Finished American Psycho yesterday, and am more terrified than ever to go down to our hole-in-the-wall basement laundry room with the eerie lockers that I am convinced contain bodies and flies and bones and chain saws. American Psycho is a horrifying novel, not only because of the gruesome, explicit, senseless actions of the psychopathic Patrick Bateman, but because of the meticulously artificial approach to life – the Evian bottles, the restaurant reservations, the manicures for men, the fake tans, Rolexes, the conversations about cummerbunds and waistcoats and cocaine and “hardbodies” etc.
I can not read it again, but I could not put it down. I think that Bret Easton Ellis’s portrayal of Western decadence and societal disintegration is pitch perfect, and there are moments that Patrick breaks through his materialistic psychobabble to confront his painfully pampered and heartless way of life, the human disconnect which enables him to sever all bonds with humanity, and these are moving and genuine and make Ellis’s method masterful.
I’m not sure it matters to the reader whether the horrendous crimes are real or Bateman is hallucinating and insane – both are frightening. The amount of slips and confessions – accidental and intentional – that Bateman makes but people mistake, mishear, and shake off nervously, makes the novel extremely ironic. So, at last I have had my introduction to transgressive fiction. Bukowski seems like a harmless ferret compared to Ellis. But, on the other hand, I don’t think American Psycho is autobiographical. Oh man, I hope not.
In other news of more bloody exploits, Kristin and I saw Othello at the Intiman last night. It was a cast from New York with Sean Patrick Thomas (of Save the Last Dance fame) as the Moor of Venice. The play launched straight into Rodrigo’s argument with the villainous Iago, and they were both so immediately heated that Kristin and I wondered if they were speaking Venetian. Fortunately, the dialogue slowed and clarified and we were able to understand.
Othello is a fantastic play to see, as my Folger Pocket edition says, because instead of Shakespeare toying with micro-plots and several crises at once, there is one narrative arc in this play and it thuds steadily on towards the final scene on Desdemona’s bed. Thomas did well as Othello, though infinitely better when he was raging than when he was happy. I saw Othello once before at the Globe in London, and it is hard to best that. At the Intiman I was a spectator, at the Globe I was a participant, and the fellow playgoers in the audience wept out loud (which I had always thought was hyperbolic when others told stories of people wailing in theatres, but I saw it happen). I did like John Campion’s Iago – raspy and gruff and loud and nearly always shouting. His manner of overacting made me feel like I was encountering a foreign man in a foreign port, not a smooth, honey-tonged Shakespearean actor. His portrayal was immediate and lustful, and there was no misunderstanding his intent by tripping over the Elizabethan syntax.
Additionally, Othello has some great lines, some of which I intend to pull out at dinner parties – things like “I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking” (Cassio).