American Psycho is a novel satirizing rich, shallow, Wall Street yuppies, who like to dabble in meaningless status symbols and compete with each other in acquiring luxury bullshit. One of them, Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale in the film version) is secretly a serial killer, who goes on to crack skulls whenever he got one-upped by his vapid colleagues.
This is my favorite scene from the film:
(n.b. Bateman went on to kill a homeless guy after he “lost” the business card contest.)
My favorite scene from the novel (which I read as a college freshman) is the one where they discuss about, of all things, water:
Later, the next night in fact, three of us, Craig McDermott, Courtney and myself, are in a cab heading toward Nell’s and talking about Evian water. Courtney, in an Armani mink, has just admitted, giggling, that she uses Evian for ice cubes, which sparks a conversation about the differences in bottled water, and at Courtney’s request we each try to list as many brands as we can.
Courtney starts, counting each name off on one of her fingers. “Well, there’s Sparcal, Perrier, San Pellegrino, Poland Spring, Calistoga…” She stops, stuck, and looks over at McDermott for help.
He sighs, then lists, “Canadian Spring, Canadian Calm, Montclair, which is also from Canada, Vittel from France, Crodo, which is Italian…” He stops and rubs his chin thoughtfully, thinking of one more, then announces it as if surprised. “Elan.” And though it seems he’s on the verge of naming another one, Craig lapses into an unilluminating silence.
“Elan?” Courtney asks.
“It’s from Switzerland,” he says.
“Oh,” she says, then turns to me. “It’s your turn, Patrick.”
Staring out the window of the cab, lost in thought, the silence I’m causing filling me with a nameless dread, numbly, by rote, I list the following. “You forgot Alpenwasser, Down Under, Schat, which is from Lebanon, Qubol and Cold Springs—”
“I said that one already,” Courtney cuts in, accusingly.
“No,” I say. “You said Poland Spring.”
“Is that right?” Courtney murmurs, then tugging at McDermott’s overcoat, “Is he right, Craig?”
“Probably.” McDermott shrugs. “I guess.”
“You must also remember that one should always buy mineral water in glass bottles. You shouldn’t buy it in plastic ones,” I say ominously, then wait for one of them to ask me why.
“Why?” Courtney’s voice is tinged with actual interest.
“Because it oxidizes,” I explain. “You want it to be crisp, with no aftertaste..”
After a long, confused, Courtney-like pause, McDermott admits, staring out the window, “He’s right.”
“I really don’t understand the differences in water,” Courtney murmurs. She’s sitting between McDermott and myself in the back of the cab and under the mink has on a wool twill suit by Givenchy, tights by Calvin Klein and shoes by Warren Susan Allen Edmonds. Earlier, in this same cab, when I touched the mink suggestively, with no intent other than to check its quality and she could sense this, Courtney quietly asked me if I had a breath mint. I said nothing.
“What do you mean?” McDermott inquires solemnly:
“Well,” she says, “I mean what’s really the difference between something like spring water and natural water, for instance, or, I mean, is there one?”
“Courtney. Natural water is any water from an underground source,” Craig sighs, still staring out the window. “Mineral content hasn’t been changed, although the water may have been disinfected or filtered.” McDermott is wearing a wool tuxedo with notched lapels by Cianni Versace, and he reeks of Xeryus.
I momentarily break out of my conscious inertia to explain further: “And in spring water, minerals may have been added or removed and it’s usually filtered, not processed.” I pause. “Seventy-five percent of all bottled water in America is actually spring water.” I pause again, then ask the cab, “Did anyone know that?”
“With distilled or purified water,” McDermott is saying, “most of the minerals have been removed. The water has been boiled and the steam condensed into purified water.”
“Wheras distilled water has a flat taste and it’s usually not for drinking.” I find myself yawning.
“And mineral water?” Courtney asks.
“It’s not defined by the—” McDermott and I start simultaneously.
“Go ahead,” I say, yawning again, causing Courtney to yawn also.
