Literary Mixtape: Patrick Bateman


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: American Psycho‘s über-fit antihero, Patrick Bateman.

At first glance, Patrick Bateman, Bret Easton Ellis’ most (in)famous character, seems like yet another obnoxious yuppie businessman on the way to mega millions with the help of Daddy’s friends and a snotty attitude. However, as the novel goes on, you find out that he is not the refined, if mildly ineffectual man he seems to be, but a brutal serial killer who murders people for little reason besides what seems to be interest. Of himself, he says, “…there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there. It is hard for me to make sense on any given level. Myself is fabricated, an aberration. I am a noncontingent human being. My personality is sketchy and unformed, my heartlessness goes deep and is persistent. My conscience, my pity, my hopes disappeared a long time ago (probably at Harvard) if they ever did exist. There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it, I have now surpassed. I still, though, hold on to one single bleak truth: no one is safe, nothing is redeemed.” Well, yikes. In the end, the novel leaves the reality of Bateman’s second life hazy — but in this case, the difference between the impulse and the action isn’t significant enough to bring Bateman anywhere close to the world of the sane. Here’s what we think he would get jealous, work out, and chase people with chainsaws to.

“Hip to Be Square” — Huey Lewis and the News

Given the amount of time Bateman spends considering the career of his beloved Huey Lewis and the News, it’s inconceivable that they wouldn’t at least show up on his “Top 25 Most Played” list. In the film, the critique has a more grisly end, but we’ll leave that to your taste.

“All of the Lights” — Kanye West

Let’s face it: if Bateman were trying to fit in with a bunch of preppy New Yorkers in the modern age, he’d definitely be listening to Kanye. We were tempted to choose “Dark Fantasy” for Bateman’s iPod, but we don’t actually think he’d be straying that far from the single. It’s not like it’s Genesis or anything.

“The Greatest Love of All” — Whitney Houston

Just like Huey Lewis, Bateman treats the reader to a long critique of Houston’s career and oeuvre, paying particular attention to this track. True, boys are supposed to be ashamed of liking Whitney Houston, but everyone knows they all do. Not that anyone would really buy Bateman relating to a song about getting through life’s struggles — but just goes to show what they know.

“Lost in the Supermarket” — The Clash

Even though given the musical tastes we know for sure about, the Clash might be a little heavy for Bateman, we just couldn’t resist assigning him this track: “I’m all lost in the supermarket, I can no longer shop happily/ I came in here for that special offer, guaranteed personally/ I wasn’t born so much as I fell out, nobody seemed to notice me/ I had a hedge back home in the suburbs over which I couldn’t see…”

“In Too Deep” — Genesis

Oh, Genesis. This is just one of the songs that Bateman loves, but he thinks it reaches “new heights of emotional honesty… yet it also showcases Collins’ clowny, prankish, unpredictable side. It’s the most moving pop song of the 1980s about monogamy and commitment.” Two things about which Bateman knows a lot.

“Dedicated Follower of Fashion” — The Kinks

We think this song would simultaneously entrance and enrage Bateman, who might vacillate between loving it and feeling kind of offended. “His clothes are loud, but never square. It will make or break him so he’s got to buy the best/ Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion.” And a dedicated follower of a good facial scrub.

“Wanted Dead or Alive” — Bon Jovi

This probably isn’t the first time Bon Jovi has saved someone’s life (at least in fiction), but it might be: when a homeless lady begs him for change, Bateman thinks about killing her, but reflects, “it strikes me that she’s too easy a target to be truly satisfying, so I tell her to go to hell and turn up the Walkman just as Bon Jovi cries “It’s all the same, only the names have changed…” and move on…”

“What Difference Does it Make?” — The Smiths

We think anyone who likes Phil Collins this much would be able to graduate to Morrissey without too much difficulty. Plus, as we all know, “the devil will find work for idle hands to do…”

“Terminally Chill” — Neon Indian

Bateman likes to keep up with the kids — not that he’d ever admit that’s what he’s doing. We think this is what he might request down at Tunnel before he takes a woman home to murder.

“(Nothing But) Flowers” — Talking Heads

The novel ends with a couplet from this track: “And as things fell apart/ Nobody paid much attention.” Fitting for a man slowly going insane with no one the wiser (were it us, we might have picked “Psycho Killer,” but perhaps that’s too garish a choice).