American Psycho: Police order book shop to remove unwrapped copies of controversial novel

Bret Easton Ellis' satire can only be sold 'sealed and to adults' in Australia

Jess Denham
Tuesday 21 July 2015 09:57
Matt Smith as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho
Matt Smith as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

Book lovers in Australia have been left shocked after police ordered a shop owner to remove unwrapped copies of American Psycho from his shelves.

Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial 1991 satire was put on sale in an Adelaide store without the plastic wrapping that ensures it meets the country’s classification requirements.

The disturbingly graphic book, about psychopathic businessman Patrick Bateman twisted forays into rape, cannibalism and necrophilia, can only be sold in Australia in “a sealed wrapper and to adults”.

So when Jason Lake, co-owner of Imprint Booksellers, received the latest editions of the novel from the publisher and put them on sale as they were, unwrapped, he soon had an angry customer on the phone.

“I had a phone call from a lady who was quite aggressive and questioned why we were selling this classified product out of its wrapper,” he told ABC News.

“My defence was it came to us like this. There’s no way I would have removed the wrapping.”

But the next day, police asked him to cease selling American Psycho - a decision Lake found ridiculous.

“It was very gentle and polite,” he said. “I just think it’s ludicrous that this person complained about the book.”

Police confirmed that “very co-operative“ action was taken at the book shop, while publisher Pan Macmillan explained that “an unforeseen production error” led to a “small number of copies” being sent out minus shrink-wrapping.

Despite his outrage at the incident, Lake is not a fan of the novel himself, joking that if anything it is the “quality of writing” that should put it on the banned list.

“It’s not a great book at all but it’s a work of satire for goodness sake,” he said. “It was a comment on that period in America, the whole ‘greed is good’ era. In a liberal society people should be free to read what they want to read.”

As for Ellis’s response to the whole 'American Psycho must be in a wrapper' hoo-hah? He “loves” it.

“I told me publisher I want all my books restricted and put in little bags,” he said in 2010. “It’s like a little sandwich!”

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