"The Psychopath Test"

Friday, April 13, 2012

I did not actually read this book. I listened to it, narrated by Jon Ronson himself on a fancy little app called Audible.co.uk. I've never heard of Jon Ronson before and I must confess that when I downloaded the book I did it in a hurry and didn't really read any reviews. So imagine my surprise when I listened to the opening sentence " This is a book about madness" he read, in a very characteristic Welsh accent that brought back memories of years past. I thought the book was some sort of funny, light, modern novel! Well I could not have been more wrong!!! But I kept listening. The first chapter is a very odd introduction to the main theme of the book (psychopathy, mental disorders, the people who have them and those who diagnose them) but in my opinion it could actually serve as a nice short mystery story. I kept listening. Then things changed. Became somewhat darker, scarier more important. Scientologists where involved and visits to a real life scary high security mental hospitals and Haitian former death-squad leaders! I became a bit apprehensive. Was it real? Was it fiction?

I went online. Searched for reviews. Mostly good ones. I was relieved. I hadn't spent my money in some preaching manual of the occult. Jon Ronson is an investigative journalist albeit a more humorous than the rest of the bunch! Read a bit more about him and went back to the book; I din't want to spoil the trip of my discovering him.

Most of the reviewers mentioned that they got really scarred while reading the book. Strange, I didn't and I am a person who scares quite easily. Maybe because instead of reading I was listening and I could get the sarcasm with which he looked at some of the issues (the rudimentary test devised by a reality TV producer in choosing the subjects of her show - if you' re on Prozac you're mad enough to go on TV a bring home high ratings) but also the graveness in his voice when towards the end of the book he draws some really disturbing conclusions.

Do "psychopaths make the world go around"? Are the symptom check-lists comprising the DSM-IV manual and the 20 questions of the Bob Hare Psychopath Test, powerful weapons in the hands of psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies and even parents who feel relieved having their over-active children diagnosed as bipolar? You can judge for yourself when you read the book. I was convinced!

PS.1 If I understood the writer correctly and if the selfreferencing parts scattered all over the book are true then I have to be careful of what I say in this post! I am sure he is the type of guy who Googles himself a little bit more often than the rest of us (I've done it also and came up with a portrait of a very old lady who was an inmate in a Greek prison in the 1900's!!!) and I really don't want to get on his wrong side.

PS. 2 Should I be troubled by the fact that my therapist refuses to comment on the questions posed by the book?