American psycho (Bret Easton Ellis, 1991)


American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis (1991).

Score: Much better than I expected.

There’s no fucking way you can take American Psycho at face value. It’s got a surreal quality about it, also it’s narrated by the ultimate unreliable narrator. Let me elaborate.

Patrick Bateman has got it all: he’s an insanely rich yuppie who barely does any work in his dad’s company. He owns an insane quantity of expensive stuff and spends his life in hip restaurants, clubs, and the gym. He also will do anything to make people envious and feel inferior and can get on the verge of tears if he doesn’t get a reservation for a good table at a luxury restaurant. He also happens to be a murderous psycho. Or not. It’s up to you.

***SPOILERS***The surreal quality of the work comes from the fact that none of it can have happened exactly as it’s described. It’s got a dreamy and symbolic quality to it that is what makes it different from other similar efforts, including some from the same author (looking at you, Less than zero). Ellis doesn’t tell you: ‘look at these guys, they all look the fucking same’. He goes on and makes them constantly mistake each other for someone else. Even people who are supposed to be friends. He doesn’t say: ‘these people won’t listen to each other, they just take turns to speak’, he writes several scenes where Bateman confesses his homicidal tendencies and no one gives a fuck.

And at a deeper level, Bateman is the most formidable unreliable narrator I’ve ever read. It starts with the murders. Notice that he doesn’t murder anyone he’s likely to ever see again. He murders several beggars in plain sight and he’s never caught, so he must have hallucinated it all. But then you look at the sex scenes. Gee, maybe he doesn’t have such great sex as he claims, especially the way he describes it. Maybe he’s not that ripped. Maybe he doesn’t own two-hundred-dollar shoehorns. He’s trying to convince you, reader, that he’s a total winner. But through the masterful use of dialogue and narration you can see that he’s not, even though he doesn’t right away tell you. I bet that Luis wasn’t in love with him and definitely he didn’t hug his legs and beg Patrick at that store. I’m sure Evelyn dumped him, like his lawyer mentioned. His obsession with his tan is hilarious, I bet he looks like a fucking orange brick. And of course he didn’t kill anyone, I don’t think he’s even a psycho or had any sort of hallucinations, like he describes. He just knows that a lot of people romanticize psychos and serial killers and wants to impress you, reader. You’re that important! Same thing goes with the music reviews he includes in his narration, I bet he thinks those make him sound smart and he probably copied them from somewhere.

Anyhow, no matter how much you believe his story, the dialogue is completely hilarious and it’s more delirious as the book goes on. I loved stuff like that story about a guy who got kicked out of Harvard for writing a thesis on Babar, Evelyn confusing Silkience with science or the one time when he’s trying to trap a rat and he puts some Brie as bait, decides it’s not sophisticated enough and adds some sun-dried tomato and a sprinkling of dill.

The torture scenes are quite nasty, and that coming from someone who has basically been rendered insensitive by Tumblr gorn, is a big compliment. They made me literally cringe and I had to make an effort to not picture what was actually being described, so if you’re very sensitive you might want to al least skip them.

To wrap it up, it’s a great book. Great exercise in literature, no matter what an uptight classic literature major will tell you.

Ciutat Morta (Xavier Artigas and Xapo Ortega, 2014)


Ciutat Morta, directed by Xavier Artigas and Xapo Ortega (2014).

Score: The worst thing is I can’t say I’m surprised if it’s all true.

Sometimes the powers-that-be act incredibly stupid. The events examined by this documentary have been quite obscure and systematically ignored by mass media, until now. It was awarded the prize for best documentary in Festival de Málaga and very few people actually knew that TV3 (Catalonia’s local TV station) declined to buy it, despite the topic being events that happened in Barcelona. The campaigning from David Fernández’s part (MP in Catalan Parliament for CUP) helped bring it to light but its popularity actually exploded when a judge ordered that 5 minutes be cut from the television broadcast of the documentary. The word “censorship” had a huge social echo to the point that another judge decided that the documentary should be aired in its full length, when it obtained the highest rating for the territory where it was aired: 20% of Catalan viewers were watchingCiutat Morta on a Saturday night.

The night of the 4th of February 2006 the Guardia Urbana (the Police Department of the city of Barcelona) was summoned to dissolve a party in an abandoned old theatre occupied by squatters. One of the agents was hit in the head by an unknown object and has been in a coma ever since. His colleagues apprehended several people and in the end five people were convicted, including two people who were arrested in the ER of Hospital del Mar after a bicycle accident and who could not be proven to have been in the place of the events, Patricia and Alfredo. If you’re already interested in the documentary, go watch it because I don’t really want to spoil the rest of the content of the documentary for you.

***SPOILERS, sort of***

The documentary is mostly centered on three of the people who were arrested near the occupied theatre, Rodrigo, Juan and Alex, and the two who were arrested at the hospital, even though more people were arrested and convicted. Two of the arrested people near the theater, Rodrigo and Alex, describe how they were beaten and tortured by Guardia Urbana agents and then taken to hospital, where doctors nearly refused to look at them in the eye. Later they were taken to a Juzgado de Instrucción (roughly a Magistrate’s Court) where they describe the judge completely ignored their presumption of innocence. After a very long legal battle, during which they were imprisoned for two whole years awaiting trial, they were finally sentenced to four to five years for having injured a Guardia Urbana agent by throwing a stone at him and hitting him in the head. The same thing happened to Patricia Heras, who also served two years while awaiting to be trialed and was sentenced to three years of prison for having tossed a fence at the law enforcement agents.

