Time editor at large Kluger (The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us, 2011, etc.) reveals recent scientific findings and age-old chestnuts about every possible breed of narcissist.
As the author notes at the beginning of this survey, the behavior was already prevalent long before Narcissus looked into the pond. The narrative is a mix of clinical observations and everyday anecdotes that will be familiar to most readers. Narcissists are everywhere, he writes, from Donald Trump to the date who keeps looking over your shoulder. They exhibit excessive self-admiration and egotism, as well as a medieval sense of noble entitlement. Kluger suggests that by the age of 8, we begin to discern these traits, avoiding them in ourselves and cringing when we see them in others. Although studies have shown that only 1 percent of the general population suffers clinical narcissistic personality disorder, that “is not a stand-alone condition. It’s part of the suite of ten personality disorders, which also include paranoid, borderline, histrionic, antisocial, dependent, avoidant, rigid, schizoid, and schizotypal personalities.” Many of these smug, empathy-challenged individuals suffer from a significant lack of self-esteem, and they are often the recipients of too much praise and too little love, so validated in everything they do that they are shocked when the praise doesn’t keep rolling in like waves. Kluger also examines the role of heredity, and he covers a wide swath of psychological terrain, throwing us food for thought like Lyndon Johnson’s exhibitionism; the grievance and grandiosity of Columbine murderers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris; and the prevalence of narcissism within organized sports, which “ably captures the deep feelings, kabuki rituals and utter pointlessness of tribal competition.” The author is nothing if not balanced as he introduces competing theories and allows them full opportunity to speak.
An entertaining book of popular psychology.