. However, I returned to it again a few years ago (after, it has to be said, seeing the excellent film version with Christian Bale) and I do think it has so much to say about the hollowness of modern society. The satire on the consumer world and its obsession with designer clothers and exotic food is very clever and the fact that the narrative comes from Patrick Bateman's viewpoint does create a sense of collusion. The book itself, though, is very unpleasant. I do wonder whether Ellis needed to make the violence so graphically nauseating to make his point. The film manages to avoid some of the more disturbing scenes eg the murder of the child in the Central Park zoo, yet still keeps the sense of black comedy and satire. Yet, to gain a sense of Bateman's cold sadism, perhaps the violence does need to be this graphic? Does anyone have a view on this?
Ellis' first novel follows a group of rich Californian teenagers, neglected by their parents (Hollywood stars and producers, rich lawyers) and left to their own devices over the Christmas period. Whilst there is no specific plot, the story focuses on the exploits of the narrator (Clay) who moves from one party to another trying to search for the 'worst possible thing'.
Clay's nihilism has deadened him (and his friends) to all but the most shocking things he encounters and Ellis conveys the sense that in spite of all their money, these kids have no idea what they want from life and have no real desire or means of expressing themselves.
Ellis develops some of these themes further in 'Rules of Attraction' and some of the characters in this book seem like they could have been younger versions of Patrick Bateman from 'American Psycho'. This is a pretty good introduction to Ellis' work and gives you an idea of his distintive writing style.