9. American Psycho (1991)
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Areas Featured: Financial District, Upper West Side, Chelsea, Meatpacking District, Upper East Side
Mentally prepare yourself before reading Bret Easton Ellis's reviled-yet-awesome American Psycho. In fact, just pay attention to the opening line, borrowed from Dante to be garrishly writ here in red graffiti: "Abandon all hope ye who enter here." Take the advice to heart.
In 2012, most of the readers encountering the depths of American Psycho will do so because of Mary Harron's excellent reading of the film, with Christian Bale playing Patrick Bateman. A(nother) word of advice: Forget what you saw. Herron's film is a satire. Ellis's novel is not. Sure, you'll laugh during the business card bit, and one long, exasperating conference call, but ultimately the novel isn't a satire. That would be too easy. There's other work to be done in this evisceration of the 1980s.
Ellis lays into food culture (one aspect of his period piece that's immediately relevant), the numbing business that is fashion, and more, all with a blistering gaze. He flattens language with a grossly flat tone that swallows everything it touches. Bateman speaks about Armani suits and stabbing a person in the eyes with the same dead style. This is a horror novel, only we're the monsters. But even that's a simplification of a novel that has to be endured to be believed. —RS