“No, you go ahead,” he says apathetically.
“It’s not defined by the FDA,” I tell her. “It has no chemicals or salts or sugars or caffeine.”
“And sparkling water gets its fizz from carbon dioxide, right?” she asks.
“Yes.” Both McDermott and I nod, staring straight ahead.
“I knew that,” she says hesitantly, and by the tone of her voice I can sense, without looking over, that she probably smiles when she says this.
“But only buy naturally sparkling water,” I caution. “Because that means the carbon dioxide content is in the water at its source.”
“Club soda and seltzer, for example, are artificially carbonated,” McDermott explains.
“White Rock seltzer is an exception,” I mention, nonplussed by McDermott’s ridiculous, incessant one-upmanship. “Raml”osa sparkling mineral water is also very good.”
The cab is about to turn onto Fourteenth street, but maybe four or five limousines are trying to make the same right so we miss the light. I curse the driver but an old Motown song from the sixties, maybe it’s the Supremes, plays muted, up front, the sound blocked by the fiberglass partition. I try to open it but it’s locked and won’t slide across. Courtney asks, “What kind should you drink after exercising?”
“Well,” I sigh. “Whatever it is, it should be really cold.”
“Because?” she asks.
“Because it’s absorbed faster than if it was at room temperature.” Absently I check my Rolex. “It should probably be water. Evian. But not in plastic.”
“My trainer says Gatorade’s okay,” McDermott counters.
“But don’t you hunk water is the best fluid replacer since it enters the bloodstream faster than and other liquid?” I can’t help but add, “Buddy?”
I check my watch again. If I have one J&B on the rocks at Nell’s I can make it home in time to watch all of Bloodhungry by two. Again it’s silent in the cab, which moves steadily toward the crowd outside the club, the limousines dropping off passengers then moving on, each of us concentrating on that, and also on the sky above the city, which is heavy, looming with dark clouds. The limousines keep blaring their horns at each other, solving nothing. My throat, because of the coke I did with Gittes, feels parched and I swallow, trying to wet it. Posters for a sale at Crabtree & Evelyn line the boarded windows of abandoned tenement. buildings on the other side of this street. Spell “mogul,” Bateman. How do you spell mogul? M-o-g-u-l. Mo-gul. Mog-ul. Ice, ghosts, aliens—
“I don’t like Evian,” McDermott says somewhat sadly. “It’s too sweet.” He looks so miserable when he admits this that it moves me to agree.
Glancing over at him in the darkness of the cab, realizing he’s probably going to end up in bed with Courtney tonight, I feel an instantaneous moment of pity for him.
“Yes. McDermott,” I say slowly. “Evian is too sweet.”
Earlier, there was so much of Bethany’s blood pooled on the floor that I could make out my reflection in it while I reached for one of my cordless phones, and I watched myself make a haircut appointment at Gio’s. Courtney breaks my trance by admitting, “I was afraid to try Pellegrino for the first time.” She looks over at me nervously—expecting me to… what, agree?—then at McDermott, who offers her a wan, tight smile. “But once I did, it was… fine.”
“How courageous,” I murmur, yawning again, the cab inching its way toward Nell’s, then, raising my voice, “Listen, does anyone know of a device you can hook up to your phone to simulate that call-waiting sound?”
Back at my place I stand over Bethany’s body, sipping a drink contemplatively, studying its condition. Both eyelids are open halfway and her lower teeth look as if they’re jutting out since her lips have been torn—actually bitten—off. Earlier in the day I had sawed off her left arm, which is what finally killed her, and right now I pick it up, holding it by the bone that protrudes from where her hand used to be (I have no idea where it is now: the freezer? the closet?), clenching it in my fist like a pipe, flesh and muscle still clinging to it though a lot of it has been hacked or gnawed off, and I bring it down on her head. It takes very few blows, five or six at most, to smash her jaw open completely, and only two more for her face to cave in on itself.