Veering into lunacy
The Psychopath Test is wayward, intelligent and always funny. Ronson is the man with the shtick, yet one wonders if the routine is beginning to get in the way of his story.
As Ronson discovers, Hare’s checklist emerged as part of a movement by psychiatrists to end a more hippy-ish and romantic view of madness. The age when doctors would drop acid and frolic with their patients was over.
Hare participated in the series of seminars that produced the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (1980) or DSM-III, which differed from the earlier DSM-I and DSM-II in being far longer. This massive proliferation of mental illnesses made pharmaceutical companies determined to market cures.
Ronson touches on childhood bipolar disorder, a condition that probably does not exist, yet which has led to children as young as three being placed on medication. A different kind of journalist might have focused on this story. Or, perhaps, on the decision in DSM-IV (1994) to link Asperger’s with autism, which led to an apparent explosion in autistic children.
Of course, a different kind of journalist may never have made these connections at all, but to Ronson these shocking stories are merely features on a picaresque journey.
It is difficult to imagine anyone writing a more quixotic book, unless they were actually Miguel de Cervantes, yet where Ronson sees giants the reader will often struggle to discern a windmill. Again and again, his books return to the moment we lost faith in the idea of madness as liberation. I suspect Ronson is a romantic, still cherishing the hope that lunacy may be a glorious way out from a life of routine. – © The Daily Telegraph UK 2011