Tag Archives: Bret Easton Ellis

The Canyons: The People of the Abyss

(Spoilers, darlings.)

A movie about when people stop watching movies, but just keep watching. A movie that has gotten one respectful review “Paul Schrader’s The Canyons”, from a very good writer, Richard Brody, and many reviews which ridicule it. Brody sees the public life of Lindsay Lohan and James Deen’s porn career as tangential, where I see them as central to the movie, the film deliberately built around the off-screen, the movie’s principal theme the overwhelming of the on-screen life of movies by the off-screen.

It opens with a series of black and white stills of abandoned movie theaters, accompanied by an ominous electronic score. The Canyons is about the collapse of one industry that benefits from the collapse of another; though it was shot on a micro-budget, it has a far better collection of music than anything with such a fractional budget might have in the past two decades, graced by artists who might otherwise have been scooped up by major labels, who instead are stuck in the vast abandoned expanse that was once the American music business. The synth music that plays over these opening credits, and much of the movie, is professional, compelling, and cheerless; you feel like you’re hanging out at a discotheque run by Torquemada. Reviewers have tried to connect this opening with what follows, but for me, the connection is simple, and it’s what makes the casting of Lohan so crucial: American movies as a cultural force have collapsed, but the celebrity industrial complex built around it, persists, exists now outside and independent of it. Lindsay Lohan has not been in major movies for a few years now, yet she’s one of the biggest stars in the world, her name alone the reason for the furor around this tiny movie. The casting of the film’s leads implies that the voyeurism of this celebrity is something like the voyeurism of pornography.

This theme has three anchoring shots, at the very beginning, during its most explicit sequence, and the movie’s end. The opening is a restaurant sequence where we hear the voices of the characters, but they are out of sync with the faces shown, the characters seen head on, as if we ourselves were at the table, intimates; celebrity culture is built around this very idea of the voyeur, the stranger, feeling as if they are an intimate of some famous man or woman. The course of the movie follows the ongoing degradation of Ryan by Christian, the exertion of power by one man over another, and we move back and forth from the perspectives of Ryan and Christian, across from each other, at the table. Though not quite – when we look at Ryan, it is our perspective, it is we looking at Ryan, it can’t be Christian’s perspective, because Christian is looking down at his phone, Ryan’s own looks only briefly and occasionally returned. So, this is a movie that establishes immediately that it is the audience looking at Ryan, Ryan looking hopefully back, as if at Christian, but in actuality, at us, and we confuse our own looking with Christian’s perspective.

The names of the lead couple are not, I think, idly chosen. Movies are, as portrayed here, an empire in decline, like that of Rome, and the christian creed was of course born within and begins its spread during this decline. Christian is a man who constantly surveils his girlfriend and manipulates her into various couplings. His girlfriend is played by Lohan, and Christian acts something like the celebrity press, always monitoring the celebrity, always looking forward to them ending up in a new assignation. Christian’s creed, this creed, is the nascent faith of our time, the one that has developed in the wake of the collapsed movie empire. Christian’s girlfriend is portrayed as a complicit party in this, someone who abides her boyfriend’s brutal behaviour, who cannot leave him, and this, I think, accurately captures the mixed feelings of most celebrities: I don’t think I want this attention, not like this, but I can’t walk away from it. The girlfriend is named Tara, and I think this must be a nod to the most famous plantation in movie history, that of Gone with the Wind. Tara is a woman, but she’s also a piece of valuable real estate.

That the film is about our own gaze, our looking on what Christian arranges for us, is established in this opening, when we look at Ryan as if we were Christian, though Christian isn’t looking at him. The characters looking at the camera in this scene can at least be explained in the context of the action; the camera is taking the perspective of the facing character. There is no such explanation for the two other anchoring shots, which I think can only be explained by the theme of the audience’s own voyeurism. In the midst of the orgy, Tara looks up, directly at us, and there is no explanation within the action for this. We are given no sign of a camera filming her, there is no character she is looking at. She is looking at the audience, and her look is accusatory, not seductive at all, and I read it as simply as this: is this what you came for? This isn’t Tara looking at the camera, facing down the audience, it’s Lohan, the Disney princess in the midst of a bacchanal, challenging the audience: is this what you finally wanted, or isn’t it? This is the second anchoring shot, and the movie ends with the third. Throughout, Tara is under surveillance by Christian in one way or another, whether it’s having a man follow her during her travels, monitoring her cell conversations, or getting his assistant to relay the details of wha they talked about at lunch. The film finishes with Tara once again under surveillance, a dinner guest sharing with someone by phone what Tara has just told her. We expect the person at the other end to be Christian, but it turns out to be Ryan, the most vulnerable, powerless figure of the film. He moves the phone away as the caller wonders if he’s still there, and unmistakably looks directly at us, and that is the closing shot of the film. What can this final shot mean, why does Ryan look at us as if we are complicit in spying on Tara, unless the complicity has nothing to do with spying on Tara, but our complicity in spying on Lindsay Lohan?

The film’s title, The Canyons, feels like a nod to the reality TV soap opera, The Hills, the shift to the depths not simply geographic. The title nod is not an idle gesture either, the movie itself designed like a soap opera. Scenes reveal almost nothing of the four main characters themselves, only information necessary for specific plot twists. Gina spies on Tara for Christian. Tara and Ryan are still seeing each other. Cynthia, an ex-girlfriend of Ryan’s, tells Tara a story of her past, that is actually something constructed by Ryan in an attempt to break up the relationship of Christian and Tara, etc. The dialogue is generic in the manner of a soap opera; though the story is set in Los Angeles, nothing in what’s said gives away the setting – you could re-locate the story in New York without difficulty. I look up for reference to find out where “General Hospital” is set – Port Charles, some place in the northeast. It might as well be set in the northwest or the midwest. This applies as well to the way characters use social media. When you read Maureen O’Connor’s excellent “All My Exes Live in Texts: Why the Social Media Generation Never Really Breaks Up”, you see how all the old desires and erotic memories which might have had no path to traverse in the past, now have a ubiquitous, ever present path, by which one might connect with, or surveil, a past love1. O’Connor’s amatory ecosystem could not be reimagined with landlines, but the plot of Canyons, could without difficulty.

Though it’s set in the movie industry, nothing in the way the characters speak suggest their industry, the way the speech of those in IT might be different from a group of doctors, say. The overwhelming indicator that we are dealing with people in the movie industry, and often the only one, is their sense of desperation. Ryan keeps submitting himself to one degradation after another in order to keep his role in a terrible horror movie, and almost every relationship is the submission of one person to another. A producer suggests that Ryan can only keep his part through sex. Ryan gives him what he wants, but shames him at the same time that he satisfies him, and this shaming look is something like the one Lindsay Lohan gives the audience: I’ll give you what you want, but I’ll make you feel lousy for wanting it. Ryan asks another man for work, and the man suggestively places his leg next to Ryan’s. There’s a photo session of Ryan posing in his underwear, and whether this is for publicity or extra money is unclear, and it is unnecessary. It is the same question that exists with many of the pictorials that Lohan has done – is this for publicity, money, or both? And the overriding reason is the same reason for Ryan’s photoshoot: to see you with your shirt off. To ask that you be naked, and for you to comply.

Ryan’s experiences are those of many, if not all actors, and so they inevitably overlap with Lohan’s life, where we might see this constant insecurity, this desperation, reach a kind of diminuendo. You can have it all, and still have nothing. The poster for Apocalypse Now in the production office feels like a sick joke: there is no possibility that Ryan will ever be in such a movie, nor that such a movie could even get made now.

If you’re an actor, you do everything you can to hold on to the roles you can get, because they might be a stepping stone for actual, quality work, quality work that’s so rare or even ceased to exist in Hollywood. You can see why this stress may have gotten to Lohan, and this subtext is the only explanation for why her character looks so worn down – we assume a desperation that is something like what Ryan feels, and what Lohan most likely felt: I want to succeed, but it feels like every move is a losing move, that people get more out of me losing than winning. When Christian puts down Ryan’s ambition it feels like a putdown of Lohan and her career that you can find without difficulty on-line, of Lohan or many others who’ve had great success followed by failure:

CHRISTIAN
Poor, poor ryan. It all seemed so exciting. When you were 18, and that photographer found you. Class trip from michigan, all the way out to los angeles. Yeah, hollywood. And you were suddenly so far away from that shithole town you grew up in. So you did some modeling shoots. Everyone was so encouraging. You even did a commercial or two. I saw one on youtube for pringles2. Looked like a fucking moron. Then what, huh? Nothing. Nada. So now you’re bartending with the occasional hotel gig to supplement your income.

That the celebrity life outside of movies is now given greater focus than the movies themselves is embodied in the very actions of the characters in the movie itself. The film that has brought these four people together is barely mentioned, and is assumed to be terrible. Christian says at the opening dinner that there’s no way he’s going to be on-set for the film, he’s too busy making his own movies – the private sex films with Tara. When Tara is followed by a stranger, I was briefly unsure of whether this was part of the movie, or a stray parapazzo that had been integrated into the film’s plot3; I think this is intentional, a deliberate reminder of the off-set movies which now dominate Lohan’s career.

When Tara asks Gina when was the last time movies meant something to her, it feels like Lohan herself asking what’s the point of all of this. Cynthia describes the fabricated story she tells Tara as the first acting gig she’s had in years. The plotting and counter plotting of Christian and Ryan consumes them entirely, something they give themselves over instead of moviemaking. Perhaps the moment most revealing of this idea of the off-screen overwhelming the on-screen is when Christian explains to his therapist why he hated so much his brief loss of power, when Tara forced him to kiss another man, let another man fellate him. He describes what he sees as the distinction between directors and actors. The roles have no aesthetic quality. Actors are objects. Actors are exposed to others. Actors are slaves, and directors are masters. The difference is a question of power. The difference is a question of control.

CHRISTIAN
There were certain things that tara and the other girl wanted us to do, and I don’t even know why I care. Just some dumb kids on the
internet I’ll never see again. Just…didn’t feel like I wasn’t in control. I felt objectified. The way the two of them just watched and told us what to do. Doesn’t usually go down like that. Usually I’m the one directing the scene. [chuckles] It made me feel like an actor. It’s kinda like how I feel when I’m here.

THERAPIST
You feel like an actor when you are here?

