How to Review a Creepy Book
The Honest Broker takes revenge on a novel
A few months ago, I published a list of my favorite horror novels.
But there’s a book I left off the list—because I found it distasteful and borderline offensive. At first I thought I’d just ignore it.
After a few days, I changed my mind. A book this creepy deserves to get a taste of its own medicine.
So I opted for a better plan—inspired by critic Stanley Fish’s reader-response theory of literary criticism.
What could be a more fitting “reader response” than to treat this story the same way its author does?
I share the results below in this essay from my archives (with some trepidation and apologies).
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A Reader Responds to ‘American Psycho’
by Ted Gioia
“In the procedures I would urge,” critic Stanley Fish writes, “the reader's activities are at the center of attention, where they are regarded not as leading to meaning but as having meaning.”
READER ADVISORY: I should warn you that Fish writes about style, but doesn't have much style sense.
A photo I’ve found online shows him in a cheesy tan blazer with wide-notched lapels, poorly fitting around the shoulders, over a flimsy dirt-colored cotton T-shirt.
I would recommend an Ermenegildo Zegna two-buttoned jacket, light gray in a textured basketweave, and a Luigi Borrelli iceberg white cotton shirt—close spread collar preferred. Of course, Professor Fish might want to substitute a button-down on lecture days.
Yes, he’s a Fish out of water when it comes to clothing. But when our eminent professor situates meaning in the response of the reader, I say Damn straight!
And as I read through Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, I contemplated my own visceral response to this sanguinary text about a sadistic serial killer who is also a stylish New York investment banker.
I took time to gather the tools necessary for my “reader’s response.” These include:
a DeWalt 14 ounce framing hammer,
an assortment of mid-size nails,
a Bernzomatic propane-fueled soldering torch lighter,
a bottle of sulfuric acid at 88% strength,
a pair of Fiskar orange-handled scissors, and
a 20 ml bottle of White-Out.
I place these in readiness on my reading table. And I put on a pair of HexArmor 13-gauge palm-coated work gloves.
I am now ready to get to work on the text.