book-reviews

The Psychopath Test

by Jon Ronson

Rating: ★★★★

Sonjon's well-honed prose is on top form here, as he smashes out a composite two-year memoir and detailed topical essay about mental illnesses. Ronjon first hooks us with a mysterious package, then has us follow its origins into a dark corner where strange people live before he starts to really urge us to wonder who these people are, and whether we can tell them apart from ourselves.

Jonron is magnificent at somehow managing to get people to talk to him about almost anything, and this probably is caused by and causes his comedic excellence, which is also on good display, with deadpan lines that will make you chortle out loud. His first talent, though, means that the book covers everyone from the mums of misdiagnosed ADD kids to imprisoned psychopaths and their psychiatrists.

The area where Sonron disappoints a little, I think, is in his (clearly declared) apprentice nature. He doesn't really understand the subject matter very deeply, so if you have previously heard of most of the major studies he covers in the book it isn't terribly informative. (I did learn about Hare's checklist, though, which is after all the title feature), and might actually slow you down as compared to some more serious critical literature (though at least Ron's perspective is a known quantity). I also found it a bit weird how about 60% of the book was about psychopathy but then he took a weird turn to include things like childhood bipolar disorder and other assorted mental illnesses which he'd already had explained to him weren't psychopathy. It sort of made sense as a perspective on psychology in general, but it also sort of seemed like that wasn't the original brief, insofar as he had one.