9780679735779The “unusual afterlife,” as Rolling Stone puts it, of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (PRH/Vintage; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample) is not simply that 25-years later it is still the most notorious book of 1990s, but that the story of a well-heeled serial killer has transcended the outrage that met its publication to become an Internet meme and a talked-about Broadway musical. Somehow its central character, Patrick Bateman, is even an action figure doll.

Flash back 25 years ago and the indignation over the book was fevered. As Rolling Stone reports, “The original publisher [S&S] dropped it and told author Bret Easton Ellis to keep the money — but to please go away.” It was then picked up and published by Knopf. Boycotts were organized and the L.A. Times ran a story defending it on the basis of  free speech.

Entertainment Weekly gave it an F, saying “The only terrifying insights American Psycho gives are into the mind of its creator and the moral incoherence of those who have published it in the name of literature.”

The NYT‘s called it “moronic and sadistic” and said that Ellis had a “lame and unhealthy imagination.”

LJ was one of the few places that printed a positive review, one that the publisher still uses to promote the book on Amazon.

Flash forward to today and the star of the musical, Ben Walker appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, trading favorite Southernisms with the host.

He also performs one of the show’s song.

Even more affirming to the book’s place in the cultural conversation, the very outlets that trashed it upon publication are running pieces recording its history.

Entertainment Weekly offers a time machine take on their coverage, listing key dates in the novel’s reception.

The NYT does the same in an essay that connects Bateman to today’s political race and comments:

“With time, the book itself has picked up a good deal of grudging respect … seen as a transgressive bag of broken glass that can be talked about alongside plasma-soaked trips like Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962) and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985), even if relatively few suggest Mr. Ellis is in those novelists’ league … The culture has shifted to make room for Bateman.”

Comments are closed.