Never trust a sociopath, but revel in Ripley


Never trust a sociopath, but revel in Ripley

KERNEELS BREYTENBACH read a sociopath's story from the horse's mouth, but can you believe it? He also took a peek at a children's book about Taylor Swift, a crime thriller and all five books about Ripley.


TWO of the carbuncles on the face of humanity are psychopaths and sociopaths. Psychopaths, in the crime literature, are mostly men, murderers and misogynists. But actually, they're not gender-specific. Sociopaths are psychopaths in the crime sphere but in real life they can be anything from preachers to stalkers. It's dangerous to write about them and it's usually wise to disappear if you suspect someone close to you is one.

According to reference sources, it is wise to remember that sociopaths are often particularly narcissistic, and the only way to deal with narcissists is to ignore them. Do not pay attention to their talk, do not approach them with sympathy and help.

A sociopath is someone with an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). They disregard rules and social norms, never show remorse or compassion. They are not truthful, they manipulate everyone around them, react with anger and violence when their lying stories and behaviour are unmasked, and they never take “no" for an answer. They don't last long in marriages or jobs. Delinquency is their default position.

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Criminal without a record

I'm telling you this so you won't make the same mistake as me when I read Sociopath: A Memoir by Patric Gagne. You need to know what critters you're dealing with here — and the trickiness is that you won't be able to ignore the book or run away. You started reading and will want to see what a sociopath looks like from the inside.

Gagne says she (yes, it's an unusual name) has a doctorate in clinical psychology, but all the hazard lights flash when you start reading and find out she's telling a story that's highly marketable, and on top of that, lifting the veil on the good person behind the ugly label.

Things just don't add up. It wasn't until I was properly annoyed with what I was reading that I went to reread the preface. There it says: “I am a criminal without a record. I am a master of disguise. I have never been caught."

This is the aspect she exploits throughout. But not once does she use the terminology that a clinical psychologist would use. In the age of wokeness and political correctness, you will avoid the term “sociopath" and use ASPD, abbreviated or fully pronounced. The further you progress with the book, the greater your suspicion becomes that you are dealing with a trust scam here, a detailed attempt to exploit the public curiosity about sociopaths. For me, in the end, it was more novel than memoir. And she admits that she took advantage of the tricks of fiction by merging certain people for the sake of the narrative.

Sociopath is one of the good sellers in the US; good but not great. The cracks have already begun to show after it emerged that Gagne is a pseudonym and there is no record of the doctorate at the University olf California Los Angeles.

Bottom line? Writers sometimes have ASPD as well. I'll keep an eye on the papers. Surely the public unmasking is just around the corner.

Sociopath: A Memoir by Patric Gagne was published by Simon & Schuster and costs R620 at Exclusive Books.

Swiftness overload

It was probably only a matter of time. Taylor Swift now also has money rolling in with books. Not books she writes herself — books about her. This one is aimed at children who cannot yet truly read. I suppose they would know her music and would be crazy to follow the development of her life and career in pretty pictures. I can read and I don't like her music. (Later this year, from her own pen Poems for Tortured Souls and The 13 Days of Swiftness: A Christmas Celebration for Fans will appear. The former has a print order of 50,000, the latter 500,000. I kid you not.)

Taylor Swift: A Little Golden Book Biography by Wendy Loggia was published by Random House USA and costs R140 at Exclusive Books.


It's such a good idea. A detective story about someone who believes a fortune teller's prediction that she will be murdered one day. Then she settles in on the spectrum, and upon her demise instructs in her will that the person who solves her murder will inherit everything.

Thank heavens Kristen Perrin is an accomplished writer who goes all out to tell a rather conventional British small-town detective story. The reading is fun but suspending disbelief is not so easy. In this case, I invite readers to decide for themselves. I am suspicious of fortune tellers and detectives who faint too often.

How To Solve Your Own Murder by Kristen Perrin is published by Quercus and costs R430 at Exclusive Books.

Believe it or not

The TV series Ripley is one of this year's greatest pleasures — a masterpiece of style and cinematography of the old gloomy black and white kind, driven by a particularly nimble use of only the most relevant dialogue from the novel The Talented Mr Ripley.

Patricia Highsmith used Ripley as the main character in four other novels. The first (mentioned above) was published in 1955, the last in 1991. I read them all in a row after the film The Talented Mr Ripley, starring Matt Damon, was released. Ripley married the charming Heloise Plisson but in virtually every one of the other four novels there is a suggestion that he also cavorts with men.

Read them in the order in which I list them here — the last is as dazzling as the first; the middle three enthralling without being brilliant. (Now here's a sociopath one grows to love.)

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith was published by Vintage and costs R275 at Exclusive Books

Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith was published by Vintage and costs R247 at Exclusive Books.

Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith was published by Vintage and costs R247 at Exclusive Books.

The Boy Who Followed Ripley by Patricia Highsmith was published by Little, Brown and can be ordered from Exclusive Books.

Ripley Under Water by Patricia Highsmith was published by Bloomsbury and can be ordered from Exclusive Books.

♦ VWB ♦

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