You are probably a psychopath. This is what Jon Ronson, author of the new novel The Psychopath Test has me convinced of as I leave his reading for the Off the Shelf Festival.
Ronson, who is known best for his novel The Men who stare at Goats (recently made into a film starring George Clooney and Ewan McGregor), took to the stage in typically bohemian jeans and a t-shirt clutching a beer in one hand.
He addressed the 200-strong audience with the somewhat startling fact that statistically every one-in-a-hundred people is a clinical psychopath and a danger to society, at which point suspicious eyes began darting around the room.
However the palpable concern in the auditorium soon evaporated into bewildered amusement as it became apparent during Ronson’s reading and anecdotes that his new novel is more a satire of the word ‘psychopath’ and its connotations in society than a salute to Hitchcock.
Having studied the DSM – the clinical handbook of psychopathic disorders as research for his novel, Ronson diagnoses himself as having 12 different disorders ranging from anxiety disorder to nightmare disorder. His hypochondrium offers a flavour of the book’s scepticism towards ‘trigger-happy’ psychiatrists quick to diagnose essentially normal behaviour as psychotic.
But far from being a dense, dry rant about psychology and its misplaced uses in court rooms and hospitals The Psychopath Test promises the slick humour of a quirky eye cast upon an often over-looked topic.
Compiled with interviews, research and firsthand accounts from diagnosed criminal psychopaths Ronson’s novel encourages readers to question the true nature of ‘normal’ and ‘psychotic’ behaviour and alludes to the madness which consumes us in our everyday lives. He even goes so far as to suggest that Capitalism as an ideology is innately psychotic – granted that 4% of all C.E.O’s are psychopaths.
The novel’s name refers to the Hare checklist for psychopath spotting, a genuine list of attributes which determine a person’s sanity which is referenced in the book. Amongst them are an inability to feel a range of emotions and superficial charm. So the next time you don’t cry at Titanic or smile and wave at your least favourite person it may be wise to consider whether your actions are normal or those of a psychopath.
As Ronson’s book points out, saying you are not crazy will only make you appear more crazy.