Thursday, August 15, 2019

Five top sympathetic fictional psychopaths

Elizabeth Macneal's debut novel is The Doll Factory.

At CrimeReads she tagged five sympathetic fictional psychopaths, including:
Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a character more than I’ve rooted for Tom Ripley. I yearned for him to get away with his crimes, and even felt relief when the tension of a situation was resolved by him committing murder. This did not make me feel good about myself. In fact, I finished the book utterly appalled at what I would forgive and even cheer on in his behavior, but also deeply impressed by Patricia Highsmith’s skill in constructing such a character.

How did she do it? Tom Ripley is the classic underdog—the character with whom everyone can empathize. Tasked with traveling to Italy to bring the privileged and extravagant Dickie Greenleaf home, we quickly learn that Tom has a difficult background and craves acceptance—to the extent he is willing to impersonate others to fit in. But it is not only this endearing awkwardness, but also his cleverness and his hardworking nature that makes him so likable, and makes us want him to succeed at any cost. What’s more, Highsmith only gives us his perspective—we understand his problems, his desires and his emotions, while the characters around him always feel at one remove, filtered through Tom’s eyes. I smarted at their dismissive treatment of him, and ultimately their deaths didn’t feel like a loss at all. It’s only fiction, I told myself when I was reading the book, though I felt uneasy, as if I’d been complicit in his crimes.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Talented Mr Ripley is on Laurence Scott's list of seven top books about doppelgangers, J.S. Monroe's list of seven suspenseful literary thrillers, Simon Lelic's top ten list of false identities in fiction, Jeff Somers's list of fifty novels that changed novels, Olivia Sudjic's list of eight favorite books about love and obsession, Roz Chast's six favorite books list, Nicholas Searle's top five list of favorite deceivers in fiction, Chris Ewan's list of the ten top chases in literature, Meave Gallagher's top twenty list of gripping page-turners every twentysomething woman should read, Sophia Bennett's top ten list of books set in the Mediterranean, Emma Straub's top ten list of holidays in fiction, E. Lockhart's list of favorite suspense novels, Sally O'Reilly's top ten list of novels inspired by Shakespeare, Walter Kirn's top six list of books on deception, Stephen May's top ten list of impostors in fiction, Simon Mason's top ten list of chilling fictional crimes, Melissa Albert's list of eight books to change a villain, Koren Zailckas's list of eleven of literature's more evil characters, Alex Berenson's five best list of books about Americans abroad John Mullan's list of ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, Tana French's top ten maverick mysteries list, the Guardian's list of the 50 best summer reads ever, the Telegraph's ultimate reading list, and Francesca Simon's top ten list of antiheroes.

--Marshal Zeringue