Hangry Heart

Originally published in Gather Journal: Sin Issue

Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel American Psycho
begins with serial killer Patrick Bateman watching
bloated pigeons fight for hotdog scraps through
a cab window as his colleagues brag about their
social value. Indistinguishable from each other with
matching attaché cases and Armani overcoats,
these guys bring nothing to the table; all they do is
consume. To his credit, Bateman seems to understand
that this corporate conformity offers no substance,
but he participates nonetheless. A handsome Wall
Street mannequin “simply imitating reality,” his sanity
collapses in a puff of yuppie rage. In ‘80s-era
New York, restaurants are the ultimate status symbols—
especially Dorsia, a fictional bastion of haute cuisine
where Bateman, to his dismay, can’t land a table.
The prospect of lacking the social capital to dine at
Dorsia is emasculating for a status-obsessed
narcissist, and so he tries to quell his appetite for
affirmation elsewhere. Reflecting on the book’s
25th anniversary in Town & Country magazine, Ellis
muses, “In many ways, the text is one man’s series
of selfies,” but he could have also said it was one
man’s series of food pics. Bateman’s catalogued
meals are profuse and surreal: squid ceviche with
golden caviar, eagle carpaccio, scallop sausage,
raw chicken gazpacho, red snapper pizza with
a scantly yeasty crust. Unsatisfied, Bateman’s tastes
get grislier; he attempts to make meatloaf out of
a woman’s corpse, and observes a resemblance
between a victim’s splayed entrails and the eggplant
and goat cheese lasagna from a local boîte. In
the movie adaptation, Christian Bale’s Bateman
chokingly confesses to nibbling a bit of human brain,
but the book doesn’t let us off with quaint implicit
cannibalism. “I’m so hungry,” says a homeless man
he stabs to death one night. “I don’t have anything
in common with you,” Bateman replies, but, of
course, he does. American Psycho is about being
hungry, insatiably so, and being unable to feel full—
to feel good, to feel anything but rage. No matter
how many lavish dishes of rare roast partridge and
peanut butter soup hard-bodied waitresses serve him
in dining rooms filled with the right kind of people
exchanging the right kind of business cards, Bateman
keeps furiously pecking at scraps. 
© Adrienne Matei 2017