Is controversial new novel Animal the American Psycho for the #MeToo generation?


The controversial new book Animal by author Lisa Taddeo has been hailed as American Psycho for the #MeToo generation.

Lisa Taddeo, 41, from Connecticut, hit the headlines in 2019 when she released non-fiction book Three Women, which she wrote after spending thousands of hours over eight years interviewing dozens of women about their sex lives. 

She has now penned her first fiction book, which is set to be released in the UK on 21 June, and follows ‘depraved’ 36-year-old Manhattanite Joan, who is filled with animalistic blood lust after a traumatic childhood. 

The ‘hypnotic and horrifying’ book features graphic scenes including the rape of an elderly woman, a forced abortion and a late-term miscarriage that leaves the expectant mother covered in blood and holding the fetus in her hand. 

The controversial new book Animal by author Lisa Taddeo has been hailed as American Psycho for the #MeToo generation

The controversial new book Animal by author Lisa Taddeo has been hailed as American Psycho for the #MeToo generation

Critics have likened the ‘brutal’ novel to American Psycho thanks to Taddeo’s depiction of a slick Manhattanite who revels in bloody violence as they describe their hatred for the opposite sex. 

Bret Easton Ellis, 57, from Los Angeles, published American Psycho in 1991 and it wasn’t long before the novel – which focuses on psychopathic Wall Street banker Patrick Bateman who picks up women and then butchers them after sex – was slammed by feminists across the globe. 

Focusing on the book’s graphic descriptions of sexual violence, one feminist campaigner branded it a ‘how-to novel on the torture and dismemberment of women,’ while authors criticized it as nothing more than misogynistic pornography.

The 'hypnotic and horrifying' book features graphic scenes including the rape of an elderly woman, a forced abortion and a late-term miscarriage that leaves the expectant mother covered in blood and holding the fetus in her hand

The ‘hypnotic and horrifying’ book features graphic scenes including the rape of an elderly woman, a forced abortion and a late-term miscarriage that leaves the expectant mother covered in blood and holding the fetus in her hand

Meanwhile Taddeo’s novel opens on an equally grisly scene as Joan’s married boss, with whom she’s had a affair, bursts into a restaurant where she’s having dinner with another man and shoots himself.

It begins: ‘I drove myself out of New York City where a man shot himself in front of me. He was a gluttonous man and when his blood came out it looked like the blood of a pig.’ 

By the end of the second chapter, Taddeo teases the ending of the novel, writing: ‘I had no idea how it would go in California… I knew I would be rabid…

‘There were many paths my journey could take. I didn’t think any of them would lead me to murder.’

Every husband cheats in the novel, and every adultery is followed by mortal injury or gruesome death. 

Taddeo describes Joan as a wolf while the men in the novel are ‘crabs, crawling around with their pincers out.’ 

In another moment which echoes Ellis’ novel, Joan reveals how she was paid thousands of dollars by a Wall Street trader to kick him in the testicles.  

She flees New York for Los Angeles, in search of a woman called Alice, who is later revealed to be her half sister and whom she hopes will be able to help her cope with her childhood trauma. 

She arrives in California and rents a home from an odd man called Lenny in the Santa Monica Mountains before getting  a job at a local health food store.

American Psycho, which was turned into a 2000 movie starring Christian Bale (seen), was published in 1991, and immediately sparked outrage among feminist groups

American Psycho, which was turned into a 2000 movie starring Christian Bale (seen), was published in 1991, and immediately sparked outrage among feminist groups

However her experience in the city turns her into a ‘depraved’ animal, who is at odds with the juice cleanses and ashtanga yoga classes of California.  

Describing how she once ‘envied people who judged her’, Taddeo writes: ‘I would bet that most of those people had not been through one percent of what I had. But what made me lose my mind was when those people called me a sociopath. 

‘Some even said it like it was a positive. I am someone who believes she knows which people should be dead and which should be alive. I am a lot of things. But I am not a sociopath.’

She begins reminiscing about every interaction she has had with men, including her father, saying she ‘craved men who lived happy lives of which [she] would never be a part’. 

Finally she decides that ‘all present men are stand-ins for former men. And all men are stand-ins for our fathers.’ 

Joan describes being ‘marked at ten’, with Taddeo writing that as a child, her mother taught her that ‘we are all monsters, we are all capable of monstrosity.’

Ellis received death threats in the wake of the book's publication - and some stores refused to stock the novel because of its controversial contents

Ellis received death threats in the wake of the book’s publication – and some stores refused to stock the novel because of its controversial contents 

At another point, Joan wonders ‘why men don’t do a better job of turning off their eyes, saying ‘there are a hundred such small rapes a day.’ 

