Read The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry Online

Authors: Jon Ronson

Tags: #Social Scientists & Psychologists, #Psychopathology, #Sociology, #Psychology, #Popular Culture.; Bisacsh, #Social Science, #Popular Culture, #Psychopaths, #General, #Mental Illness, #Biography & Autobiography, #Social Psychology, #History.; Bisacsh, #History

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

BOOK: The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
ALSO BY JON RONSON
 
Them: Adventures with Extremists
 
The Men Who Stare at Goats
 
RIVERHEAD BOOKS
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England •
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin
Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi–110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632,
New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd,
24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
Copyright © 2011 by Jon Ronson
 
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. Published simultaneously in Canada
 
Photo credits:
p. 9: Stephen Alexander /
www.temporarytemples.co.uk
p. 22: Top © Barney Poole; bottom copyright © Douglas R. Hofstadter. M. C. Escher’s
Drawing Hands
© 2010 The M. C. Escher Company–Holland. All rights reserved.
www.mcescher.com
p. 69: Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images / Ralph Crane
p. 140: Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images / Frank Scherschel
p. 174: Dittrick Medical History Center, Case Western Reserve University
p. 204: © Teri Pengilley
p. 272: © Barney Poole
 
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
 
Ronson, Jon, date.
The psychopath test : a journey through the madness industry / Jon Ronson.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-51516-7
1. Psychopaths. I. Title.
HV33.R66
2011
2011003133 616.85’82—dc22
 
 
 
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and
Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication.
Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

http://us.penguingroup.com

For Anita Bhoomkar (1966–2009),
a lover of life and all its madness
1.
 
THE MISSING PART OF THE PUZZLE REVEALED
 
T
his is a story about madness. It begins with a curious encounter at a Costa Coffee in Bloomsbury, Central London. It was the Costa where the neurologists tended to go, the University College London Institute of Neurology being just around the corner. And here was one now, turning onto Southampton Row, waving a little self-consciously at me. Her name was Deborah Talmi. She looked like someone who spent her days in laboratories and wasn’t used to peculiar rendezvous with journalists in cafés and finding herself at the heart of baffling mysteries. She had brought someone with her. He was a tall, unshaven, academic-looking young man. They sat down.
“I’m Deborah,” she said.
“I’m Jon,” I said.
“I’m James,” he said.
“So,” I asked, “did you bring it?”
Deborah nodded. She silently slid a package across the table. I opened it and turned it over in my hands.
“It’s quite beautiful,” I said.
 
 
Last July, Deborah received a strange package in the mail. It was waiting for her in her pigeonhole. It was postmarked
Gothenburg, Sweden
. Someone had written on the padded envelope:
Will tell you more when I return!
But whoever had sent it to her didn’t leave a name.
The package contained a book. It was only forty-two pages long, twenty-one of which—every other page—were completely blank, but everything about it—the paper, the illustrations, the typeface—looked very expensively produced. The cover was a delicate, eerie picture of two disembodied hands drawing each other. Deborah recognized it to be a reproduction of M. C. Escher’s
Drawing Hands
.
The author was a “Joe K” (a reference to Kafka’s Josef K., maybe, or an anagram of “joke”?) and the title was
Being or Nothingness
, which was some kind of allusion to Sartre’s 1943 essay,
Being and Nothingness
. Someone had carefully cut out with scissors the page that would have listed the publishing and copyright details, the ISBN, etc., so there were no clues there. A sticker read:
Warning! Please study the letter to Professor Hofstadter before you read the book. Good Luck!
Deborah leafed through it. It was obviously some kind of puzzle waiting to be solved, with cryptic verse and pages where words had been cut out, and so on. She looked again at the
Will tell you more when I return!
One of her colleagues was visiting Sweden, and so even though he wasn’t normally the sort of person to send out mysterious packages, the most logical explanation was that it had come from him.
But then he returned, and she asked him, and he said he didn’t know anything about it.
Deborah was intrigued. She went on the Internet. And it was then she discovered she wasn’t alone.
 
 
“Were the recipients all neurologists?” I asked her.
“No,” she said. “Many were neurologists. But one was an astrophysicist from Tibet. Another was a religious scholar from Iran.”
“They were all academics,” said James.
They had all received the package the exact same way Deborah had—in a padded envelope from Gothenburg upon which was written
Will tell you more when I return!
They had gathered on blogs and message boards and were trying to crack the code.
Maybe, suggested one recipient, the book should be read as a Christian allegory, “even from the enigmatic
Will tell you more when I return!
(Clearly a reference to the Second Coming of Jesus). The author/authors seem to be contradicting Sartre’s atheist ‘Being AND Nothingness’ (not B OR N).”
A researcher in perceptual psychology named Sarah Allred agreed: “I have a vague suspicion this is going to end up being some viral marketing/advertising ploy by some sort of religious organization in which academics/intellectuals/scientists/philosophers will come off looking foolish.”
To others this seemed unlikely: “The expensiveness factor rules out the viral theory unless the campaign is counting on their carefully selected targets to ponder about the mysterious book online.”
Most of the recipients believed the answer lay, intriguingly, with them.
They
had been handpicked to receive the package. There was clearly a pattern at work, but what was it? Had they all attended the same conference together years ago or something? Maybe they were being headhunted for a top position in some secretive business?
“First one to crack the code gets the job so to speak?” wrote one Australian recipient.
What seemed obvious was that a brilliant person or organization with ties to Gothenburg had devised a puzzle so complex that even clever academics like them couldn’t decipher it. Perhaps it couldn’t be decoded because the code was incomplete. Maybe there was a missing piece. Someone suggested “holding the letter closely over a lamp or try the iodine vapor test on it. There may be some secret writing on it in another type of ink.”
But there didn’t turn out to be any secret writing.
BOOK: The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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