CHRISTIAN
We’re all actors, aren’t we? I mean…we all act differently, depending on the situation we’re in or we’re around. I don’t act the same way with you as I do when I’m with tara. Just last night and here…were pronounced, that… Disconnect. So do you worry about being an actor when you’re here? It doesn’t worry me. I just don’t like it. I don’t like to feel like I’m not in control.

The conjunction of this desperation and Lohan’s own life is what I see as giving the movie the power that it has. That Lohan’s skills remain formidable, that she is given the same plot driven dialogue as everyone else, yet builds something substantial out of it, only contributes to the power. Without this, it is simply a generic exercise, one that appears insistently generic, so generic that it makes you wonder, why was it so difficult to get financing? It is very much a plot driven film, with an all white cast – there is nothing here that we might think of as something that Hollywood avoids producing or does not produce. The film replies to the modern emptiness of American film, by re-creating this emptiness in a different context, one that makes it about the space surrounding the emptiness that we all think about, that preoccupies us more than the movie itself. I think it is done with specific intent, but even with thist intent, it remains emptiness. American film is an abyss, and this movie is an abyss that gazes back. When an empire collapses, a new, more vital tribal art might make clear why the empire fell, that a vitality that was once within the city gates is now without. This new art will not simply wear mourning robes for the old, but carry new life. When the old way of making movies in the 1970s was questioned, new movies sounded the death knell, but they also provided new paths, an escape route. This film provides no such thing. The Canyons gives us no exit.

All images copyright Canyon Productions and associated producers.

FOOTNOTES

1 Perhaps the most emblematic moment in O’Connor’s piece, when a old boyfriend from college contacts her:

That night, Jason sent me a friend request on Snapchat. It was 1:30 a.m.

“It seems odd that at the beginning of the Internet everyone decided everything should stick around forever,” Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel noted months after the launch of the app, now the preferred messaging client for sexting because messages are photographs and designed to self-destruct after a few seconds. “It’s about the moment, a connection between friends,” Snapchat’s website says. “Enjoy the lightness of being!”

The Czech novelist Milan Kundera coined the phrase “the lightness of being” in 1984’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. He meant it as a counterpoint to “the heaviest of burdens,” Nietzsche’s idea of eternal return: “If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus was nailed to the cross,” he wrote. “It is a terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make.”

When we talk about sexual history, we often talk about “the number,” a quantification of sex partners that haunts or ennobles. But when I asked my friends, I found their running naked-picture tallies were just as readily available—if not more available. My friends were polarized: Either the number was so low it could be counted on one hand, or it was too high to count. “Hundreds?” one offered.

Sending a message designed to self-destruct is like prefacing a conversation with “Can you keep a secret?” or pausing a make-out session to turn out the lights. Tawdriness is not guaranteed, but its possibility is part of the fun. Not that it’s always wise. I wrote my reply to Jason on a piece of paper and snapped it back: “NO GOOD can come from a soon-to-be MARRIED MAN friending an ex on SNAPCHAT.” His defense: “It was only 10:30 my time. Also you’re wrong about Snapchat.”

2 I thought this ad was a reference to something from Lohan’s career, but it might be taken from someone else, whose name might be known to you:

3 I give one surreal moment from Lohan’s life as an example. From “In Lindsay’s Stardust Orbit” by the movie’s producer, Braxton Pope:

Fueling the growth of tabloid blogs and entertainment-news shows is the paparazzi, which similarly seem constantly subject to Lindsay’s gravitational pull. They hightailed it after Lindsay in a locust swarm when she left our suite at a Santa Monica hotel and followed us to the local mall, where we were trying to steal a shot. Later, filming at my house, their heads popped over the six-foot-tall cinder-block wall in my backyard, whack-a-mole style, cameras dangling around their necks, as a blonde reporter from the L.A. Fox affiliate prepared to issue a live report. Meanwhile, on two separate days a peculiar man lumbered up and down the sidewalk, carrying a bucket. Lindsay recognized him instantly. Between drags on a cigarette her assistant causally observed that he was hiding an old-school camcorder in the bucket. Apparently he follows her around constantly, shooting video, for reasons unknown.

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American Psycho Part Four: Last Thoughts

(though none of the book’s explicit sections are quoted here, some of the language will be very offensive to some)

Intro
I. Patrick Bateman
II. Timothy Price
III. Blackmail: Paul Owen, the Fisher Account, Evelyn, the cab driver, etc.
IV. A few last thoughts: Robert Hall, tanning, etc.

A few quick last notes.

Robert Hall

A character from the past who I think was in a relationship with Bateman while they were at university. Before he goes to a meal with Bethany, a woman he knew from the same time, we have this quick reference:

God, I’m thinking to myself as I walk into Vanities, only fifteen minutes late, I hope she hasn’t ended up with Robert Hall, that dumb asshole.

During the meal:

She smiles, pleased with herself, and still looking down, admits, with incomparable clarity, “Well, yes, I have a boyfriend and–”

“Who?”

“What?” She looks up.

“Who is he? What’s his name?”

“Robert Hall. Why?”

We expect him to say, Robert Hall, back from when we were at school? But instead we have a long period of him both pretending not to know who Hall was, and being very angry that she’s going to marry him.

“With Salomon Brothers?”

“No, he’s a chef.”

“With Salomon Brothers?”

“Patrick, he’s a chef. And co-owner of a restaurant.”

“Does it matter?”

“No, really, which one?” I ask, then under my breath, “I want to cross it out of my Zagat guide.”

“Its called Dorsia,” she says, then, “Patrick, are you okay?”

Yes, my brain does explode and my stomach bursts open inwardly – a spastic, acidic, gastric reaction; stars and planets, whole galaxies made up entirely of little white chef hats, race over the film of my vision. I choke out another question.

“Why Robert Hall?” I ask. “Why him?”

“I want to have children.”

“With Robert Hall?” I ask, incredulous. “You might as well do it with Captain Lou Albano, for Christ sakes. I just don’t get you. Bethany.”

She touches her napkin, looking down and then out onto the sidewalk, where waiters are setting up tables for dinner. I watch them too. “Why do I sense hostility on your part, Patrick?” she asks softly, then sips her wine.

“Maybe because I’m hostile,” I spit out. “Maybe because you sense this.”

“Jesus, Patrick,” she says, searching my face, genuinely upset. “I thought you and Robert were friends.”

Now, for some strange reason he pretends not to know who Hall was.

I pause, doubtful. “Were we?”

“Yes, Patrick, you were.”

“Robert Hall, Robert Hall, Robert Hall,” I mutter to myself, trying to remember. “Scholarship student? President of our senior class?” I think about it a second longer, then add, “Weak chin?”

“No, Patrick,” she says. “The other Robert Hall.”

“I’m confusing him with the other Robert Hall?” I ask.

“Yes, Patrick,” she says, exasperated.

Inwardly cringing, I close my eyes and sigh. “Robert Hall. Not the one whose parents own half of, like, Washington? Not the one who was” – I gulp – “captain of the crew team? Six feet?”

“Yes,” she says. “That Robert Hall.”

Then the punchline.

“Yes? But what?” She seems prepared to wait for an answer.

“But he was a fag,” I blurt out.

“No, he was not, Patrick,” she says, clearly offended.

I’m positive he was a fag.” I start nodding my head.

Why are you so positive?” she asks, not amused.

Well, he can’t tell her the real reason, so he makes up a few things which are very funny, though there may be a partial truth there.

“Because he used to let frat guys – not the ones in my house – like, you know, gang bang him at parties and tie him up and stuff. At least, you know, that’s what I’ve heard,” I say sincerely, and then, more humiliated than I have ever been in my entire life, I confess,Listen, Bethany, he offered me a… you know, a blow job once. In the, um, civics section of the library.

“Oh my god,” she gasps, disgusted. “Where’s the check?”

“Didn’t Robert Hall get kicked out for doing his thesis on Babar? Or something like Babar?” I ask. “Babar the elephant? The, oh Jesus, French elephant?”

After:

I try to smile. “Robert Hall’s not a fag–”

“I can assure you of that,” she says a tad too smugly. How can anyone get indignant over Robert Hall? Instead of saying “Oh yeah, you dumb sorry bitch” I say soothingly, “I’m sure you can,” then, “Tell me about him. I want to know how things stand with the two of you,” and then, smiling, furious, full of rage, I apologize. “I’m sorry.”

Later, right before he fantasises a brutal murder of her, this is what he says, this is what is so important for him, that makes him so angry.

“I said, what in the fuck are you doing with Robert Hall?” I whisper.

“What did you say?” As if in slow motion, like in a movie, she turns around.

I wait until she’s seen the nail gun and the gloved hands to scream, “What the fuck are you doing with Robert Hall?”

Tanning

Bateman constantly tans. I don’t think this is purely cosmetic. It’s to hide signs of his illness.

“Actually, where do you go, Bateman?” Van Patten asks. “For a tan.”

“Yeah, Bateman. Where do you go?” McDermott seems genuinely intrigued.

“Read my lips,” I say, “a tanning salon,” then irritably, “like everyone else.”

Bateman, though he has such a deep and constant tan that everyone notices, does not want to stand out.

At a meal with Bethany, there’s something that makes him very upset.

“Gosh, Patrick,” she says, looking at every part of my face.

“What?” I panic, immediately touching my hair. “Too much mousse? You don’t like the Kingsmen?”

“No.” She laughs. “I just don’t remember you being so tan back at school.

At dinner with Sean, the meeting ends like this:

Damien. You’re Damien,” I think I hear Sean mutter.

“What did you say?” I ask, looking up. “I didn’t hear you.”

Nice tan,” he sighs. “I said nice tan.”

I believe Sean knows that his brother is ill and continuing to have sex without telling anyone.

Hardbodies

A desirable woman is always referred to as a “hardbody”. It’s a strange label, that the quality most coveted in a woman is the hard firmness of a man.

Pierce and Pierce

The company Bateman works for. The play on words may have to do with murder. But it’s also two men’s names paired up.

Cigars

There are at least rhree references to cigars that I think are intended as obvious phallic jokes.

At the start of the meal with Bethany, we have:

“Didn’t you smoke at Harvard?” is the first thing she says.

Cigars,” I say. “Only cigars.”

“Oh,” she says.

But I quit that,” I lie, breathing in hard, squeezing my hands together.