She is revolted by her growing dependency on Alice, and realises ‘true power came from not caring about anyone’. 

The violence builds towards the climax of the novel, in which Joan plots to commit a grisly murder. 

Harriet Tyce, bestselling author of Blood Orange and The Lies You Told, said: ‘Dark, hypnotic and horrifying, with a central protagonist in Joan who demands your deepest empathy despite every transgression, it’s brilliantly written and expertly done.’

Meanwhile bestselling author Jojo Moyes said: ‘I don’t think there is a writer alive who writes about the interior lives of women with the raw truth and intensity [Taddeo] does . . . Fearless, sexy, brutal and just forensically observed. She is extraordinary.’ 

Sam Baker described it as ‘ablaze with rage and beauty’, saying: ‘You’ve captured all the rage every woman has been suppressing her entire life. 

Mary Gaitskill eat your heart out.’   

The author of American Psycho has since said his controversial novel ‘wouldn’t be published today’ because it would be ‘too problematic.’ 

At the time, The New York Times called the novel out for being ‘moronic and sadistic,’ while some shops refused to stock it altogether.

Despite the initial criticism of the novel, when it was adapted into a movie in 2000, the reception was mostly positive – and it earned critical acclaim from movie reviewers and spectators alike.

The big-screen version proved so popular, that it is now being used as the basis for a new TV show, which is currently in development – according to Deadline.

Controversial author Lisa Taddeo spent years ‘swallowed by grief’ after deaths of her parents – before  spending eight YEARS driving across the US to write a non-fiction book on three women’s sex lives

Lisa Taddeo, 41, was born to Peter Taddeo, an Italian American doctor, and Pia, a fruit stand cashier from Italy in New Jersery. 

Her father died in a car accident when she was 23-years-old, with her mother falling sick with cancer several years later.

After completing a degree in fiction at Boston University, she moved home to be her mother’s carer.   

She recently told The Times: ‘My entire twenties were just swallowed whole by black, death, grief. Then when my mother passed away, I was 28 and completely alone in the world in so many ways.’ 

Lisa Taddeo, 41, was born to Peter Taddeo, an Italian American doctor, and Pia, a fruit stand cashier from Italy in New Jersery

Lisa Taddeo, 41, was born to Peter Taddeo, an Italian American doctor, and Pia, a fruit stand cashier from Italy in New Jersery

She initially felt it was easier to suffer alone in empty hotel rooms, ‘taking an Ambien and passing out’ before she moved to Manhattan where she said she was ‘massively, wildly depressed.’

Lisa worked as a journalist for many years before being offered a book deal by an editor who saw her piece on table hosts and the ‘half-hooker economy’.

She began writing Three Women in 2011, travelling around America and spending thousands of hours interviewing different people who could be featured in the book.

She began writing Three Women in 2011, travelling around America and spending thousands of hours interviewing different people who could be featured in the book.

She also interviewed Rachel Uchitel, who was caught up in the Tiger Woods sex scandal.

She began writing Three Women in 2011,  travelling around America and spending thousands of hours interviewing different people who could be featured in the book. 

In the bestselling book, she explores the desires and sex lives of three women, however she spoke to more than 30 during the research process.

Lina, a homemaker in Indiana, is a decade into a passionless marriage when she embarks on an affair that quickly becomes all-consuming and transforms her life.

Sloane, an entrepreneur in the northeast, is married to a man who likes to watch her have sex with other men and women.

While Maggie, a high school student in North Dakota, begins a relationship with her married English teacher and unsuccessfully takes him to court.

It took her eight years to complete the book, which has been called a ‘literary masterpiece’ by author Elizabeth Gilbert.

She previously admitted that at the end of her two-year publishing contract she had ‘thousands of words of nothing’ and needed more time.

During her time travelling, she met her husband Jackson Waite, 38, who joined her on the road and she became pregnant with her daughter Fox

During her time travelling, she met her husband Jackson Waite, 38, who joined her on the road and she became pregnant with her daughter Fox 

Luckily, Lisa’s editor was fine with the delay in publication and so she continued meeting various women until all elements of the the story came together.

During her time travelling, she met her husband Jackson Waite, 38, a screenwriter who joined her on the road and she became pregnant.

It was published in 2019 to critical acclaim and won the narrative non-fiction book of the year at the British Book Awards.

The family now live in rural Connecticut.    

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