Book Recommendation: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
This is a story about madness. Not raving madness, which shows its face through obvious traits. Schizophrenic mutterings. Self-inflicted abuse. This is the story of arguably the most insidious madness–the kind that charms, seduces and is, above all, heartless. Jon Ronson’s most recent non-fiction work, The Psychopath Test, is a dizzying trip down the rabbit hole of this particular kind of madness–psychopathy.
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We’re drawn into the story at the same time, and much in the same way, as Ronson himself is. A group of the world’s top researchers are plagued by an elaborate riddle, set in a series of curiously handmade books, and Ronson is called upon to investigate. He is of course, an established London writer, and by this time, fairly well-known for his taste in the fringes of investigative journalism. He is sucked into the mystery immediately, with an obsessive, infectious fervor.
It’s through this riddle that he unwittingly stumbles into the world of psychopaths. Once solved, he finds that the world is populated by a group of people he had never truly examined–people that act without empathic reason and wreak havoc on the world simply because they can. This realization is what sparks the hunt for psychopaths and what makes this book such a captivating read. We follow as he moves from influential psychologists who teach him how to detect psychopathy, to encounters with mass murderers and even a notoriously cruel CEO of one of America’s biggest companies. The deeper he sinks, the deeper we sink–into this parallel universe of the emotionally deprived.
But there’s another layer woven throughout this hunt for madness. You can feel it early on, in the twitchy style that Ronson’s words carry. He confesses deep nervousness, and constant crippling fears that his wife is in danger. Even his search for psychopathy is an anxious one, as though fueled by a desire to understand his own brand of disorder. Ronson is in a permanent state of anxiety, and is wracked with it. He’s easily intimidated by his interview subjects, worrying constantly but still pushing on. For me, this added facet was a crucial one. Rather than follow a story told through a detached third person, we’re led by the hand through this insane maze, feeling all the while an unmistakable humanity that gives a biting contrast to the psychopaths along the journey. It’s comforting and reassuring, and makes the characters within all the more terrifying.
Intrigued? Try the mango pomegranate “murder” salsa inspired by The Psychopath Test.
Source: I got this book in a newstand in the Seattle-Tacoma airport during a trip to hang out with some drag queens.