After he has tortured Bethany close to death, we have:

Later, when she briefly regains consciousness, I put on a porkpie hat I was given by one of my girlfriends freshman year at Harvard.

“Remember this?” I shout, towering over her. “And look at this!” I scream triumphantly, holding up a cigar. “I still smoke cigars. Ha. See? A cigar.”

Towards the end of the break-up dinner with Evelyn.

“Tell me, Patrick, where are you going?”

I’ve placed a cigar on the table. She’s too upset to even comment. “I’m just leaving,” I say simply.

In the last scene, Price, who is sick with AIDS has this gesture:

“I just don’t get how someone, anyone, can appear that way yet be involved in such total shit,” Price says, ignoring Craig, averting his eyes from Farrell. He takes out a cigar and studies it sadly. To me it still looks like there’s a smudge on Price’s forehead.

Price looks sadly at this, since he can’t have sex with his illness.

The Book Tries To Tell Us What Kind of Book It Is

There are two moments which may be the book hinting at its double meaning.

A dinner with Evelyn, where he mentions a photo that has two captions.

“All I can think about is this poster I saw in the subway station the other night before I killed those two black kids – a photo of a baby calf, its head turned toward the camera, its eyes caught wide and staring by the flash, and its body seemed like it was boxed into some kind of crate, and in big, black letters below the photo it read, ‘Question: Why Can’t This Veal Calf Walk?’ Then, ‘Answer: Because It Only Has Two Legs.’ But then I saw another one, the same exact photo, the same exact calf, yet beneath it, this one read, ‘Stay Out of Publishing.’ “

A description of a conversation in the last scene could apply to the strange events of the book.

The conversation follows its own rolling accord – no real structure or topic or internal logic or feeling; except, of course, for its own hidden, conspiratorial one.

The Movie Version

I have seen the movie of this book only once, and have a poor memory of it. I don’t remember if it hinted at this subtext – if it even exists. I don’t see how a movie version could convey it, without letting the veil completely fall. We would see the actions in the book, the world as Bateman wants to see it, and then in the last ten minutes, just like in Fight Club we would see various in-between scenes giving a true sense of what took place – Carruthers and Bateman hooking up, Denton and Bateman hooking up, Evelyn explicitly blackmailing Timothy, Bateman having sex with Owen then blackmailing him over it, the romance with Robert Hall, the wanted poster downtown which says that Bateman has AIDS, the women he tortured and killed, still alive and well.

Intro
I. Patrick Bateman>
II. Timothy Price
III. Blackmail: Paul Owen, the Fisher Account, Evelyn, the cab driver, etc.
IV. A few last thoughts: Robert Hall, tanning, etc.

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American Psycho Part Three: Blackmail

(though none of the book’s explicit sections are quoted here, some of the language will be very offensive to some)

Intro
I. Patrick Bateman
II. Timothy Price
III. Blackmail: Paul Owen, the Fisher Account, Evelyn, the cab driver, etc.
IV. A few last notes: Robert Hall, tanning, etc.

Meredith Powell

In American Psycho, blackmail plays a large role, with several men paying money that their secrets aren’t revealed. That Evelyn may have gotten the keys to the Hampton house through this method has already been mentioned.

There is also Meredith Powell, an almost invisible figure, who is dating Timothy Price.

Price makes this statement about her:

“Meredith’s a fag hag,” Price explains, unfazed, “that’s why I’m dumping her.”

At the dinner at the start of the book, Bateman notices that Meredith isn’t there.

“J&B rocks,” I tell him, suddenly thinking it’s strange that Meredith wasn’t invited.

Perhaps because Evelyn knows her purpose is purely ceremonial. Evelyn hates Meredith, again, for reasons Bateman does not reveal.

Instead of mentioning this and have her bore me silly with inane denials, I ask about Tim’s girlfriend, Meredith, whom Evelyn despises for reasons never made quite clear to me.

Perhaps because the men Meredith exploits, Evelyn is unable to. Perhaps because though both Evelyn and Meredith are exploiting Timothy Price, Evelyn doesn’t consider what she’s doing blackmail, and so she considers what Meredith is doing utterly cruel.

There is this conversation between Price and Bateman, where possibly what the women are paid for are different things, one for sex, the other for appearing to be a girlfriend.

“Might as well hire someone from an escort service,” he shouts bitterly, almost without thinking.

“Why?” I shout.

“Because she’s gonna cost you a lot more to get laid.”

“No way,” I scream.

“Listen, I put up with it too,” Price shouts, lightly shaking his glass. Ice cubes clank loudly, surprising me. “Meredith’s the same way. She expects to be paid. They all do.

Later, Meredith is dating someone else prominent.

“How is Meredith?” I ask, trying to mask my void of disinterest.

“Oh god She’s dating Richard Cunningham.” Evelyn moans. “He’s at First Boston. If you can believe it.”

Then Van Patten.

“But there’s a limit,” Van Patten is saying. “The point is, I mean, I don’t want to spend the evening with the Cookie Monster.”

“But you’re still dating Meredith so, uh, what’s the difference?” I ask. Naturally he doesn’t hear.

Meredith makes only a brief appearance in the book at the Christmas party, where she’s now with Paul Owen.

Meredith is wearing a beaded wool gabardine dress and bolero by Geoffrey Beene from Barney’s, diamond and gold earrings by James Savitt ($13,000), gloves by Geoffrey Beene for Portolano products, and she says, “Yes boys? What are you two talking about? Making up Christmas lists?”

“The sea urchins at Le Bernardin, darling,” Owen says.

“My favorite topic.” Meredith drapes an arm over my shoulder, while she confides to me as an aside, ‘”They’re fabulous.”

“Delectable.” I cough nervously.

So she has a very rich outfit, and for some reason, when she starts talking to Bateman, he gets worried.

When Paul Owen disappears, we find out in the conversation with the detective that she’s dating someone else, and she believes Owen still has money to pay her.

“Listen, like I said, I was just hired by Meredith.” He sighs, closing his book.

Tentatively, I ask, “Did you know that Meredith Powell is dating Brock Thompson?”

He shrugs, sighs. “I don’t know about that. All I know is that Paul Owen owes her supposedly a lot of money.”

She appears one last time, seemingly indifferent to the disappearance of her ex.

I also run into Meredith Powell later this week, on Friday night, at Ereze with Brock Thompson, and though we talk for ten minutes, mostly about why neither one of us is in the Hamptons, with Brock glaring at me the entire time, she doesn’t mention Paul Owen once.

So, among the men that Meredith acts as a beard for are Price, Owen, Van Patten, Cunningham, and Thompson. In a book where all the men often look the same, where two of the most aggressively male, Bateman and Price, are gay, this raises the possibility of a larger prank – that all the male executives in the book are secretly gay, though not all of them are aware of these secret identities.

Paul Owen and the Fisher Account

Meredith is with Paul Owen for a while, and it is Paul Owen who is also involved in blackmailing various men in turn, though it is not revealed explicitly as such. He is instead connected with the Fisher account, which Bateman is obsessed with for a considerable while, constantly wondering how Owen obtained it, and which he describes as “mysterious” for reasons he never says. Then, suddenly, with the disappearance of Owen, all talk of the importance of the Fisher account ends. The Fisher account is a very lucrative prize obtained through this blackmail.

This is how Owen and the Fisher account first show up in the book.

Price began his spiel today over lunch and then brought it up again during the squash game and continued ranting over drinks at Harry’s where he had gone on, over three J&Bs and water, much more interestingly about the Fisher account that Paul Owen is handling.

Preston slurs that he obtained the Fisher account not through Owen’s own merits, but the usual suspect, jewish connections.

Owen stands at the bar wearing a double-breasted wool suit.

“He’s handling the Fisher account,” someone says.

“Lucky bastard,” someone else murmurs.

“Lucky Jew bastard,” Preston says.

“Oh Jesus, Preston,” I say. “What does that have to do with anything?”

He’s someone Bateman is frightened of.

“No. Oh no,” Van Patten says ominously. “He hasn’t spotted us yet.”

“Victor Powell? Paul Owen?” I say, suddenly scared.

I look over at Paul Owen, sitting in a booth with three other guys – one of whom could be Jeff Duvall, suspenders, slicked-back hair, horn-rimmed glasses, all of them drinking champagne – and I lazily wonder about how Owen got the Fisher account.

The only long conversation between them.

“How have you been?” Owen asks.

“I’ve been great,” I say. “And you?”

“Oh terrific,” he says. “How’s the Hawkins account going?”

“It’s…” I stall and then continue, faltering momentarily, “It’s… all right.”

“Really?” he asks, vaguely concerned. “That’s interesting,” he says, smiling, hands clasped together behind his back. “Not great?”

“Oh well,” I say. “You… know.”

“And how’s Marcia?” he asks, still smiling, looking over the room, not really listening to me. “She’s a great girl.”

“Oh yes,” I say, shaken. “I’m… lucky.”

Owen has mistaken me for Marcus Halberstam (even though Marcus is dating Cecelia Wagner) but for some reason it really doesn’t matter and it seems a logical faux pas since Marcus works at P & P also, in fact does the same exact thing I do, and he also has a penchant for Valentino suits and clear prescription glasses and we share the same barber at the same place, the Pierre Hotel, so it seems understandable; it doesn’t irk me. But Paul Denton keeps staring at me, or trying not to, as if he knows something, as if he’s not quite sure if he recognizes me or not, and it makes me wonder if maybe he was on that cruise a long time ago, one night last March. If that’s the case, I’m thinking, I should get his telephone number or, better yet, his address.

Bateman is very nervous talking to this man, and wants to say as little as possible to him out of fear. The bolded text on Halberstam, I think, carries a double meaning – he knows Halberstam is in the closet as well. The scene also includes the strange brief appearance of Denton.

The next time Owen shows up is at the U2 concert. There is the very unusual moment where Bateman watches Bono and is incredibly turned on. It is after this that he suddenly has an incredible need to ask Owen about the Fisher account.

And then everyone, the audience, the band, reappears and the music slowly swells up and Bono turns away and I’m left tingling, my face flushed, an aching erection pulsing against my thigh, my hands clenched in fists of tension. But suddenly everything stops, as if a switch has been turned off, the backdrop flashes back to white. Bono is on the other side of the stage now and everything, the feeling in my heart, the sensation combing my brain, vanishes and now more than ever I need to know about the Fisher account that Owen is handling and this information seems vital, more pertinent than the bond I feel I have with Bono, who is now dissolving and remote.