The coroner declared and maintains that it’s impossible that the injuries that the agent presented were caused by a stone tossed by a human being, and it’s much more plausible that the injuries were caused by a blunt object dropped from a big distance. The former mayor also declared that he has given a report that supported this hypothesis and later denied it. In the end, five people were convicted based solely in the testimony of two police agents, who were later found guilty of torture and libel in a separate case. Who, by the way, are not in jail, but retired prematurely and enjoying a pension of about 1600 euro monthly (see the sources). It is also mentioned that the people who had occupied and held parties at the vacant theatre had little to do with the civilised branch of the squatter movement and were more like mobsters. It is suggested that they were used as a tool for gentrification by the city hall, coercing neighbours into accepting expropriations. Also, the building is owned by the city hall, so they were in need of a scapegoat if they didn’t want to have any responsibilities.

The interviewees also reflect on prejudices, racism and corruption in law enforcement bodies, as well as the gentrification Barcelona has been suffering for the past decade. Patricia Heras committed suicide during a prison leave and the documentary is dedicated to her memory, featuring multiple passages that delve into her persona.

The documentary has been very frequently accused of being biased or only showing one side of the story. The directors justify it by saying that none of the members of the “other side” agreed to appear on the documentary, and anyway that side had been widely supported by the law and the mass media, therefore they preferred to show the side of those who have been severely underrepresented in this conflict. On a TV intervention just this week one of them invited “the other side”, namely, law enforcement and justice departments, to showcase their versions of the facts. We’re still waiting. Some people claim that they never contacted those people, they’re just saying it to pretend they tried to be impartial, but I can believe they refused to appear in the documentary, because that’s what they always do. Any time they perceive they’re going to be interviewed by someone they consider their political enemy, they refuse to cooperate and excuse themselves by saying the journalist or filmmaker is going to manipulate their words.

The interviewees also claim a lot of things that can simply not be proven anymore. But the thing is we all sort of believe them. In this climate of hopelessness, political corruption and poverty, we are quite receptive to hear that Spanish police agents torture people. Because it’s consistent with the rest of the situation. Because a lot of people have suffered from abuse or mistreatment from the powerful, including the police. Because Amnesty International has some reports about it. What makes people nervous about Ciutat Morta is that this sort of prejudices and violence are so random and senseless that it could happen to anyone. It could happen to you. I want to underline that I feel great respect for the vast majority of law enforcement agents, who devote their lives to making the rest of us safe. But there is a minority of them who are conflictive and abusive. Maybe they believe they can be a real-life Dirty Harry, maybe they just take advantage of their job to vent their violent impulses. But we need to get rid of them in our police bodies, and the management is no doing anything about that, on the contrary, they’re protecting them.

Most people who watched this keep saying they were really disappointed and couldn’t sleep afterwards. It looks like I’m the only one cynical enough to not be surprised when they tell us something that we already knew was going on.


Watch the documentary

Parenthood, maturity and purification themes in “Load” and “ReLoad” lyrics.


Even though I couldn’t find lyrics credits for these two albums, James Hetfield reportedly was the only author of Metallica’s lyrics up to the St. Anger era, so this short essay is going to be about Hetfield as a songwriter during the controversial era of Load.

His lyrics up to this point are quite juvenile: inspired in movies he liked, sleazy beating songs, political rants. In …and justice for all and their self-titled the lyrics are somewhat more mature but they still don’t reach the plateau that is the Load era.

The nineties are strolling by and after two years of an endless and insanely successful tour, Metallica is back home. After five years from the release of the Black Album, Load sees the light, when Hetfield is in his early thirties.

Continue reading

The forever war (Joe Haldeman, 1974)


The forever war, by Joe Haldeman (1974)

Score: Excellent.

The forever war is a much-needed intellectual rebuttal to Starship Troopers. I really like gossip so I’m going to tell you that Haldeman is a Vietnam veteran, whereas Heinlein had to content himself with being a naval engineer, serving in the Navy and never taking part in a single armed conflict. Which makes it much easier to glorify war and the army.

In The forever war, humanity has discovered collapsars, wormholes of sorts that allow to travel interstellar distances in an insignificant amount of time, and with them come the Taurans, that destroy human ships and then run away to be unreachable due to relativistic laws. The UNEF starts drafting the best prepared, most intelligent and healthiest young men and women and sending them to their ridiculous and unnecessary deaths. William Mandella manages to survive boot camp and a single battle, but due to having travelled at relativistic speeds, when he goes back to Earth he finds that several decades have passed and there’s nothing left to recognise or love in it. War is taking up every single resource available and leaving civilians enslaved and impoverished.

It’s very obvious that’s an autobiographical novel of sorts, where soldiers are scared shitless and commanders are ruthless, untrusting and sadistic. Mandella is taken to war against his will, there defiled and rendered useless for any other lifestyle than a soldier’s lifestyle. Time dilation is used to great effect to describe the alienation a veteran must feel towards a world in peace. And yes! Time dilation is not only acknowledged but also used as a pivotal plot device (I complained that this wasn’t very common in my review of Interstellar). It’s quite hard science-fiction until the second half, where things get more trippy, but heck, it’s all a big metaphor, who cares. ***SPOILERS*** Homosexuality as a lifestyle as a form of birth control? Don’t homosexuals like children? Is that easier than convincing heterosexuals to stop having so many fucking children? It was the seventies after all. Also you might be outraged at people being turned into homosexuality/heterosexuality but it’s a fact that in some cultures certain sexual orientations are culturally smiled upon and become more common e.g. Ancient Greece and homosexuality. Worthy reflecting upon. I also liked the design of the Taurans even though I don’t understand why sci-fi authors are so obsessed over insectile invaders, hive minds and the assimilation plot but whatever.

To sum it up, excellent read and a classic that deserves its status.