This is an intriguing/frustrating/amusing book written in a style that is sometimes called faux naïf – look it up.
Jon Ronson has written many books and appeared on many television programmes and taken part in numerous radio shows. Amongst his many talents is being a stand-up comic and he wrote The Men Who Stare at Goats; the basis of which was used for a screenplay of the film of the same name starring George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Ewan McGregor.
Ronson’s schtick is debunking psychiatry and related disciplines and this book takes a sometimes hilarious and frequently confusing romp through several seemingly unrelated incidences, experiences and people but he manages to make some kind of connection, however tenuous between all of them.
One of the most interesting and disturbing themes in this book is Canadian psychologist Bob Hare’s 20-question psychopath test – as in the title of the book. Once you are aware of it, it is almost impossible, as Ronson found, not to apply these questions to people that you know, or in the case of Donald Trump, have read about and conclude that many of them, are indeed, psychopaths.
The author flies around the world interviewing several weird and wonderful characters – serial killers, Scientologists et al. He also meets the ex-CEO of a large corporation and decides that perhaps being a psychopath is almost necessary to get the job done.
There are times when you may well think that Ronson should feel a deal more affronted by some of the discoveries he makes, one of which is the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders), the endlessly expanding catalogue of conditions published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM, now approaching its fifth great edition, runs to hundreds of pages and includes such nebulous-sounding illnesses as intermittent explosive disorder (temper tantrums), relational disorder (pissed off with a relative) and sluggish cognitive tempo disorder (you may lack motivation).
This tome has been blamed, to some extent, for the huge rise in the number of children being given drugs for bipolar disorder which is now widely believed to be a myth fostered by Big Pharma to sell vast amounts of medication to treat a non-existent problem.
You have probably gathered that this book is somewhat of a curate’s egg but in my opinion, it’s well worth the confusion you may well experience having read it.