I don’t think this a jape at a banker whose every feeling moves him towards money and business. It’s the fact that his attraction to Bono on stage and the Fisher account are connected.

During the concert, he manages to talk to Owen about it.

“Are you still handling the Fisher account?” I shout back.

“Yeah,” he screams. “Lucked out, huh, Marcus?”

“You sure did,” I scream. “How did you get it?”

“Well, I had the Ransom account and things just fell into place.” He shrugs helplessly, the smooth bastard. “You know?”

My bold.

Bateman, at Christmas, is still obsessed with the account:

I wanted [Jean] to find out as much as she could about the Fisher account that Paul Owen is handling.

My priorities before Christmas include the following:

(3) to find out as much as humanly possible about Paul Owen’s mysterious Fisher account

They go out for dinner. Bateman picks a place where they won’t be seen.

I choose Texarkana because I know that a lot of people I have dealings with are not going to be eating there tonight.

Bateman keeps trying to find out about the Fisher account at dinner.

When I press for information about the Fisher account he offers useless statistical data that I already knew about: how Rothschild was originally handling the account, how Owen came to acquire it. And though I had Jean gather this information for my files months ago, I keep nodding, pretending that this primitive info is revelatory and saying things like “This is enlightening” while at the same time telling him “I’m utterly insane” and “I like to dissect girls.” Every time I attempt to steer the conversation back to the mysterious Fisher account, he infuriatingly changes the topic back to either tanning salons or brands of cigars or certain health clubs or the best places to jog in Manhattan and he keeps guffawing, which I find totally upsetting.

The conversation as presented, is completely inscrutable. Bateman never makes clear what he’s trying to find out about the account, what makes it so mysterious, or why Owen is so resistant. The conversational detours Owen makes, however, in not answering the question – tanning salons, certain health clubs, best places to jog – all could be considered places to pick up gay men.

Next, a drunk Owen ends up at Bateman’s apartment. It’s here that Bateman fantasizes murdering the man. I don’t think this happens at all. I believe they have sex, Bateman blackmails Owen, who is then forced to leave for London. Bateman, who constantly resorts to violent fantasy as a cover for his gay life does so here. The Fisher account is never brought up again – except in the last scene when an unknown voice asks who’s handling it, though an answer is never given.

The hint given that Owen and Bateman have had sex is subtle, but there in the detective interview.

“Well.” I cough, swallowing two Nuprin, dry. “I didn’t know him that well.”

“How well did you know him?” he asks.

“I’m… at a loss,” I tell him, somewhat truthfully. “He was part of that whole… Yale thing, you know.”

“Yale thing?” he asks, confused.

I pause, having no idea what I’m talking about. “Yeah . . Yale thing.”

“What do you mean… Yale thing?” Now he’s intrigued.

I pause again – what do I mean? “Well, I think, for one, that he was probably a closet homosexual.” I have no idea; doubt it, considering his taste in babes.

He doubts it, though Owen dates Meredith who’s already been described as a “fag hag”. Owen also dated Laurie Kennedy, and Bateman has as well. The Yale Club bathroom is the scene of the first prolonged encounter with Carruthers.

Also,

I’m sensing frustration on Kimball’s part and he asks, “What kind of man was he? Besides” – he falters, tries to smile – “the information you’ve just given.”

How could I describe Paul Owen to this guy? Boasting, arrogant, cheerful dickhead who constantly weaseled his way out of checks at Nell’s? That I’m heir to the unfortunate information that his penis had a name and that name was Michael? No. Calmer, Bateman. I think that I’m smiling.

Although it’s very subtle, and I’m unsure of it, I think Bateman is very nervous during the interview with the private investigator for a reason that has nothing to do with his fantasy of killing Owen.

The door to the office opens and I wave in the detective, who is surprisingly young, maybe my age, wearing a linen Armani suit not unlike mine, though his is slightly disheveled in a hip way, which worries me.

I think about it, then feebly announce, “We were both seven in 1969.”

Kimball smiles. “So was I.”

The investigator is the same age as Bateman and Owen. He dresses like Bateman, but in a way that’s more hip, which for the strangest reason frightens him. He suspects that the investigator is gay, but openly gay, and that he can tell that Bateman is as well, but hiding it.

The Cabdriver

The last instance of blackmail in the novel involves an entirely new character, the cabdriver, and it is the second to last scene. The cabdriver sees Bateman, knows he’s wanted for something, then threatens to tell unless his valuables are handed over. In the context of Bateman as serial killer, it makes no sense. The cabdriver is not frightened of the man at all. He shows no interest in calling the police or killing Bateman, though as a cabbie, he no doubt has been threatened with the possibility of violent crime. Though his photo ID is there in the cab, he points a gun at Bateman, then takes his watch, cash, and sunglasses with impunity as if he knows that Bateman will never ever try to identify him. It is not a fantasy of Bateman’s, since he neither kills the cabbie or the old woman who taunts him afterwards.

It does however, make sense in a differet context.

The chapter opens like this:

Another broken scene in what passes for my life occurs on Wednesday, seemingly pointing to someone’s fault, though whose I can’t be sure.

The scene is broken, we are only getting the partial story. Someone else, another identity is to blame for what happens next. I don’t think the next few quotes require much elaboration.

“Hey, don’t I know you?” he asks in a thick, barely penetrable accent that could easily be either New Jersey or Mediterranean.

“No.” I start putting the Walkman back on.

“You look familiar,” he says. “What’s your name?”

“I’ve seen your face somewhere.”

Finally, exasperated, I ask, trying to appear casual, “You have? Really? Interesting. Just watch the road, Abdullah.”

There’s a long, scary pause while he stares at me in the rearview mirror and the grim smile fades. His face is blank. He says, “I know. Man, I know who you are,” and he’s nodding, his mouth drawn tight.

“You’re the guy who kill Solly.” His face is locked into a determined grimace. As with everything else, the following happens very quickly, though it feels like an endurance test.

I swallow, lower my sunglasses and tell him to slow down before asking, “Who, may I ask, is Sally?”

Man, your face is on a wanted poster downtown,” he says, unflinching.

“I think I would like to stop here,” I manage to croak out.

“You’re the guy, right?” He’s looking at me like I’m some kind of viper.

The wanted poster is not one put up for someone wanted for murder. It’s a poster put up in a community identifying someone as having AIDS who continues to have sex without informing his partners.

“You kill Solly,” he says, definitely recognizing me from somewhere, cutting another denial on my part by growling, “You son-of-a-bitch.”

How do you know I’m not going to call you in and get your license revoked?” I ask, handing over a knife I just found in my pocket that looks as if it was dipped into a bowl of blood and hair.

Because you’re guilty,” he says, and then, “Get that away from me,” waving the gun at the stained knife.

“How do you know I’m guilty?” I can’t believe I’m asking this patiently.

Look what you’re doing, asshole,” he says.

Bateman’s last line in the scene:

While walking back to the highway I stop, choke back a sob, my throat tightens. “I just want to…” Facing the skyline, through all the baby talk, I murmur, “keep the game going.”

Continued…

Intro
I. Patrick Bateman
II. Timothy Price
III. Blackmail: Paul Owen, the Fisher Account, Evelyn, the cab driver, etc.
IV. A few last notes: Robert Hall, tanning, etc.

Tagged , ,

American Psycho Part Two: Timothy Price

(though none of the book’s explicit sections are quoted here, some of the language will be very offensive to some)

Intro
I. Patrick Bateman
II. Timothy Price
III. Blackmail: Paul Owen, the Fisher Account, Evelyn, the cab driver, etc.
IV. A few last notes: Robert Hall, tanning, etc.

Timothy Price shows up as an aggressive, obnoxious presence in the first part of the book serving almost as a model for Bateman, then disappears for most of it for reasons that are never clear, then re-appears towards the end as a much sadder, more forlorn figure.

Like Bateman, Price is aggressive in asserting that he does not like gays.

“Did you read about the host from that game show on TV? He killed two teenage boys? Depraved faggot. Droll, really droll.”

Price turns back to me and, after running a hand over his stiff, slicked-back hair, seems to relent. “I guess you’re right,” and then he raises his voice, “that is, if the faggot in the next stall thinks it’s okay.”

“Ah,” Price exclaims. “One of those young British faggots serving internship at…?”

“How do you know he’s a faggot?” I ask him.

“They’re all faggots.” Price shrugs. “The British.”

Well, perhaps there’s another reason he knows that.

In the first part of the book, Price is almost always violently angry, again serving almost as an ideal for the violent anger Bateman expresses later. Though he is such an aggressively straightforward character, his scenes are filled with ambiguous moments.

For instance, in the opening scene, he runs into men who he may know, but who he cannot acknowledge. Someone who might be Carruthers:

Outside this cab, on the sidewalks, black and bloated pigeons fight over scraps of hot dogs in front of a Gray’s Papaya while transvestites idly look on and a police car cruises silently the wrong way down a one?way street and the sky is low and gray and in a cab that’s stopped in traffic across from this one, a guy who looks a lot like Luis Carruthers waves over at Timothy and when Timothy doesn’t return the wave the guy – slicked-back hair, suspenders, horn-rimmed glasses – realizes it’s not who he thought it was and looks back at his copy of USA Today.

A figure with slicked-back hair and horn-rimmed glasses approaches in the distance, wearing a beige double-breasted wool-gabardine Cerruti 1881 suit and carrying the same Tumi leather attaché case from D. F. Sanders that Price has, and Timothy wonders aloud, “Is it Victor Powell? It can’t be.”

The man passes under the fluorescent glare of a streetlamp with a troubled look on his face that momentarily curls his lips into a slight smile and he glances at Price almost as if they were acquainted but just as quickly he realizes that he doesn’t know Price and just as quickly Price realizes it’s not Victor Powell and the man moves on.

Powell is mentioned again at Evelyn’s during the dinner scene at the beginning, one of those men like Denton, Owen, and Carruthers that Patrick Bateman is very scared of, no reason given.

I move toward the refrigerator anyway. Staring darkly, Price reenters the kitchen and says, “Who in the hell is in the living room?”

Evelyn feigns ignorance. “Oh who is that?”

Courtney warns, “Ev-el-yn. You did tell them, I hope.”

