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A comedy of the social mores of late entrepreneurial capitalism
May 26, 2011 6:31 PM   Subscribe

P.G. WODEHOUSE'S AMERICAN PSYCHO posted by subdee (48 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Since I am a fan of both the movie American Psycho and the TV series "Jeeves and Wooster", I approve.
posted by grubi at 6:38 PM on May 26, 2011


Hee!
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:40 PM on May 26, 2011


Maybe I'm just not much of a Wodehouse fan but I enjoyed the explanation far more than the piece itself. Also, it's refreshing to see someone who thinks Ellis is a deeply moral writer. And sticks with the characters' real names, none of this Paul Allen bullshit.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:45 PM on May 26, 2011


I know, you're like, this is really good, I can't think of anything else to say!

I was hoping for some comments on the ubiquity of entrepreneurial-class sociopathy, whether Bret Easton Ellis really meant for his works to reflect a reality that is ugly or whether he secretly (or not so secretly) admires the sociopaths, and McSweeny's being the perfect platform for Wodehouse pastiches.
posted by subdee at 6:45 PM on May 26, 2011


Whoops, commented before seeing shakespherian's comment.
posted by subdee at 6:52 PM on May 26, 2011


The thing that's amazing about American Psycho (and here I'm ignoring the film, which was good but a different thing, mostly) is that it starts off so slowly before getting into the 'psycho' bit and mostly just sticking with the 'American' bit and you're reading it and you're going 'My god I cannot stand these smug fucks talking about reservations and their wardrobes anymore I am going to lose my mind just get to some killing already!' and then finally it gets to the 'psycho' bit and it's so gruesome and horrific and lovingly detailed that you sort of can't read it, your eyes feel sick, and you think 'Sweet Christ get back to the smug fucks talking about dry cleaning and mocking the poor' and the book keeps oscillating between the two, and you keep oscillating between those two reactions, and then it's over and you aren't really sure which is worse: horrifying graphic sexual mutilations or Reaganites.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:52 PM on May 26, 2011 [29 favorites]


More Wodehouse.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:53 PM on May 26, 2011


In a very similar vein, Noel Coward's covers of Don'cha and Rehab.
posted by Copronymus at 6:55 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I gotta admit that I wasn't able to tolerate the smug fucks talking about reservations and their wardrobes long enough to get to the killing. So I kind of appreciate this satirical piece as a summary of the plot of the novel.
posted by subdee at 7:02 PM on May 26, 2011


It actually strays very far from the plot of the novel-- Bateman never teams up with Jean. The plot of the novel is pretty close to that of the movie, but continues through a few years and several more murders, and Bateman goes much more insane than he does in the film. I figured that the deviations in the McSweeney's piece are either a result of Wodehouse influence or just the author having fun.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:06 PM on May 26, 2011


shakespeherian: That's the best echo of the experience I had with American Psycho the novel I've ever read. That's exactly how it felt for me, too. I ended up reading the book all night, finishing it in a few hours, and then giving it away because in a weird way it was enthralling but I couldn't stand to have it in the house. Granted I was a little crazy at the time.
posted by penduluum at 7:10 PM on May 26, 2011


Brill.
posted by pised at 7:12 PM on May 26, 2011


It's an amazing book, and I'm pretty sure I think it's brilliant, but I also don't know if I could ever recommend it to anyone.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:13 PM on May 26, 2011


you aren't really sure which is worse: horrifying graphic sexual mutilations or Reaganites.

Phil Collins
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:17 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


this was good
posted by Bwithh at 7:18 PM on May 26, 2011


I like the idea, but speaking as someone who has read a stack of Wodehouse that would outweigh the Empress of Blandings, I don't think he's quite got the voice right.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:22 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's not just a pure stylistic change - Jean has been made into a pretty clear Jeeves analog. This is a great piece, though (and I find that while McSweeney's has lots of good stuff I can't quite manage wading through the trying-too-hard stuff to find the good stuff, so I'm always happy when someone finds it for me!)

And yeah, American Psycho is...hard to read. I could (actually, might have?) recommended it to people, but only certain people and only if I knew them and their tastes pretty well.

Though, come to think of it, I guess I could say that about P.G. Wodehouse, too. I still remember sophomore year of college, I and another friend who both loved Jeeves & Wooster enthusiastically convinced all our other friends to get together and watch some episodes, and...well, nothing's worse than showing something you think is funny and great to some folks who just aren't into it and end up kind of grinning painfully through the whole thing. Makes for a deadly awkward conversation afterwards, too.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:23 PM on May 26, 2011


Yeah, your first hint is, after Patrick's girlfriend saying that he's a cynic, is him mumbling under his breath, "No, I'm not; I'm a fucking evil psychopath." And then there's nothing else like that for roughly forty pages more before, in his incessant detailing of his trivial day, he notes a minor atrocity before he's on to mentioning something else.

"Boofy" is a very nice touch. The constant mentions of fashion throughout American Psycho, the desperate scrabble for the peak of social interaction with contempt under him and jealousy ahead of him works well as an English class comedy. Jean's teamup fits with the clever servant trope.

