Sociopath - Patric Gagne - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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I’ve always thought ‘sociopath’ was an overused word, and yet it’s extremely rare to hear someone self-identify that way in earnest. That makes Sociopath an unusual read if nothing else – the honest-to-goodness memoir of a 21st century sociopath, and Pan Macmillan Australia sent me a copy for review.

According to Gagne, there are an estimated 15 million sociopaths currently living in the United States, but it’s a label that eludes clear definition. I learned in my psychology undergrad – as did Gagne – that it’s not an “official” term, in the sense that it’s not a diagnosis listed in the DSM-IV or DSM-5. Rather, people we would colloquially call ‘sociopaths’ are lumped in under the diagnosis of ASPD (Anti-Social Personality Disorder), with the psychopaths and the others that act in ways that make us feel icky without remorse.

Gagne rejects this erasure, and identifies – loudly and proudly, by the end of her memoir – as a sociopath. She writes this book because, she says, “the lived experience of sociopathy deserves to be illustrated”.

Of course, this lived experience means that Sociopath can’t be considered an objective or impartial account. Readers probably can’t even rely on its veracity, given the nature of Gagne’s condition and the emotive nature of the subject matter. There are definitely some questions being raised about her qualifications and background, in the wake of the book’s release.

Still, skepticism about the science and its source aside, Sociopath is a gripping read. I would caution against taking it as gospel, but it’s certainly interesting and a powerful exercise in expanding our horizons for empathy.

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