“Who is it?” I ask, suddenly scared. “Victor Powell?”

A later moment, during a lunch:

“No. Oh no,” Van Patten says ominously. “He hasn’t spotted us yet.”

“Victor Powell? Paul Owen?” I say, suddenly scared.

Powell never otherwise shows up in the book.

There is then this strange moment at Evelyn’s. Evelyn wants to talk to Timothy, Timothy is very angry at Evelyn, but we are never told why.

“I have to talk to you,” Evelyn says.

“What about?” I come up to her.

“No,” she says and then pointing at Tim, “to Price.”

Tim still glares at her fiercely. I say nothing and stare at Tim’s drink.

They return, no explanation given. What Timothy is about to reveal is not, I believe, that he is having an affair with Evelyn. There is possibly a humorous subtext to Evelyn’s line here.

Evelyn and Timothy come back perhaps twenty minutes after we’ve seated ourselves and Evelyn looks only slightly flushed. Tim glares at me as he takes the seat next to mine, a fresh drink in hand, and he leans over toward me, about to say, to admit something, when suddenly Evelyn interrupts, “Not there, Timothy,” then, barely a whisper, “Boy girl, boy girl.”

Both are very unhappy during dinner.

Price isn’t eating and neither is Evelyn; I suspect cocaine but it’s doubtful.

During the dinner, this small moment has a secondary meaning, I think.

Vanden tosses the copy of Deception next to Timothy and smirks in a wan, bitchy way

And again, Evelyn’s line here is humorous.

Everyone stays silent. Tim quickly looks over at me. I glance at Courtney, then back at Tim, then at Evelyn. Evelyn meets my glance, then worriedly looks over at Tim. I also look over at Tim, then at Courtney and then at Tim again, who looks at me once more before answering slowly, unsurely, “Cactus pear.”

Cactus fruit,” Evelyn corrects.

After dinner, Timothy, Patrick, and Evelyn are in a room together, where Evelyn and Timothy seem to flirt with each other – but not in a way of two people having an affair, but openly, as if nothing can come of the flirting.

Now Price is on his knees and he smells and sniffs at Evelyn’s bare legs and she’s laughing. I tense up.
“Oh god,” she moans loudly. “Get out of here.”
“You are orange.” He laughs, on his knees, his head in her lap. “You look orange.”
“I am not,” she says, her voice a low prolonged growl of pain, ecstasy. “Jerk.”
I lie on the bed watching the two of them. Timothy is in her lap trying to push his head under the Ralph Lauren robe. Evelyn’s head is thrown back with pleasure and she is trying to push him away, but playfully, and hitting him only lightly on his back with her Jan Hové brush. I am fairly sure that Timothy and Evelyn are having an affair. Timothy is the only interesting person I know.

The final scene with Timothy before he disappears is at the Tunnel club, a section full of unusual moments. This paragraph contains many of them:

I follow him as he rushes through the narrow corridor that runs parallel to the dance floor, then into the bar and finally into the Chandelier Room, which is jammed with guys from Drexel, from Lehman’s, from Kidder Peabody, from First Boston, from Morgan Stanley, from Rothschild, from Goldman, even from Citibank for Christ sakes, all of them wearing tuxedos, holding champagne flutes, and effortlessly, almost as if it were the same song, “New Sensation” segues into “The Devil Inside” and Price spots Ted Madison leaning against the railing in the back of the room, wearing a double-breasted wool tuxedo, a wing-collar cotton shirt from Paul Smith, a bow tie and cummerbund from Rainbow Neckwear, diamond studs from Trianon, patent-leather and grosgrain pumps by Ferragamo and an antique Hamilton watch from Saks; and past Madison, disappearing into darkness, are the twin train tracks which tonight are lit garishly in preppy greens and pinks and Price suddenly stops walking, stares past Ted, who smiles knowingly when he spots Timothy, and Price gazes longingly at the tracks as if they suggest some kind of freedom, embody an escape that Price has been searching for, but I shout out to him, “Hey, there’s Teddy,” and this breaks his gaze and he shakes his head as if to clear it, refocuses his gaze on Madison and shouts decisively, “No, that’s not Madison for Christ sakes, that’s Turnball,” and the guy who I thought was Madison is greeted by two other guys in tuxedos and he turns his back to us and suddenly, behind Price, Ebersol wraps an arm around Timothy’s neck and laughingly pretends to strangle him, then Price pushes the arm away, shakes Ebersol’s hand and says, “Hey Madison.”

There are no women in this club, only men wearing tuxedoes. The dress code is tuxedoes, but Price and Bateman are not wearing the proper recognisable uniform. Turnball has a knowing smile for Price, but we are not told why. Timothy is desperately looking for an escape, for some freedom that isn’t here. Ebersol pretends to choke Timothy, just as Bateman almost chokes Carruthers in the Yale Club. Price doesn’t want this intimacy, and gives a formal shake.

Madison, who I thought was Ebersol, is wearing a splendid double-breasted white linen jacket by Hackett of London from Bergdorf Goodman. He has a cigar that hasn’t been lit in one hand and a champagne glass, half full, in the other.

“Mr. Price,” shouts Madison. “Very good to see you, sir.”

“Madison,” Price cries back. “We need your services.”

“Looking for trouble?” Madison smiles.

“Something more immediate,” Price shouts back.

“Of course,” Madison shouts and then, coolly for some reason, nods at me, shouting, I think, “Bateman,” and then, “Nice tan.”

I believe what’s shown here is a hint that Madison occasionally provides Price with sex, and that Madison is cautious about Bateman, he doesn’t know if he can trust him with certain secrets.

Price is leaving; what exactly is he leaving?

“I’m leaving,” Price shouts. “I’m getting out.”

“Leaving what?” I shout back, confused.

This,” he shouts, referring to, I’m not sure but I think, his double Stoli.

“Don’t,” I tell him. “I’ll drink it.”

“Listen to me, Patrick,” he screams. “I’m leaving.”

“Where to?” I really am confused. “You want me to find Ricardo?”

“I’m leaving,” he screams. “I… am… leaving!”

I start laughing, not knowing what he means. “Well, where are you going to go?”

Away!” he shouts.

“Don’t tell me,” I shout back at him. “Merchant banking?”

“No, Bateman. I’m serious you dumb son-of-a-bitch. Leaving. Disappearing.”

“Where to?” I’m still laughing, stilt confused, still shouting. “Morgan Stanley? Rehab?What?”

He looks away from me, doesn’t answer, just keeps staring past the railings, trying to find the point where the tracks come to an end, find what lies behind the blackness.

Not banking, not rehab – there is something that Price wants very much to escape.

After he leaves, Evelyn wonders what happened to him.

She’s asking me about Tim. “Where do you think that rascal has been? Rumor is he’s at Sachs,” she says ominously.

“Rumor is,” I say, “he’s in rehab. This champagne isn’t cold enough.” I’m distracted. “Doesn’t he send you postcards?”

“Has he been sick?” she asks, with the slightest trepidation.

“Yes, I think so,” I say. “I think that’s what it is. You know, if you order a bottle of Cristal it should at least be, you know, cold.”

“Oh my god,” Evelyn says. “You think he might be sick?”

“Yes. He’s in a hospital. In Arizona,” I add. The word Arizona has a mysterious tinge to it and I say it again. “Arizona. I think.”

“Oh my god,” Evelyn exclaims, now truly alarmed, and she gulps down what little Cristal is left in her glass.

“Who knows?” I manage the slightest of shrugs.

“You don’t think…” She breathes in and puts her glass down. “You don’t think it’s” – and now she looks around the restaurant before leaning in, whispering – “AIDS?”

There are two points of interest here – that Evelyn’s first assumption of what Price might be suffering from is AIDS, since, as David Van Patten enthusiastically points out again and again,

“I have read this article I’ve Xeroxed,” Van Patten says, “and it says our chances of catching that are like zero zero zero zero point half a decimal percentage or something, and this no matter what kind of scumbag, slutbucket, horndog chick we end up boffing.”

and by “we”, he means straight men.

The other point is “Arizona”, which shows up again and again, a predictable code for something else.

In the bathroom of the Yale Club, after Carruthers confesses his feelings for Bateman, he says:

“You don’t know how long I’ve wanted it…” He’s sighing, rubbing my shoulders, trembling. “Ever since that Christmas party at Arizona 206. You know the one, you were wearing that red striped paisley Armani tie.”

In the last encounter with Carruthers, he says that he’ll be leaving this all behind.

“Anyway,” he says, once we’ve reached the other side of the store, where I pretend to look through a row of silk ties but everything’s blurry, “you’ll be glad to know that I’m transferring… out of state.”

Something rises off me and I’m able to ask, but still without looking at him, “Where?”

“Oh, a different branch,” he says, sounding remarkably relaxed, probably due to the fact that I actually inquired about the move. “In Arizona.”

And this is where Carruthers believes they can live together as a couple.

He’s not listening. Still on my haunches, I just stare at him in disbelief.

“Please, Patrick, please. Listen to me, I’ve figured it all out. I’m quitting P & P, you can too, and, and, and we’ll relocate to Arizona, and then–”

Until his return, Price is then almost never referred to in the book, except once, and I think it answers an earlier question.

The house we stayed at was actually Tim Price’s, which Evelyn had the keys to for some reason, but in my stupefied state I refused to ask for specifics.

Evelyn somehow has the keys to this vast house. Well, there’s the possibility that Bateman considers, which is that she and Price were having an affair. But Price has disappeared, they are no longer seeing each other, so she shouldn’t still have the keys. Besides, she should be far more worried for herself if she thought he had AIDS and she could have contracted it. So, perhaps it’s blackmail. Blackmail over his secret life. It was perhaps this that they discussed in private in the first scene which caused such tension between them.

Then, Price returns.

And, for the sake of form, Tim Price resurfaces, or at least I’m pretty sure he does. While I’m at my desk simultaneously crossing out the days in my calendar that have already passed and reading a new best seller about once management called Why It Works to Be a Jerk, Jean buzzes in, announcing that Tim Price wants to talk, and fearfully I say, “Send him… in.”…He sits down, across from me, on the other side of the Palazzetti glass-top desk. There’s a smudge on his forehead or at least that’s what I think I see. Aside from that he looks remarkably fit.

