Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Sunday Book Review: July 27, 2014: Blood Will Out

The subtitle of this book, by Walter Kirn, is "The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade."

Madame L stayed on her public library's waiting list for several weeks before she could check out this book, and she's glad she finally got a chance to read it --- and also glad she didn't give in and buy it. It's not a book she needs to have on her shelf, not a book she will ever refer to again.

It's better than many books she has read about psychopaths and sociopaths, but she learned all she wanted to learn from it, and tomorrow she's going to return it to the library.

It's certainly better than "Confessions of a Sociopath," in which a woman brags about being one, hurting people and casting them aside throughout her life, lying and cheating whenever she feels like it, and justifying her flaunting of the principles of the faith she was raised in while bragging about teaching Sunday school. In fact, Madame L reviewed this book as fiction, because, after all, the author admitted throughout the book that everything she says and does is a lie.

It's even better than "The Man in the Rockefeller Suit," written by a reporter who followed the case of the trickster who not only deceived everyone he ever dealt with, but killed at least one of those people.

Walter Kirn is the man who agreed to drive a sick and feeble rescue dog from Montana to New York City for the trickster. He ended up flying most of the way there and was given, for his trouble --- and it was a lot of trouble, and a lot of expense --- a check for $500.

Yet he stuck with the guy, Clark Rockefeller as he knew him, who was given the name Christian Gerhartsreiter by his German parents and had also been known as Chris C. Crowe, Chris Chichester, Charles Smith, Chip Smith, and probably by other names as well.

He found out that the guy was a murderer, kidnapper, and serial liar and cheater. 

So why did he remain "friends" with him? Why did any of the people who associated with him over the years remain friends, or, really, dupes?

Kirn explained in an interview after his book was published, "I'd worked as hard at being conned by him as he had been at conning me. I wasn't a victim. I was a collaborator."He elaborated:
The one sense in which I was not seeing through him but not completely genuine when I knew him, was that I felt like he was my window into a kind of being; into a kind of society and experience that I might not get otherwise ... My big mistake, finally, with him, and I think the mistake all people make with psychopaths, is we project our own humanity onto them. We keep on in this fantasy that they have some resemblance to us. ... [The crippled dog that Kirn drove across the country with was]  ...the perfect cover for a person who has no empathy and has no feelings and who's trying to masquerade as a human being. I've come to learn that the determined and gifted and genuine sociopath has far more power to deceive than we realize.
This is how "gifted" liars, sociopaths, and psychopaths work, and that may be all we need to know about them. But here's one more tidbit from that interview with Walter Kirn:

As a writer it was my good fortune [to know Christian Gerhartsreiter]. As a person it was my bad fortune. As a writer, it gave me insight. But no one would voluntarily spend this time with a psychopath. No one would voluntarily let their life get enmeshed with a murderer or someone capable of chopping up a body and burying it. It was truly traumatic to realize I was somebody whose weakness for a good story and whose ability to tell a story to himself, really put himself in danger. 

How can the ordinary non-socio- or psycho-pathic person keep him/herself out of this danger?  You may want to read "The Sociopath Next Door," but it's still not the perfect book on the subject. (When Madame L reviewed it earlier, she noted that, as with this book, she didn't think it was worth buying to keep on her reference shelf.

Madame L would love to hear from some of her Dear Readers who know more about this whole topic: Any suggestions for further reading? And can you please clarify the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath? And can you please correct the errors Madame L is sure she has made as she has been writing about this?

Meanwhile, you may be interested in Walter Kirn's concluding statement in the interview:
Not many people who've been lied to and played for the fool get to see the person convicted for murder and put in jail. But what I learned about myself, and what I learned about other people, and the presence of the sociopath in our society, was so unsettling I kind of wish I could have gone through life without knowing it. I got to see a story through to its end. For a journalist, a writer, that's satisfying. But as a human being, I got to find out just how evil operates in our world, and I got to find out that there are people among us that we might try forever to understand through the prism of our own experience, but who will always remain alien, predatory and dangerous. 

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