“The Psychopath Test” is a piece of very entertaining non-fiction. However, I could easily have been fooled into believing it was a cleverly written book, purely created via the imagination. It’s not the kind of non-fiction that makes you feel as though you are reading a textbook, but rather the kind that can absorb you like any good piece of literature.
The book is compiled using interviews and Jon Ronson’s own original thoughts and ideas to explore the way in which the world deals with mental illnesses (with the main focus being on the mind and behaviour of psychopaths). The benefit of genuine interviews with real people gives the readers the best insight into a psychopath’s mind without going to meet one themselves. It is not a dull book that goes into deep psychological explanations, based completely on facts, but a book that can see the comical side of the flaws that exist in the world of psychology.
If you are interested in satirical literature then ‘The Psychopath Test’ should tickle your fancy and provide you with much entertainment. I do not usually laugh out loud when reading a book but this was one of the few exceptions. Ronson’s character is just intrinsically funny and he conveys his personality superbly through his writing. Ronson focuses mainly on the contrast between a psychopath’s character and their psychopathic actions. He shows that it is very easy for someone to judge a psychopath as some kind of monstrous human being just by reading about them. But Ronson critiques this by meeting a few psychopaths in order to show the contrast between the evil character implied on paper to the charismatic personality he is greeted with in reality. Obviously, the charismatic behaviour cannot justify the murderous crimes some of these people have committed, but it does show that the evil actions performed are not always reflected through the personality. Ronson also points out how hard it would be for a sane person, put into a mental hospital, to convince the doctors that they were in fact sane. To declare one is sane would just make one seem as though they are in denial of their insanity. It seems there fails to be enough absolute criteria in order to diagnose someone with a mental illness accurately and Ronson highlights this in a highly intellectual way.
The book is a brilliant read with not one page, nor even one word, that managed to bore me.
Words by Elizabeth Fuhr