He’s become another man who Bateman is afraid of. He carries a mark of penitence, also of sickness, but for some reason:

While writing it down for him, I mention, “You’ve been gone, like, forever, Tim. What’s the story?” I ask, again noticing the smudge on his forehead, though I get the feeling that if I asked someone else if it was truly there, he (or she) would just say no.

Only Bateman believes he can see this mark, perhaps because he believes that only he can infer that Price is very sick. Price has AIDS.

As he leaves I’m wondering and not wondering what happens in the world of Tim Price, which is really the world of most of us: big ideas, guy stuff, boy meets the world, boy gets it.

There may be a secondary meaning there.

During their brief conversation in this scene between Bateman and Price, we have:

[Price] takes this in, remembers something. “Courtney?”

“She married Luis.”

“Grassgreen?”

“No. Carruthers.”

He takes this in too. “Do you have her number?”

He has never had any interest in Courtney, but he suddenly wants to contact her. It’s because she’s married to Carruthers, and he believes Carruthers has contracted AIDS as well, and she needs to be told before she gets infected herself.

Price shows up in the last scene, and once again, it’s full of ambiguity. He gets very upset while watching Ronald Reagan speak, though it’s implied the true cause is something else, that’s never made explicit.

On the screen now are scenes from President Bush’s inauguration early this year, then a speech from former President Reagan, while Patty delivers a hard-to-hear commentary. Soon a tiresome debate forms over whether he’s lying or not, even though we don’t, can’t, hear the words. The first and really only one to complain is Price, who, though I think he’s bothered by something else, uses this opportunity to vent his frustration, looks inappropriately stunned, asks, “How can he lie like that? How can he pull that shit?

Price looks away from the television screen, then at Craig, and he tries to hide his displeasure by asking me, waving at the TV, “I don’t believe it. He looks so… normal. He seems so… out of it. So… undangerous.

I just don’t get how someone, anyone, can appear that way yet be involved in such total shit,” Price says, ignoring Craig, averting his eyes from Farrell. He takes out a cigar and studies it sadly. To me it still looks like there’s a smudge on Price’s forehead.

“How can you be so fucking, I don’t know, cool about it?” Price, to whom something really eerie has obviously happened, sounds genuinely perplexed. Rumor has it that he was in rehab.

“Oh brother.” Price won’t let it die. “Look,” he starts, trying for a rational appraisal of the situation. “He presents himself as a harmless old codger. But inside…” He stops. My interest picks up, flickers briefly. “But inside…” Price can’t finish the sentence, can’t add the last two words he needs: doesn’t matter. I’m both disappointed and relieved for him.

The secret cause of Price’s anger is never exactly revealed. It is someone who is lying, doing something very dangerous, yet looks very normal on the surface. It’s perhaps someone who is in the closet, appears not to have AIDS, lies that he doesn’t, yet spreads the infection around. This could be many people. But it is Reagan on the television that makes Price so angry. Though Price doesn’t know yet it’s definitely this person, Reagan on the TV might cause the careful reader to connect this to a very strange moment in one of the first scnes of the book.

“No,” I start, hesitantly. “Well, we have to end apartheid for one. And slow down the nuclear arms race, stop terrorism and world hunger. Ensure a strong national defense, prevent the spread of communism in Central America, work for a Middle East peace settlement, prevent U.S. military involvement overseas. We have to ensure that America is a respected world power. Now that’s not to belittle our domestic problems, which are equally important, if not more. Better and more affordable long-term care for the elderly, control and find a cure for the AIDS epidemic, clean up environmental damage from toxic waste and pollution, improve the quality of primary and secondary education, strengthen laws to crack down on crime and illegal drugs. We also have to ensure that college education is affordable for the middle class and protect Social Security for senior citizens plus conserve natural resources and wilderness areas and reduce the influence of political action committees.”

This is Bateman, talking like a presidential candidate. There is another scene, mentioned in the next post that also points to Bateman spreading the virus among many victims.

A quick detour back. There’s a very quick hint that someone else may be sick, direcly infected by Bateman, and that’s Carruthers.

From their last encounter:

You are sick,” I tell him.

“If I’m sick it’s because of you,” he says too casually, checking his nails. “Because of you I am sick and I will not get better.”

Carruthers is speaking of sentiment, but Bateman knows of another possibility here.

A quick turn back to one of the earliest scenes, with Evelyn that I think has a hidden significance:

“You know,” she says clearly, “Stash tested positive for the AIDS virus. And…” She pauses, something on the screen catching her interest; the volume goes slightly up and then is lowered. “And… I think he will probably sleep with Vanden tonight.”
“Good,” I say, biting lightly at her neck, one of my hands on a firm, cold breast.
“You’re evil,” she says, slightly excited, running her hands along my broad, hard shoulder.

Bateman’s pose is that of a vampire, biting into her neck, after Evelyn speaks of this other couple where the man has AIDS. The very thing that Stash is doing, Bateman is doing as well. This behaviour may be fatal for Stash’s girlfriend; it’s implied here that it will eventually kill off Evelyn as well, that her life will be sucked out of her by Bateman.

Finally, the last paragraph in the book.

Someone has already taken out a Minolta cellular phone and called for a car, and then, when I’m not really listening, watching instead someone <who looks remarkably like Marcus Halberstam paying a check, someone asks, simply, not in relation to anything, “Why?” and though I’m very proud that I have cold blood and that I can keep my nerve and do what I’m supposed to do, I catch something, then realize it: Why? and automatically answering, out of the blue, for no reason, just opening my mouth, words coming out, summarizing for the idiots: “Well, though I know I should have done that instead of not doing it, I’m twenty-seven for Christ sakes and this is, uh, how life presents itself in a bar or in a club in New York, maybe anywhere, at the end of the century and how people, you know, me, behave, and this is what being Patrick means to me, I guess, so, well, yup, uh…” and this is followed by a sigh, then a slight shrug and another sigh, and above one of the doors covered by red velvet drapes in Harry’s is a sign and on the sign in letters that match the drapes’ color are the words THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.

Patrick Bateman sees Marcus Halberstam, who he is constantly mistaken for, paying a check, or – paying a bill, Bateman will soon be paying a very heavy bill for what he’s done. The “why” asked, and the answer, have nothing to do with the fantasised serial killing, but with his own secret life. The “one thing” he could have done makes no sense in the context of the serial killing, but I believe it makes sense if the one thing was coming out of the closet or revealing that he has AIDS. It’s now too late. He is in hell, and he will never leave.

Continued…

Intro
I. Patrick Bateman
II. Timothy Price
III. Blackmail: Paul Owen, the Fisher Account, Evelyn, the cab driver, etc.
IV. A few last notes: Robert Hall, tanning, etc.

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American Psycho Part One: Patrick Bateman

(though none of the book’s explicit sections are quoted here, some of the language will be very offensive to some)

Intro
I. Patrick Bateman
II. Timothy Price
III. Blackmail: Paul Owen, the Fisher Account, Evelyn, the cab driver, etc.
IV. A few last notes: Robert Hall, tanning, etc.

Let’s start with the book’s lead, Patrick Bateman. First, it should be emphasised that this is not someone comfortable about gay men:

I should probably be stretching first but if I do that I’ll have to wait in line – already some faggot is behind me, probably checking out my back, ass, leg muscles.

I finish twenty minutes on the Stairmaster and let the overmuscled, bleached-blond, middle-aged faggot behind me use it and I commence with stretching exercises.

“You reek,” I tell him. “You reek of… shit.” I’m still petting the dog, its eyes wide and wet and grateful. “Do you know that? Goddamnit, Al – look at me and stop crying like some kind of faggot,” I shout.

On the way to Wall Street this morning, due to gridlock I had to get out of the company car and was walking down Fifth Avenue to find a subway station when I passed what I thought was a Halloween parade, which was disorienting since I was fairly sure this was May. When I stopped on the corner of Sixteenth Street and made a closer inspection it turned out to be something called a “Gay Pride Parade,” which made my stomach turn. Homosexuals proudly marched down Fifth Avenue, pink triangles emblazoned on pastel?colored windbreakers, some even holding hands, most singing “Somewhere” out of key and in unison. I stood in front of Paul Smith and watched with a certain traumatized fascination, my mind reeling with the concept that a human being, a man, could feel pride over sodomizing another man, but when I began to receive fey catcalls from aging, overmuscled beachboys with walruslike mustaches in between the lines “There’s a place for us, Somewhere a place for us,” I sprinted over to Sixth Avenue, decided to be late for the office and took a cab back to my apartment where I put on a new suit (by Cerruti 1881), gave myself a pedicure and tortured to death a small dog I had bought earlier this week in a pet store on Lexington.

In the last quote, we have a recurring theme of the book – the fantasy of violence in order to deal with the perception, and more than just the perception, of being gay.

So, perhaps the first most blatant sign to something hidden in his character is when he goes to see U2, a band he doesn’t like and has no interest in, and Bono is on stage:

But when I sit down something strange on the stage catches my eye. Bono has now moved across the stage, following me to my seat, and he’s staring into my eyes, kneeling at the edge of the stage, wearing black jeans (maybe Gitano), sandals, a leather vest with no shirt beneath it. His body is white, covered with sweat, and it’s not worked out enough, there’s no muscle tone and what definition there might be is covered beneath a paltry amount of chest hair. He has a cowboy hat on and his hair is pulled back into a ponytail and he’s moaning some dirge – I catch the lyric “A hero is an insect in this world” – and he has a faint, barely noticeable but nonetheless intense smirk on his face and it grows, spreading across it confidently, and while his eyes blaze, the backdrop of the stage turns red and suddenly I get this tremendous surge of feeling, this rush of knowledge and my own heart beats faster because of this and it’s not impossible to believe that an invisible cord attached to Bono has now encircled me and now the audience disappears and the music slows down, gets softer, and it’s just Bono onstage – the stadium’s deserted, the band fades away…

And then everyone, the audience, the band, reappears and the music slowly swells up and Bono turns away and I’m left tingling, my face flushed, an aching erection pulsing against my thigh, my hands clenched in fists of tension. But suddenly everything stops, as if a switch has been turned off, the backdrop flashes back to white.

