We love sociopaths. I was about to amend that to “fictional sociopaths,” but I think Nancy Grace, televised trials, and The Real Housewives of… prove me wrong. We love observing someone emotionally dead inside behaving badly. If they get caught, great. If they get caught and then wriggle out of the clutches of law and order, even better.
Why we love sociopaths is more difficult (and probably more personal). Some of us love a Tom Ripley because he created a better life for himself through whatever means necessary; the dark flip side to the American dream. But what’s important to Patricia Highsmith’s novels is that we are never asked to like any of Tom’s victims.
The Ripley novels crop up a lot in Walter Kirn’s Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, a memoir of his friendship with Clark Rockefeller—a man who turned out to be not so much American royalty as a terrifying manipulative, murderous German con man. But instead of a glimpse into the mind of the man doing the conning, we have Kirn’s peeved, self-serving account of being conned. It’s like reading The Talented Mr. Ripley as told through the point of view of Freddie Miles, who is as eager to point out how wise he now is to the snake in the grass as he is eager to heap scorn upon his past, susceptible self. He’s ruthless in dissecting his desire for some of the Rockefeller glamour to rub off on him in the early days of his friendship with Clark—but he’s also almost giddy about mocking his naivete, a by-product of scrambling to make up for what is a giant, glaring blind spot in the eyes of a professional reporter.
In the end, Clark is convicted of a 1985 murder, and Kirn fashions some sort of “Eureka!” moment out of decades old emails and proto-blog posts. And you’ll be so exhausted from Kirn’s heavy-handed evocations of other, better accounts of the swathes cut by sociopaths that you’ll be eager to leave both the compulsive liar Clark and the compulsive questioner Kirn far behind.
We continue our week of physical fitness!
She didn’t just host Entertainment Tonight. Apparently, Mary Hart was also known for her tight body. So much so that she had an exercise video! (I was unaware of this until I came across it on VHS in a Methodist thrift store in Texas, proving that Texas does thrift best.)
Wait a second… has anyone ever seen the music video for Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical”?
An accidental, laundry-related viewing of Lifetime’s Blue-Eyed Butcher led me to my new favorite website: Meet-An-Inmate.com. (You’ll be relieved to hear that it is ranked #1 in prison pen pal websites.)
What do I like about this, you ask? Well, for people of a certain generation who came of age pre email, the concept of pen pals has always been exciting. I vaguely remember having one in elementary school, but who knows if that’s real or just a stolen memory from Beverly Cleary books. The point is, pen pals mean you can meet people you’d never otherwise have the chance to speak to—and people can teach you a lot about the world!
Then there are the photos. (Let’s just say there are a lot of A-line tank tops, if you know what I mean.) And the fact that you can browse by age. Not age range; straight-up age. And the prisoners’ bios! If you’re looking for something a little less dark than the list of executed prisoners’ last words and mug shots, then this is the site for you!
(“Did you get hacked?” a friend texted back when I sent over one particularly memorable profile without any explanation or preamble.)
A year and a half in, my trainer and I are, if not exactly friends, at least buddies. And, as buddies do, we tell secrets! Like how after the end of his three-month marriage, he was really bad about sleeping around. “Even my buddies who are dogs were telling me I needed to stop,” he said. As someone who has been around the block once or thrice, I had to ask how we were defining “bad.”
“I was sleeping with three to four girls a day,” he said.
“Yeah. One in the morning, then one early afternoon, then one after work, then one at night.”
“Didn’t you have a job?”
“Yeah, but we just went to the backroom.”
This was almost as riveting as the time he told me he met a woman on Tinder who kept trying to convince him to drive three hours to her house. After he refused, she said, “OK, well, my husband and I are driving down to Florida and we’ll stop in NYC. Can we meet then?”
“What did she do, leave her husband in the car?” I asked.
“No,” he said nonchalantly. “He came up, too.”
And because I was so taken aback and because at this point I am just an aged refugee from The Boys in the Band, all I managed to say was , “Well smell you, Nancy Drew!”
You know… the more one sees of Elaine Stritch, the more obvious and limited her bag of tricks becomes.
Coming back to my hometown is ultimately an exercise in “What the fuck?” regarding the past. Case in point: it didn’t occur to me until today, talking to the head of my community theater, that most people didn’t spend high school under the specter of a teenaged girl disappearing from a freeway without a trace. In 1997, a 17-year-old was driving home…and vanished. Her car was found on the side of the road, doors locked, purse inside. And that’s it. Nothing else. To this day, no one knows what happened to her. And that’s the kind of thing that forms who you are, whether you realize it it not.
(Plus I grew up 10 minutes away from the Texas Killing Fields, so…)