I wonder when someone will take another crack at a movie. Possibly in less than ten years. I wouldn't say that the film from 2000 was played for laughs, precisely, but it lacked something of the plunging claustrophobic horror the novel had, as if Bateman were a fully aware member of a wasp hive, a privileged drone, fed the finest nectar, knowing he can plunge his sting into any other wasp without repercussion, but that it means nothing, so long as he is trapped in his hive.
posted by adipocere at 7:24 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reminded me of the existence of this: If Lord of the Rings had been written by Wodehouse.
posted by fings at 7:30 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


American Psycho is in my Top Five for Worst Novels Ever Written. American Psycho the Movie was amazing.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:31 PM on May 26, 2011


I like the idea, but speaking as someone who has read a stack of Wodehouse that would outweigh the Empress of Blandings, I don't think he's quite got the voice right.

It reads like early Wodehouse, like reading The Prince and Betty, where it's obviously Wodehouse, but the pacing is off and the plot is relatively simple.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:33 PM on May 26, 2011


Hated, hated that book. Poorly conceived, poorly constructed. The prose is lousy and the editor was (rumored to have been) barred from doing his or her job. Ellis's indictment of 80s yuppie culture is intensely shallow, and his violence serves none of his imaginary purposes: it does not satirize, it does not comment, it does not shock, it does not thrill, it does not even properly horrify. Neither does it reveal anything through its lack in each of those aspects. The thing was written in a bleak dumb rush, shit out into our culture and cashed in for another five years' worth of cocaine.

When it was published, I shoplifted it from Waldenbooks in downtown Berkeley, reviewed it for my high school paper, covered it in lighter fluid, and removed it from the earth. Only urge I've ever had to destroy a book.

The movie, on the other hand... friend after friend told me it was fantastic. I heard that for about ten years, and finally gave it a try. It is pretty good. Go figure.
posted by damehex at 7:34 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also just a friendly warning, while we're sort of on the subject: American Psycho 2 is just unwatchably bad.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:36 PM on May 26, 2011


I wouldn't say that the film from 2000 was played for laughs, precisely, but it lacked something of the plunging claustrophobic horror the novel had

This is pretty accurate, but I also like the movie. It's certainly a lighter take on the material (which is a funny thing to say), but I think it works very well, and manages to bring out some of the feminism of the novel, IMO.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:40 PM on May 26, 2011


I don't think he's quite got the voice right.

*cough* she *cough*
posted by arha at 7:45 PM on May 26, 2011


*cough* she *cough*

I'll take your word for it; she's my first Rhian.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:01 PM on May 26, 2011


Glamorama is a lot more fun than American Psycho (I used to be a huge fan), and is the only Ellis novel I bother to keep on my shelves. His earlier stuff was fun when I was young because it was the first time I'd come across stuff like that, but on the whole he's a one-trick pony and Glamorama is the best distillation of that trick.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:03 PM on May 26, 2011


It was...a laugh riot.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:05 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like Glamorama best, too. FWIW, Lunar Park is a completely, totally different sort of Ellis book.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:10 PM on May 26, 2011


It has been a while since I have read Glamorama, but I still remember some of the scenes. I find Imperial Bedrooms pretty chilling as well, not for murder or torture scenes, as there isn't much of that, but for the way the lead character, who was kind of the good guy in Less Than Zero, brutalizes everyone around him. It led me to re-examine the earlier book to some extent.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:16 PM on May 26, 2011


I haven't gotten ahold of Imperial Bedrooms yet. Frown.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:20 PM on May 26, 2011


Patrick's not written as dumb as Bertie. It took me out of the piece.
posted by padraigin at 8:33 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"hoovered", one of the funnier things in the book, and also the movie, is that Patrick never managed to score any coke.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:44 PM on May 26, 2011


The thing about Bertie is he's dumb, but he's articulate and is at least an order of magnitude smarter than, say, your local paper's online comments section. Not sure if that means the dumb have gotten dumber or upper-class, educated dumb is different than lower class dumb.
posted by maxwelton at 10:36 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yep, the voice is dead wrong -- at least, the Wodehouse part. There's a wooly-headed duckiness blended with chuckle-headed ignorance to Bertie Wooster. "Milton's Satan" would, in Bertie-speak, have been rendered "The Watchamacalit of thingymabob -- the squatting toad chappie" although he would have been perfectly accurate about the number of pleats in his flannel bags.

I'm sure I'm just missing the point. But still, this pains me.
posted by jrochest at 12:25 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


One time I told my girlfriend that I really liked the movie American Psycho, so we watched it together. We haven't talked about it since.
posted by meows at 1:53 AM on May 27, 2011


Ellis's indictment of 80s yuppie culture is intensely shallow

This is precisely why American Psycho is so fantastic.
posted by chavenet at 3:36 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ellis's indictment of 80s yuppie culture is intensely shallow

That's kinda the point. Love it or hate it, the book is masterfully constructed (as is the film).
posted by biscotti at 4:07 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like the idea, but speaking as someone who has read a stack of Wodehouse that would outweigh the Empress of Blandings, I don't think he's quite got the voice right.

