Tuesday, July 17, 2007

American Psycho

Now that I've got your attention. Welcome to the ramblings and ruminations of Qwantu Amaru (kwan-too - a-mar-oo).

This blog begins like a good novel is supposed to, in the middle of the action. I won't bore you with my back story or anything like that, we'll get to know each other over time.

I'm currently reading American Psycho, an excellent novel by Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero, The Laws of Attraction) which marks the second week in a row that I'm reading something related to a homicidal psychopath (last weekend was Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris). I didn't do this on purpose mind you, I was just looking on my bookshelves for books I hadn't read yet and these two books happened to leap out at me in sequence.

But one shouldn't confuse Ellis's psycho, Patrick Bateman, a successful WallStreet executive, with Hannibal Lecter. They couldn't be more different on the outside. Bateman is a yuppie living the high-life during the Reagan era, Lecter is a World War II survivor. But there are similarities. Each has given up their respective humanity for what they call the hunger or blood lust that overtakes them. And both are products of their respective environments, on the nurture side of the vs. nature debate.

But hold on Qwantu. Products of their environments? What sort of upbringing or environment would make a successful, good-looking, powerful Wall Street executive, start randomly torturing and killing first women (colleagues and prostitutes), then homeless people, then animals, then anyone who crosses his path?

I'm glad you asked.

The concept is that the elite of society live by different rules then you and I do. They basically "get away with murder" everyday, meaning that they can do whatever, whenever, and however they wish. This leads to a numb, bland existence where life no longer holds any meaning. Bateman's homicidal rampage is actually a cry for help, but the world is oblivious to him. Either no one in his upper crust circle believes that he could be capable of such atrocities, or they all have demons on the same scale.

Now make the migration to a young black kid, well bred, time spent abroad and here in the states, tremendous basketball talent. This kid is raised to believe that the rules that apply to the rest of the world do not apply to him. How? because the first time he gets involved in a criminal altercation, nothing happens. Maybe he date rapes a girl while in high school and everybody is in on the cover up. And this kid makes it to the NBA and one year during the off season, sodomizes some poor receptionist at the hotel where he's rehabbing for a knee injury. And two years later still has the most popular jersey in the NBA store. But I digress.

Are we creating a class of American Psycho's. Are there a bunch of Patrick Bateman's, walking among us? Scary thought.

Much scarier to me than Hannibal Lecter, a character who, up until this point, was one of the most terrifying characters I'd ever read. But Thomas Harris has humanized his monster to the point that he is no longer scary. Like when Freddy Krueger started telling jokes. I never wanted to, or needed to, feel sorry for Hannibal the Cannibal. But I think Harris's relationship to Lecter is not unlike Truman Capote's relationship to Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith.

And not unlike American society's relationship and fascination with homicidal maniacs.

Like a mirror from hell, they show us the true depths of depravity and madness that exist within us all. And we can't look away.

"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change"

Carl Rogers

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