WRITING STYLE: 5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
I am not a big fan of non-fictions and possess a tendency to avoid them as much as I can. I also have a weakness for funky titles and book covers. So, when I was given Pan Macmillan’s catalogue to choose the books for reviewing, The Psychopath Test was my first choice. Jon Ronson, the author, was another reason why I chose this book. I love his narration style and hold him in the same league as Malcolm Gladwell.
The Psychopath Test, as the tag-line says, is “a journey through the madness industry”. The author tries to answer some serious questions through this book like
“What drives the world – sanity or insanity?”
“Are all major events an effect of some crazy person’s actions?”
“How would you define madness?”
The story begins when the author is requested to solve the mystery of “Being or Nothingness”, a book which scholars across the world are receiving from an anonymous sender. The author observes that because of a single crazy person, the sender, the entire intellectual community is rippled and from there begins his journey into the world of madness – a world inhabited by psychologists, psychiatrists, psychopaths, etc. His weapon – The Psychopath Test, a checklist developed by Bob Hare to identify psychopaths. Jon’s journey, to understand madness in a better way, takes him to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum where he meets Tony – the man who faked madness; to Milwaukee to meet Gary Maier, a psychiatrist who developed The Capsule, a radical chamber, to treat psychopaths which ended up making psychopaths more dangerous; to Bob Hare’s workshop to learn how to use the checklist to identify psychopaths; and many such places. Armed with this knowledge, Jon – the self-educated psychopath hunter – takes off on a journey to identify psychopathic behaviour in all levels of social hierarchy. He goes to New York to meet Toto, the founder of FRAPH which wreaked havoc in Haiti for three years; to Florida to meet Al Dunlap, the ex-CEO of Sunbeam who relentlessly and mercilessly fired numerous employees and derived sheer pleasure out of it; into the world of reality of television; to meet David Shayler, an ex-MI-5 agent and now a proponent of the 9/11 and 7/7 conspiracy theories.
The Psychopath Test is filled with examples, interviews, news reports, quotes and the author’s own experiences in the world of madness. The author also brings out many disappointing incidents like those of Tony, Rebecca Riley, the overuse of Hare’s checklist, the tendency of doctors to label even small behavioural problems as mental conditions and the misuse of the situation by drug companies.
Jon’s writing style is fantastic. The language is simple and crisp; no nonsense. His journalistic experience is quite evident in his writing style. My verdict – this book is a definite must have and must read.