(my bolds)

A very small hint here, a glaring incongruity for a man who appears to hate gay men so much, in a quote which might embody the book itself, the datum there amidst the image of sexual violence that Bateman wants to project:

After more stretching exercises to cool down I take a quick hot shower and then head to the video store where I return two tapes I rented on Monday, She-Male Reformatory and Body Double, but I rerent Body Double because I want to watch it again tonight even though I know I won’t have enough time to masturbate over the scene where the woman is getting drilled to death by a power drill since I have a date with Courtney at seven-thirty at Café Luxembourg.

However, where I think the mask really falls off are in the encounters with Luis Carruthers. A superficial reading is that Luis, a secretly gay man, hits on Bateman, and Bateman, the alpha male banker rejects those advances, and despises him for his homosexuality. I believe something more complicated is going on. This is the first scene where Carruthers expresses an attraction for Bateman. It’s a strange one. They are both at the Yale Club. Carruthers goes to the bathroom. Bateman follows. I believe every time Bateman talks about killing, it’s a way of somehow insisting that he’s not gay, but a heterosexual. And so, Bateman follows Carruthers to the bathroom, where the urinal door is left ajar, and moves forward, he says, to strangle him:

In slow motion, my own heavy breathing blocking out all other sounds, my vision blurring slightly around the edges, my hands move up over the collar of his cashmere blazer and cotton flannel shirt, circling his neck until my thumbs meet at the nape and my index fingers touch each other just above Luis’s Adam’s apple. I start to squeeze, tightening my grip, but it’s loose enough to let Luis turn around – still in slow motion – so he can stand facing me, one hand over his wool and silk Polo sweater, the other hand reaching up. His eyelids flutter for an instant, then widen, which is exactly what I want. I want to see Luis’s face contort and turn purple and I want him to know who it is who is killing him. I want to be the last face, the last thing, that Luis sees before he dies and I want to cry out, “I’m fucking Courtney. Do you hear me? I’m fucking Courtney. Ha-ha-ha,” and have these be the last words, the last sounds he hears until his own gurglings, accompanied by the crunching of his trachea, drown everything else out. Luis stares at me and I tense the muscles in my arms, preparing myself for a struggle that, disappointingly, never comes.

Instead he looks down at my wrists and for a moment wavers, as if he’s undecided about something, and then he lowers ‘his head and… kisses my left wrist, and when he looks back up at me, shyly, it’s with an expression that’s… loving and only part awkward. His right hand reaches up and tenderly touches the side of my face. I stand there, frozen, my arms still stretched out in front of me, fingers still circled around Luis’s throat.

“God, Patrick,.. he whispers. “Why here?”

His hand is playing with my hair now. I look over at the side of the stall, where someone has scratched into the paint Edwin gives marvelous head, and I’m still paralyzed in this position and gazing at the words, confused, studying the frame surrounding the words as if that contained an answer, a truth. Edwin? Edwin who? I shake my head to clear it and look back at Luis, who has this horrible, love-struck grin plastered on his face, and I try to squeeze harder, my face twisted with exertion, but I can’t do it, my hands won’t tighten, and my arms, still stretched out, look ludicrous and useless in their fixed position.

(again, my bolds)

A little later:

“I want you,” he says in a low, faggoty whisper and when I slowly turn my head to glare at him, while hunched over the sink, seething, my eye contact radiating revulsion, he adds, “too.”

I storm out of the men’s room, bumping into Brewster Whipple, I think. I smile at the maître d’ and after shaking his hand I make a run for the closing elevator but I’m too late and I cry out, pounding a fist against the doors, cursing. Composing myself, I notice the maître d’ conferring with a waiter, the two of them looking my way questioningly, and so I straighten up, smile shyly and wave at them. Luis strides over calmly, still grinning, flushed, and I just stand there and let him walk up to me. He says nothing.

“What… is… it?” I finally hiss.

“Where are you going?” he whispers, bewildered.

“I… I’ve gotta…” Stumped, I look around the crowded dining room, then back at Luis’s quivering, yearning face. “I’ve gotta return some videotapes,” I say, jabbing at the elevator button, then, my patience shot, I start to walk away and head back toward my table.

“Patrick,” he calls out.

I whirl around. “What?”

He mouths “I’ll call you” with this expression on his face that lets me know, that assures me, my “secret” is safe with him.

I think for the person Bateman tries to project himself as, the person he wants to be, his whole behaviour during the episode appears far more timid than we expect. Luis completely enfeebles him by what he does. It’s after this scene that Bateman fantasises the killing of a stereotypical gay man and his dog, then the first of the book’s pornographically explicit sex scenes.

Next is the second encounter between Carruthers and Bateman that we see in the book. It is crucial to note that just as the episodes of extreme violence in the book are invented by Bateman, there are also huge pieces of missing time. In the first scenes, there are references to a jump cut and a dissolve; at another point we go from Christmas to suddenly the start of summer.

“Well well,” I say, shaking his hand. Luis’s grip is overly firm, yet horribly sensuous at the same time. “Excuse me, I have to purchase a tie.” I wave bye-bye to baby Glenn once more and move off to inspect the neckwear in the adjoining room, wiping my hand against a two?hundred-dollar bath towel that hangs on a marble rack.

Soon enough Luis wanders over and leans against the tie drawer, pretending to examine the ties like I’m doing.

“Patrick, why won’t you look at me?” Luis asks, sounding anguished. “Look at me.”

“Please, please leave me alone, Luis,” I say, my eyes closed, both fists clenched in anger.

“Come on, let’s have a drink at Sofi’s and talk about this,” he suggests, starting to plead.

“Talk about what?” I ask incredulously, opening my eyes.

“Well… about us.” He shrugs.

“Luis,” I say, forcing myself to make eye contact. “Please leave me alone. Go away.”

“Patrick,” he says. “I love you very much. I hope you realize this.”

I find both the remarks of Carruthers and Bateman very strange; he speaks about himself and Bateman, “us”, as if they were a couple, when the last time we saw them was in the scene in the Yale Club bathroom. Equally strange is Carruthers talking about “loving” him – why has Carruthers suddenly developed such an intense attraction? The point in the reader’s mind is that Carruthers is an utter lunatic, and you expect Bateman to say this, but it never happens. At the end of this scene, we have an almost comic assertion by Bateman that yes, he is indeed straight through sex and violence:

Outside I try to wave down a cab on Fifth Avenue. Luis hurries out of the store after me.

“Patrick, we’ve got to talk,” he calls out over the roar of traffic. He runs up to me, grabbing my coat sleeve. I whirl around, my switchblade already open, and I jab it threateningly, warning Luis to stay back. People move out of our way, continue walking.
“Hey, whoa, Patrick,” he says, holding his hands up, backing off. “Patrick…”

I hiss at him, still holding out the knife until a cab I flag down skids to a stop. Luis tries to get near me, his hands still up, and I keep the knife aimed at him, slicing the air with it, while I open the door to the cab and back in, still hissing, then I close the door and tell the driver to head over to Gramercy Park, to Pooncakes.

The third encounter, where again, Bateman’s reactions are very strange for the image he projects. He is very, very frightened of Luis. Crucially, he views Luis here not as a nuisance, but a threat to his existence in the city.

At first it’s only a sense of vague uneasiness and I’m unsure of its cause, but then it feels, though I can’t be positive, as if I’m being followed, as if someone has been tracking me throughout Barney’s.

Luis Carruthers is, I suppose, incognito. He’s wearing some kind of jaguar-print silk evening jacket, deerskin gloves, a felt hat, aviator sunglasses, and he’s hiding behind a column, pretending to inspect a row of ties, and, gracelessly, he gives me a sidelong glance. Leaning down, I sign something, a bill I think, and fleetingly Luis’s presence forces me to consider that maybe a life connected to this city, to Manhattan, to my job, is not a good idea, and suddenly I imagine Luis at some horrible party, drinking a nice dry rosé, fags clustered around a baby grand, show tunes, now he’s holding a flower, now he has a feather boa draped around his neck, now the pianist bangs out something from Les Miz, darling.

I don’t think Bateman’s fear makes any sense without this hidden context. That a straight man would have to leave the city because of a gay co-worker who is in love with him makes no sense; what does make sense is if Bateman were secretly gay, had had sex with Carruthers, and felt his existence threatened if this secret came out.

“Patrick? Is that you?” I hear a tentative voice inquire.

Like a smash cut from a horror movie – a jump zoom – Luis Carruthers appears, suddenly, without warning, from behind his column, slinking and jumping at the same time, if that’s’ possible. I smile at the salesgirl, then awkwardly move away from him and over to a display case of suspenders, in dire need of a Xanax, a Valium, a Halcion, a Frozfruit, anything.

Later:

“You have distorted this obsession of yours way out of proportion. Way, way out of proportion,” I say, then move over to another aisle.

“But I know you have the same feelings I do,” Luis says, trailing me. “And I know that just because…” He lowers his voice and shrugs. “Just because you won’t admit… certain feelings you have doesn’t mean you don’t have them.”

“What are you trying to say?” I hiss.

“That I know you feel the same way I do.” Dramatically, he whips off his sunglasses, as if to prove a point.

“You have reached… an inaccurate conclusion,” I choke. “You are… obviously unsound.”

I picture Bateman filled with emotion – that he’s holding back great feeling in this encounter. I find this puzzling, if Carruthers is just a stalker, that the emotional stakes are so high.

Later:

At the same time I ask Luis to “Go away” he sobs, “Oh god, Patrick, why don’t you like me?” and then, unfortunately, he falls to the floor at my feet.

“Get up,” I mutter, standing there. “Get up.”

“Why can’t we be together?” he sobs, pounding his fist on the floor.

“Because I… don’t” – I look around the store quickly to make sure no one is listening; he reaches for my knee, I brush his hand away – “find you… sexually attractive,” I whisper loudly, staring down at him. “I can’t believe I actually said that,” I mumble to myself, to no one, and then shake my head, trying to clear it, things reaching a level of confusion that I’m incapable of registering. I tell Luis, “Leave me alone, please,” and I start to walk away.

Again, I’m befuddled by Bateman’s reaction here – that he speaks of sexual attraction. The line you expect from Bateman, a heterosexual alpha male, or any heterosexual male for that matter, is quite clearly “Because I’m not gay”. But this is not what he says – perhaps because Luis would be able to state clearly that it’s not true. And, again, the intensity of the moment – that there is such a level of confusion.

Finally, there are two men who show up mutely in the book for apparently no reason at all, though they make sense given the context of Bateman’s secret life.

