The Mistakes of Patrick Bateman

AmericanPsychoOne of the key factors to the immense succes of Bret Easton EllisAmerican Psycho was the novels painstaking attention to detail. The narrating voice of wall street good-for-nothing/ psychopatic murderer Patrick Bateman is endlessly running through the mundanities of his life, so much more depressing for their sheer extravaganza in wealth and cruelty, which never seem to really touch the narrator in the slightest. Bateman always seems to be at home in this world of specific and knowable things he can possess and destroy, and he knows his michelin-guide down to the blood spots on the last page. He is truly the King of Manhattan.

At first glance Ellis writes Bateman as a supremely authorative narrator, but it is a well known fact that Bateman-the-narrator unravels at the end of the book, where rather silly and incredible things happen, that simply could not take place in real life. Here it becomes clear that at least some of the things Bateman’s telling us are simply wishful fantasies (like blowing up police cars with one shot from his gun) – a fact that a lot of the books critics for some reason missed. Of course – rather obviously – this leads us to question of the truth of Bateman’s whole narration. Has he really killed anyone? But to take yet another round on this boring narratological question is not my point here, since we really cannot know this. Only Bateman can tell us. And he’s not here.

My point is rather to point out some places, where Bateman also is telling us untrue things, even though we don’t notice at first glance. These has to do with music, another great interest of Patrick Bateman, where he for all his knowledge shows that he clearly has absolutely no taste – like preferring post-“Duke” Genesis to pre-“Duke”, which for any music-lover is simply preposterous. I will not even mention his excruciatingly and bizarre long essay on the qualities of Whitney Houston. No, my point is really: although Bateman pretends to know all sorts of stuff about his muscial heroes, he doesn’t know what the crap he is talking about! Mistakes are legio. Some examples (page numbers are from Picador paperback edition 1991):

p. 4: “the Crystals still blaring from the radio.”

Bateman is here driving in a taxi though Manhattan, and the legendary Phil Spector-hit “Be My Baby” is playing on the radio. Of course Bateman, ever the music conaisseur, knows the title of the song. But he gets the group wrong. The Crystals never recorded “Be My Baby”, which was made into an immortal pop-gem by The Ronettes, the leading Spector-band. The Crystals, on the other hand did record many other Spector-classics, including “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Then He Kissed Me”. But any real music fan – especially anyone brave enough to brag about his knowledge – would know the difference.

p. 133: “The only bummer about Duke is “Alone Tonight” which is way too reminiscent of “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” from the group’s later masterpiece Invisible Touch and the only example, really, of where Collins has plagirized himself.”

This seemingly innocent and knowledgable remark actually reverses the timeline of Phil Collins‘ inspirations. Clearly – as stated in the quote – Collins cannot plagirize the songs he has not yet written, and any plagirizing problem should be a problem for “Invisble Touch” and not “Duke”. The comment appears to be authoritative, but on closer inspection it makes no sense.

p. 135: “its second instrumental part puts the song more in focus for me and Mike Banks gets to show off his virtuosic guitar skills while Tom Rutherford washes the tracks over with dreamy synthesizers”

But on page p. 133 the members of Genesis were called by their real names Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. Why does Bateman mix these names up only two pages later?

p. 353: (in a comparison of Huey Lewis and Elvis Costello): “Lewis has some of Costello’s supposed bitterness, though Lewis has a more bitter, cynical sense of humor”

Again the comparison on the surface seems to make sense, but the claim that good-time bar rocker Huey Lewis should have a more bitter and cynical sense of humor than the King of Cynicism himself is clearly ridiculous. Again, Bateman is exposed as a musical poseur who in reality has no idea what he is talking about.

All this of course seems trivial in the sense that the whole point of the novel “American Psycho” seems to be to undermine Batemans narration, but to me it’s interesting that even in the parts where Bateman seems to be on his “home turf” in reality he is – as always – out of his mind.