Here's the thing, Wodehouse is never tedious, this McSweeney piece is tedious. The plot is immaterial in the Wodehouse oeuvre, rather it is the impeccably constructed sentence that captivates; he really is a masterful writer.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:40 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


The thing about Bertie is he's dumb, but he's articulate and is at least an order of magnitude smarter than, say, your local paper's online comments section. Not sure if that means the dumb have gotten dumber or upper-class, educated dumb is different than lower class dumb.

I had just settled myself at the fold-out card table for a bit of the old eggs and b when I received the message: "Your Aunt Jenipher," said, NASCAR, my pit-bull-cum-assistant, "is on her way over from the local megachurch."

Ordinarily, the dear old Auntie's religious engagments took until at least the first hour of the afternoon, so it was an unsettling surprise to me that I would unfortunately be forced to don a pair of sweatpants three hours earlier than was my usual custom. "NASCAR," I asked my ever-helpful assistant, "what is it that you suppose she wants?"

"I am afraid she did not say," said NASCAR, who then excused himself to drink the remainder of the Dr. Pepper from his water dish (a treat in which he occasionally indulges, and which he certainly earns by way of his unfailingly clever service to me). No sooner had he lowered his Happy-Meal-shaped head to the dish than the dulcet tones of his tongue slurping at the bowl were rudely interrupted by the arrival of Jenipher, who came careening through the door with a wild-eyed intensity I had not seen since her last monologue about the legitimacy of certain presidential birth certificates.

"Aunt Jenipher!" I cried, "How dashingly good to see you! What a piece of work is Aunt, eh what?" I winked at her, knowing how fond she was of such Biblical references in her day-to-d.

"Bertie!" she thundered, "This is no time for your foolishness! I come to you with the most urgent of messages! Unveil your computer from beneath that Big Dog shirt which is so carelessly strewn across it! We must GOOGLE RON PAUL."
posted by Greg Nog at 5:22 AM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Looks like the author noticed that she got Metafilter'd!

This was great Rhian, and almost makes me want to try reading AP again.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:41 AM on May 27, 2011


Patrick's not written as dumb as Bertie.

I don't ever get the idea that Bertie is dumb. Bertie is telling these tales of his life to friends, and the intense horror of ever being serious or being seen as a 'swot' that was part of his milieu means that he is not going to want to come across as anything other than someone who stumbled through school on luck and who only remembers bits of his education. The literary references are there, they're just waffled over so that only someone who had the same education would understand them, while at the same time deprecating the acquisition of that learning.

It's an unreliable narrator, except instead of not wanting the audience to see it, Bertie is being deliberately misleading and expecting the audience to see it.
posted by winna at 7:27 AM on May 27, 2011


I agree that the voice and some elements of the Bertie persona and style aren't quite right -- but what's interesting is the parallels between Bertie and Bateman. Idle, spoiled, upper-crust, old-money scions who went to all the best schools and do little else but drink cocktails, shop, and hang out with their equally shiftless upper-crust friends. They both have pretty obvious issues with women.

[This is where I pause for a moment to daydream happily about someone taking a chainsaw to Madeline Bassett.]

Fortunately, Bertie has Jeeves to tell him the garish checked pants or the latest lunatic plan he and Gussie come up with is a bad idea -- whereas Patrick's totally isolated with no one to offer regular reality checks. So I like the "what if Bateman had a Jeeves?" element of the parody.

I guess the soulless yuppie is just the Twenties gay blade without servants.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:47 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although Rhian Jones takes a decent crack at defending BEE, she's still in the position, along with Mary Herron, of making much, much more of Ellis' book than Ellis did himself. Just the mental image of Chloe Sevigny channeling Stephen Fry as Jeeves is worth more than the sum total of Ellis' career--no, make that the sum total of anything Ellis could have possibly done with his life.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:14 AM on May 27, 2011


It's like this was written just especially for me. Two of my favorite things, together at last!

But, following FelliniBlank, now I really want to see this trick done the other way, where Bertie does, in fact, take a chainsaw to Madeleine Bassett.
posted by rusty at 11:33 AM on May 27, 2011


...she's still in the position, along with Mary Herron, of making much, much more of Ellis' book than Ellis did himself.

And... so? Traditionally, authors are just about the worst interpreters of their own work. If you're not following the author's own view, chances are you're on the right track.
posted by rusty at 11:34 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The point that I was making, rusty, wasn't that they're better than BEE would be at interpreting his work in those media, but that they're far better works of art than the original book was, all mention of apples and oranges aside.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:42 PM on May 27, 2011


Just the mental image of Chloe Sevigny channeling Stephen Fry as Jeeves is worth more than the sum total of Ellis' career--no, make that the sum total of anything Ellis could have possibly done with his life.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:14 AM on May 28 [+] [!]

What a horrid thing to say. You mightn't like his works, but is that any reason to condemn his life ab ovo?
posted by oxford blue at 10:41 PM on May 30, 2011


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