There is this encounter with Paul Denton at Harry’s Bar. There is no mention of him before or after this scene, and no explanation is ever offered of his behaviour. I don’t think the quotes require any further elaboration.

“Hello, men,” Owen says and he introduces the two guys he’s with, Trent Moore and someone named Paul Denton.

But Paul Denton keeps staring at me, or trying not to, as if he knows something, as if he’s not quite sure if he recognizes me or not, and it makes me wonder if maybe he was on that cruise a long time ago, one night last March. If that’s the case, I’m thinking, I should get his telephone number or, better yet, his address.

Before they leave, Denton looks over at our table, at me, one last time, and he seems panicked, convinced of something by my presence, as if he recognized me from somewhere, and this, in turn, freaks me out.

A briefly glimpsed older man named George Levanter in one of the last scenes in the book, where he breaks up with Evelyn, which is preceded by a reference to the ’80s “Silence = Death” public service campaign on AIDS.

“What are all these T-shirts I’ve been seeing?” she asks. “All over the city? Have you seen them? Silkience Equals Death? Are people having problems with their conditioners or something? Am I missing something? What were we talking about?”

“No, that’s absolutely wrong. It’s Science Equals Death.” I sigh, close my eyes.

“Jesus, Evelyn, only you could confuse that and a hair product.” I have no idea what the hell I’m saying but I nod, waving to someone at the bar, an older man, his face covered in shadow, someone I only half know, actually, but he manages to raise his champagne glass my way and smile back, which is a relief.

“Who’s that?” I hear Evelyn asking.

“He’s a friend of mine,” I say.

“I don’t recognize him,” she says. “P & P?”

“Forget it,” I sigh.

“Who is it, Patrick?” she asks, more interested in my reluctance than in an actual name.

“Why?” I ask back.

“Who is it?” she asks. “Tell me.”

“A friend of mine,” I say, teeth gritted.

“Who, Patrick?” she asks, then, squinting, “Wasn’t he at my Christmas party?”

“No, he was not,” I say, my hands drumming the tabletop.

“Isn’t it… Michael J. Fox?” she asks, still squinting. “The actor?”

“Hardly,” I say, then, fed up, “Oh for Christ sakes, his name is George Levanter and no, he didn’t star in The Secret of My Success.”

One last, possibly relevant, detail – Bateman appears to be so used to having sex with a condom without spermicide, so used to it that he doesn’t have any when he has sex with Courtney – this would be expected if he were most frequently partnering with men. The Evian, I think, is the old reliable phallic symbol. The language here is very explicit.

“Yeah,” I say, moving on top of her, sliding my dick gracefully into her cunt, kissing her on the mouth hard, pushing into her with long fast strokes, my cock, my hips crazed, moving on their own desirous momentum, already my orgasm builds from the base of my balls, my asshole, coming up through my cock so stiff that it aches – but then in mid?kiss I lift my head up, leaving her tongue hanging out of her mouth starting to lick her own red swollen lips, and while still humping but lightly now I realize there… is… a… problem of sorts but I cannot think of what it is right now… but then it hits me while I’m staring at the half-empty bottle of Evian water on the nightstand and I gasp “Oh shit” and pull out.

“What?” Courtney moans. “Did you forget something?”

“Patrick what are you doing?” she calls from the bedroom.

“I’m looking for the water-soluble spermicidal lubricant,” I call back.

“Oh my god,” she cries out. “You didn’t have any on?”

“Courtney,” I call back, noticing a small razor nick above my lip. “Where is it?”

“What do you mean – where is it?” she calls out. “Didn’t you have it with you?”

He is so unused to using spermicide that he doesn’t have the right condom for it:

“Wait,” she gasps.

“What?” I moan, puzzled but almost there.

“Luis is a despicable twit,” she gasps, trying to push me out of her.

“Yes,” I say, leaning on top of her, tonguing her ear. “Luis is a despicable twit. I hate him too,” and now, spurred on by her disgust for her wimp boyfriend, I start moving faster, my climax approaching.

“No, you idiot,” she groans. “I said Is it a receptacle tip? Not ‘Is Luis a despicable twit.’ Is it a receptacle tip? Get off me.”

“Is what a what?” I moan.

“Pull out,” she groans, struggling.

I reach over and flip on the halogen Tensor.

“It’s a plain end, see?” I say. “So?”

“Take it off,” she says curtly.

“Why?” I ask.

“Because you have to leave half an inch at the tip,” she says, covering her breasts with the Hermès comforter, her voice rising, her patience shot, “to catch the force of the ejaculate!”

The scene ends with this telling line:

“I want to fuck you again,” I tell her, “but I don’t want to wear a condom because I don’t feel anything,” and she says calmly, taking her mouth off my limp shrunken dick, glaring at me, “If you don’t use one you’re not going to feel anything anyway.”

Bateman never has satisfying sexual relations with women – except in his fantasies, where they have the rote step by step quality of pornography.

With Evelyn at the beginning:

“You’re evil,” she says, slightly excited, running her hands along my broad, hard shoulder.

“No,” I sigh. “Just your fiancé.”

After attempting to have sex with her for around fifteen minutes, I decide not to continue trying.

Describing what happens when they are at Price’s house:

I really tried to make things work the weeks we were out there. Evelyn and I rode bicycles and jogged and played tennis. We talked about going to the south of France or to Scotland; we talked about driving through Germany and visiting unspoiled opera houses. We went windsurfing. We talked about only romantic things: the light on eastern Long Island, the moonrise in October over the hills of the Virginia hunt country. We took baths together in the big marble tubs. We had breakfast in bed, snuggling beneath cashmere blankets after I’d poured imported coffee from a Melior pot into Hermès cups. I woke her up with fresh flowers. I put notes in her Louis Vuitton carry bag before she left for her weekly facials in Manhattan. I bought her a puppy, a small black chow, which she named NutraSweet and fed dietetic chocolate trues to. I read long passages aloud from Doctor Zhivago and A Farewell to Arms (my favorite Hemingway). I rented movies in town that Price didn’t own, mostly comedies from the 1930s, and played them on one of the many VCRs, our favorite being Roman Holiday, which we watched twice. We listened to Frank Sinatra (only his 1950s period) and Nat King Cole’s After Midnight, which Tim had on CD. I bought her expensive lingerie, which sometimes she wore.

After skinny-dipping in the ocean late at night, we would come into the house, shivering, draped in huge Ralph Lauren towels, and we’d make omelets and noodles tossed with olive oil and truffles and porcini mushrooms; we’d make soufflés with poached pears and cinnamon fruit salads, grilled polenta with peppered salmon, apple and berry sorbet, mascarpone, red beans with arrozo wrapped in romaine lettuce, bowls of salsa and skate poached in balsamic vinegar, chilled tomato soup and risottos flavored with beets and lime and asparagus and mint, and we drank lemonade or champagne or well-aged bottles of Château Margaux.

There seems just one strange absense of a young couple together in this setting – he never mentions once them making love.

For no reason given, it all goes wrong:

But soon we stopped lifting weights together and wing laps and Evelyn would eat only the dietetic chocolate trues that NutraSweet hadn’t eaten, complaining about weight she hadn’t gained. Some nights I would find my self roaming the beaches, digging up baby crabs and eating handfuls of sand – this was in the middle of the night when the sky was so clear I could see the entire solar system and the sand, lit by it, seemed almost lunar in scale. I even dragged a beached jellyfish back to the house and microwaved it early one morning, predawn, while Evelyn slept, and what I didn’t eat of it I fed to the chow.

Evelyn soon started talking only about spas and cosmetic surgery and then she hired a masseur, some scary faggot who lived down the road with a famous book publisher and who flirted openly with me.

Other aspects of Bateman’s life overlap with the next few posts.

Continued…

Intro
I. Patrick Bateman
II. Timothy Price
III. Blackmail: Paul Owen, the Fisher Account, Evelyn, the cab driver, etc.
IV. A few last notes: Robert Hall, tanning, etc.

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American Psycho: Maybe Not The Book You Think It Is

(note: though I include no part of the explicit violent and sexual sections of the book, some of the quotes from the book do contain language that will be very offensive to some)

A two decade old novel might seem appropriate now, of haves in glass towers and have nots protesting in the streets, a book which is supposedly either a literal story of an investment banker who is a serial killer, or an investment banker who only imagines that he kills a series of men and women, his murder spree a “metaphor” for his profession’s indifference to larger society and the damage he does to it. Curious about whether this book would shed light on the turmoil now, I found a third theme – the book is a cryptomorph, its subject neither mass murder, or a metaphor for the financial world, but about being gay and closeted during the first years of the AIDS outbreak. This is not a case of a symbolic undercurrent; almost all the male characters, including Patrick Bateman and Timothy Price are gay closeted men, with that aspect of their lives, off-stage and unspoken directly of, but most certainly there.

Though almost all the men are gay, they all try to hide their orientation from others. Many of the women are paid by the men to be their beards; the coveted Fisher account is obtained through blackmail over a character’s sexual orientation. This is also why they try so very hard to appear as manly as possible, and do the things that heterosexual men are supposed to do. You’re supposed to talk about women as objects. Listen to Genesis and Huey Lewis. Call gay men faggots. If they want to really feel manly, they fantasize about killing men, about having sex with women and killing them afterwards – especially if they hate women for reminding them that they aren’t heterosexual at all.

A few of the cast, chiefly Price and Bateman, also have AIDS. The book’s serial killer theme is another kind of sick joke. So many popular movies and books, then and now, have made the center of their stories a deviant maniac and his grotesque achievements; the suffering and death caused by a disease that was a far more effective and massive killer go unspoken.

Psycho is a book of missing pieces and emphases on what appear to be innocuous details. They barely stick out in a book where long detailed passages are given over to clothing and work-outs, they may be intended to add to a sense of vertigo of a killer, but I believe their intent is otherwise – that they make no sense at all except to give hint to hidden lives.

That I seem to see this rather clearly is puzzling to me – as a straight man, I cannot say the book “speaks” to me, any more than any book does – only that what the writer Bret Easton Ellis has done here seems undeniable, a very thoughtful and interesting prank.

I split this very lengthy examination into four parts:

I. Patrick Bateman
II. Timothy Price
III. Blackmail: Paul Owen, the Fisher Account, Evelyn, the cab driver, etc.
IV. A few last notes: Robert Hall, tanning, etc.

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