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The American Psycho controversy refers to a contention upon the release of Bret Easton Ellis' third novel, American Psycho. The book's 1991 pre-reception became something of a media event in and of itself. The controversy surrounding the book had the effect of ensuring its cult status.

Ellis had courted minor controversy with his first two novels, Less Than Zero (1985) and The Rules of Attraction (1987); the first for its scenes of snuff films and child rape, and had not been expecting the controversy American Psycho brought to his door.

Due to the book's graphic depictions of murder, sexual violence, necrophilia and cannibalism. So concerned were Ellis's original publishers, Simon & Schuster, that in March 1991 they withdrew from the publishing deal, forfeiting the £250, 000 advance that had been paid to Ellis. It is alleged by Ellis that employees of the company leaked the more graphic passages to the press. The New York Times ran a review three weeks before the publication date entitled "Snuff This Book: Don't let Bret Easton Ellis Get Away With Murder". Despite such reviews, within five days, Alfred A. Knopf had picked up the novel.

Contemporary ReviewsEdit

Marketing Cynicism and Vulgarity - Leo John, US News and World Report, December 1990


A Revolting Development - R.Z Sheppard, Time, October 1990


Designer Porn - Alberto Manguel, Saturday Night, July 1991

In Lunar ParkEdit

Ellis gives a treatment of the American Psycho controversy in his 2005 novel and pseudo-memoir, Lunar Park. In the novel, the fictionalised author Bret wrote American Psycho in a feverish trance, as if he were possessed. Though some reviewers jumped to its defense as transgressive literature, Bret himself is less convinced. Marketing Cynicism and Vulgarity

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