The Demographics of the World of Warcraft

Lots of good stuff about the sociological and demographical background of the users of MMO-games (massive multiplayer online games) from The Deadalus Project. Apparently a lot of the cliches are true: Girls really are more likely to use healing spells than boys. More interesting: young players are more inclined to play evil factions.

Specific World of Warcraft-information and good discussion here.

What’s Wrong With Galactor?

galactorGalactor is a new Danish internet-game directed at teenagers, supposedly to teach them about the pitfalls of buying stuff on the internet. The game has been created by the Finnish government, supported by the Nordic Council and translated into Danish, as yet another “let’s try to speak the youngsters’ language and see if they’ll want to listen to us this time.” Well, they won’t – at least not with Galactor it’s argued in this article from Danish daily Politiken.

I decided to test the game myself, but gave up after ten minutes (so my analysis might be limited), because the game simply doesn’t work. But why? It’s got internet, it’s got mobile phones, it’s got stuff about dating, it’s got a cool name and a flashy game-in-the-game. But the language is archaic and half-swedish and the drama mainly takes place in a series of long emails posing more or less sneaky questions, which you have to read and read and read in order to play the game – playing here means answering your friends’ calls for advice on buying stuff on the internet: Is this legal? Is this safe? And of course it’s not, most of the time. And that is the problem with Galactor – it has no story. Only a series of events.

Let me explain: Stories are about two – and only two – things: Choices and Consequences of Choices.

Choice means dilemma: It means choosing between good and better or bad and worse, not between good and bad. But in Galactor, the choices are all very obvious, most of them variations of: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t”. Don’t buy stuff from people you don’t know, don’t believe that you can get wonderful brand-stuff at 1/4 of the price and so on. So, no dilemmeas there.

But what is even worse is that even these very simple choices have no consequences. Yes, your answers are followed by other emails from friends asking you even more questions. But if you answered the first question “wrong”, they simply ask you to repeat your answer, giving you the choices again! There are no consequences from giving the wrong answer, because you simply are not allowed to do it. This is not learning through storytelling, this is badly disguised lecturing. At the same time I have no idea what my relationship is with these people or why I should want to answer them truly or not – which is the reason I don’t want to be so limited in my choices: If I can’t get involved in the story, at least I should be able to have some fun by screwing around!

But hey, as the Danish official Mathilde Mei Jørgensen responsible for the Danish version says: The point of the game is not the game in itself, but only to make young people think about legal questions about consumption. Apparently, young people are very stupid and they will never by themselves take steps to buy stuff securely on the internet. You have to trick them into it by playing their favorite song while you whisper good grown-up advices subliminally in their ear. Even if people only play once, this priority is achieved, she thinks. I’m afraid I didn’t play the game long enough to reflect on that rather discouraging concept.

The Revival of The Drama Surgeon

surgeonLately I’ve been thinking a lot about my blogging experiences and why I blog and what I use a blog for. I guess it came down to that on the one hand I like to blog and explore the blogging world, but at the same time I have a problem with people knowing too much about me – which will be the inevitable result of having a personal and honest blog.

At the same time, blogging can be a big boost for your professional work, not only in presenting your skills for the outside world (marketing yourself), but also in preserving knowledge as a kind of note-book of your thoughts. Ever since I shut down my own personal blog last year I’ve really missed having a blog to nerd with (even though I have a group blog for lots of different stuff).

Which is why I’m reviving The Drama Surgeon, and broadening its scope. Lately I’ve been working a lot more with interactivity (mainly on The Galathea-Mystery; in Danish), internet and computers and I want to expand that whole scope of things: Drama In Everything, so to speak. At the same time I want this blog to stay “on the ball” and be fairly specialised in the fiction department. So expect a lot more on interactive drama, maybe some stuff about choice modelling in games and maybe even a visit to the World of Warcraft. But still seen through the eyes of the … drumroll … Drama Surgeon!