The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson
The scenario could have come out of a Lovecraft-circle thriller: who is baffling our leading neurologists with a weird, handmade book?
It seems someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to make an intricately-done mysterious manuscript, and sent it around to a select few persons of similar profession. The identity of the author and his or her motives are as unknown as the book is baffling, but science — not to mention a good night’s sleep — demands an answer. Is it a manifesto, a hoax, or something entirely different?
At the end of their wits, one of the afflicted’s allies turns to able-minded investigator Jon Ronson (whom you may remember from the case of “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” or possibly the baffling “Them: Adventures with Extremists.”) His brief is simple: ‘Who wrote this, what does it mean, and what the hell does he want?’
But, with all things Mr. Ronson looks into, the search for one answer quickly becomes a search for answers to many new questions. Chiefly, trying to figure out if the book’s most likely author is off his nut quickly branches out into a more important question — what does “off his nut” really mean, and who gets to decide who is or is not?
The search for an answer takes Mr. Ronson around the world, leaving him at the mercy of Psychologists and their former patients, Scientologists and their imprisoned friends, 9/11 Truthers and their victims, a very suspicious and peculiar ex-spy, a CEO who loves firing people, and a former Death Squad leader who may or may not regret everything.
More importantly, he meets the man who developed the titular test: a forty-point checklist that is used to determine if someone is actually a psychopath, or just a mean jerk. Test in hand, Ronson focuses his newfound powers on his new contacts. But he soon discovers that psychosis is a lot like phallic symbols: once you know what to look for, you’ll literally see it everywhere — even in yourself.
Can our intrepid investigator solve his initial case and not crack up from exposure to terrible knowledge? Or will he be yet another victim of… The Psychopath Test?
Once again, Jon Ronson’s delivered a fun, well-written, and hopelessly engaging book that takes us places we might not want to go, but makes us happy we did so — however unhappy, surreal, and occasonally-scary what we find there is. His willingness to subject himself to some very odd and worrisome people in search of the facts, or at least the shadow of truth, is both enjoyable and highly commendable. If you liked The Men Who Stare at Goats, you should devour this book as soon as it becomes available.
The Psychopath Test is scheduled for release on May 12th, 2011
– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood