More than two decades have passed since Brett Easton Ellis' violent book rocked the publishing world.

By Isabella Biedenharn
March 06, 2016 at 02:49 PM EST
Jeff Burton

Twenty-five years ago, on March 6, 1991, Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho was published. In the years since, especially after the Christian Bale-starring film in 2000, American Psycho and its moisturized, tanned, serial killing star Patrick Bateman have become pop culture mainstays (heck, the story is even coming to Broadway) — so it’s fascinating to remember that the book almost wasn’t published.

Simon & Schuster famously cancelled the book just months before it was slated to publish, citing, as EW reported in 1990, “aesthetic differences over what critics had termed its violent and women-hating content.” But Ellis wasn’t too worried after being dropped from S&S: Sonny Mehta, president and editor-in-chief of Knopf, picked up and published the book at Vintage Books, and, as we reported, Ellis “received a $300,000 advance from S&S for Psycho that he gets to keep, and his new deal with Vintage reportedly paid an additional $350,000.”

At the time, EW also reported on the brouhaha surrounding the book’s release — including a boycott by the National Organization of all Vintage and Knopf books — except those by feminist women.

When the book finally did come out, EW’s Gene Lyons wasn’t too impressed, however: “Apart from what they wear, Ellis knows less than zero about what Wall Street bankers do all day,” Lyons wrote. (Feast your eyes on the book’s failing grade, here.)

Shortly after American Psycho‘s publication, EW spoke with Ellis about the widespread criticism that the book was too violent: “I don’t think anyone should be offended by it,” he said. “In many ways it’s about how horrible serial killers are. I can’t understand how women can mistake the book for a how-to on torture and dismemberment.”

Whether he was bothered by its violence or not, Ellis was certainly impressed with his own prose. EW’s eagle-eyed books editor Tina Jordan noticed that the author plagiarized himself — repeating scenes from Less Than Zero in American Psycho.

Step into our time machine to look back on American Psycho‘s wild publishing story 25 years later.

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