Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho hit bookshelves in 1991. It is widely considered one of the most controversial, if not the most, novel of the 20th century. Set in Manhattan in the late 1980s, the story is narrated through the perspective of the protagonist Patrick Bateman, a young, rich, affluent investment banker and serial killer.
Patrick Bateman's character depicts the perfect capitalist and ultimate yuppie. The novel is therefore considered a critique of the cut-throat capitalism of the 1980s and the yuppie culture that accompanied it. The characters of the novel are shallow and are concerned with wealth, material gain, and superficial aesthetics.
Bret Easton Ellis said that Bateman's character was derived directly from his own experience of yuppie culture. Not that he became a serial killer, but in his own experiences of isolation and alienation as a result of consumerist culture. His first draft of the novel left out the more explicit scenes, which were to be added later after Ellis had widely researched murders at the New York Public Library.
The novel was initially met with great hesitation, with the original publishing companies pulling out because "aesthetic differences", but it may have had more to do with the lurid depictions of sexual violence, torture, gore, cannibalism, and a plethora of other gruesome events. The novel has been highly criticized by feminist activist and journalist Gloria Steinem for it is portrayal and violence against women, whose stepson (Bale), ironically, took on the lead role of Bateman in the film adaptation released April 14, 2001 (USA). The book has since turned into the benchmark of Ellis' career, and a cultural icon, so much so that (real life) serial killer Paul Bernando has cited it as his bible. The novel has since sold millions of copies.
The novel still generates controversy in many countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the state of Queensland where the book is sold only in shrink wrap, and to those that are 18+. The novel was adapted into a 2000 major motion picture starring Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Chloë Sevigny, and Jared Leto.